Promoting skill development in Indian Agriculture – a multifaceted and holistic approach by Bayer

Agriculture represents India’s most significant sector: accounting for 14 % of India’s Gross Domestic Product (GDP) and employing more than 55 % of the Indian popu-
lation. The challenge for Indian agriculture is to achieve higher productivity in a sustainable manner, despite constraints on availability of land, irrigation and labour.
To achieve this, farmers need to be empowered with new farming technologies like irrigation systems and mechanisation, as well as modern input materials like high yielding seeds and crop protection products to increase productivity. However technology alone is not enough, its application requires a steep increase in knowledge, training and a proper advisory system. This is an enormous target considering India has an estimated 120 million farmers …
Bayer CropScience, a leading player in the crop sciences business globally and in India, shares some of its approaches towards education and training, capacity build -
ing and skill development initiatives implemented in the Indian market.

The relevance of farmers’ capacity and skill building

While addressing agricultural scientists and experts at the Indian Council of Agricultural Research (ICAR) in July 2014, Indian Prime Minister, Narendra Modi, advocated a policy of "Kam zameen, kam samay, zyaada upaj" (less land, shorter time, more productivity). "In order to produce more and earn more, farmers need to be empower-
ed more. Therefore, we need to think of how to reach out to farmers,” stressed Mr. Modi. His statement holds true in today’s context as it highlights the need for local agricultural extension services through farmer trainings and also utilizing the advantages of modern communication tools and technologies.

Capacity building activities for farmers

At Bayer CropScience, this is done through a comprehensive set of capacity building activities for farmers, which are tailor made depending on crop, target group, edu-
cational backgrounds and the development stage of agriculture in a particular geography. Bayer’s set of capacity building and training activities includes more than thousands of field demonstrations, on-farm training and field days, workshops, SMS & call advisory and most importantly: on-farm consultancy.

As a producer and supplier of high quality seeds and crop protection products based on chemical and biological modes of action, Bayer has firsthand expertise in farm-
ing agronomy, which is shared and demonstrated through suitable and advanced crop management practices and agricultural information. Across India, Bayer has a network of over 3,000 farm advisors.

Bayer’s farm level advisors, also known as “Field Officers” identify farmers who need support and provide them with timely and relevant advisory to carry out farming operations in a sustainable, safe and profitable manner. For farmers, “Seeing is Believing.” Therefore, we regularly conduct farmer field days where Bayer experts conduct field demonstrations to create awaren ess on a range of topics such as GAP (Good Agricultural Practices), high yield ing hybrid seed technology, Integrated Crop and Pest management and safe handling of products.

Further, Bayer CropScience provides farmers additional information and advisory on soil testing, seeds and weather forecasting.

Initiatives by Bayer CropScience in India

In 2013, Bayer CropScience launched an experiential marketing initiative in India, called “Bayer Labhsutra” the Mantra for Farmer Prosperity. The initiative aims to help farmers achieve better returns on investment by adopting modern agronomical practices from “Seed to Harvest”. Under the program, the participating farmer’s land is divided into two halves. On one half, Bayer’s Seed & Crop Protection solutions are used; and on the other half of the land, the farmer follows his own practice.

The plot is then used during the season for regular visits and trainings with around 30-50 neighboring farmers. Finally, on harvest day, the output from the two halves is compared. In 2013, Bayer conducted 3,469 Bayer Labhsutra field demonstrations across India for Rice/Paddy, Cotton, Pulses, selected Vegetables and Fruits.
These demonstrations resulted in a sizeable yield increase, which also brought 12 - 15 % incremental profits for the farmer compared to his current practice
(Source: Internal reports).

Hence, the Bayer Labhsutra initiative educates farmers using a very practical approach, where the Labhsutra farmer usually develops the capacity to advise his fellow farmers with the help of Bayer farm advisors.

For farmers, "Seeing is Believing", that's why Bayer conducts demonstrations to showcase the yield difference between farmer's own practice and the Bayer Labhustra plots where Bayer products and solutions are used. On Harvest Days, Bayer's Field Officers and farmers compare the quantity and assess the quality of Rice yields.
Satinder Pal Singh, Potato farmer, Killi Village Jalandhar District, Punjab
Bayer experts distributing the Bayer Labhsutra kit to chilli farmers.
The Bayer Solutions Store aims to satisfy
farmers’ need for farming knowledge, while
offering them the "Right Product with Right
Advice"

A testimonial from a Bayer Labhsutra farmer

“I used the Bayer Labhsutra package in 1 acre of my potato field and got a higher yield as compared to other fields in the region. I also got a higher value for potato in the market. In future, I plan to use the Bayer Labhsutra package in my entire farm.” says Satinder Pal Singh, Potato farmer, Killi Village, Jalandhar District, Punjab.

In addition, Bayer CropScience has set up 237 “Bayer Solutions Stores” across the country with its distribution partners. The major idea is to offer not just products, but also expert advice to farmers at the point of sales. The Bayer Solutions Stores aim to satisfy farmers’ need for farming knowledge, while offering them the "Right Product with Right Advice.“ To achieve this, Bayer has special Farm Advisors in the Bayer Solutions Stores.

These Farm Advisors also pay special attention to the education of the shop owner, who will then be equipped to provide better solutions to  the visiting farmers. As a result, he can become the preferred supplier for the farmer, which will ultimately also lead to increased farmer footfalls in his outlet.

Educating and reaching millions of farmers with modern communication technologies

Reaching out and educating millions of farmers is a huge challenge for all stakeholders in Indian Agriculture. Hence, leveraging communication technology can be an important way to address this challenge. Around 54 % of mobile phone users in India are from rural areas (Source: India Mobile Landscape Report 2013).

Leveraging this opportunity, Bayer CropScience introduced a national toll free helpline for Indian farmers in October 2014. The helpline provides free product-specific consultancy, crop related advice and general information on integrated crop protection solutions. All conversations and queries from the helpline are recorded and monitored by Bayer Agri-Experts to ensure that correct and quality information is provided to farmers on a real time basis. Farmers are also given the option to request for a Field Officer visit at their farms, in case the query cannot be resolved on the phone.

Apart from receiving inbound calls, the call center reaches out to farmers registered on Bayer CropScience India’s database on regular intervals with relevant recom-
mendations. India has around 33 recognized languages and approximately 2,000 dialects. Therefore, a special emphasis is given to answering farmers’ queries in their local languages/dialects. This is achieved by locating call centers in the heart of rural areas. Bayer does this in partnership with Rural Shores, a company specializing in providing employment to youth in rural areas.

Hence our call centers also teach and train rural youth in addition to providing qualified service and expert advice to farmers.

Educating the safe and responsible use of agrochemicals

In India, there are still major gaps in safe usage, application techniques and disposal of agrochemical containers. Hence, Bayer CropScience also carries out various stewardship and safety education initiatives to demonstrate responsible ways of managing crop protection products throughout their product lifecycle, from correct use to disposal.

Farmers are educated on the principles of Integrated Crop and Pest Management, like for instance the knowledge of pre-harvest intervals while using pesticides close to harvest, seed treatment and after care of treated seeds etc. Bayer has made these subjects an integrated part of all its farmer meetings and field demonstrations.

Teaming up with local partners

Creating shared value through partnerships

Bayer CropScience is convinced that partnerships can open up new ways to sustainably feed the growing world population. Bayer CropScience is therefore leveraging its position as a global leader in agri-inputs and services, to help connect all parts of the food value chain, through its “Food Chain Partnership” initiative. In India, Bayer CropScience currently runs 31 successful partnerships across 140 locations, covering more than 62,000 ha and benefitting 79,000 farmers.

A few good examples where Bayer has been able to drive and teach new farming technologies include its grape and potato Food Chain Partnership projects. In these projects, Bayer often complements its expertise by teaming up with local partners. For example in 2013, Bayer CropScience joined hands with India’s National Research Center for Grapes (NRCG) and Express Weather, a weather forecasting company, to create a weather advisory model for grape farmers.

This innovative model supports grape growers with the knowledge of correct timing for spraying, in order to achieve a better crop. In potato, Bayer CropScience has been working extensively with farmers under its Food Chain Partnership with PepsiCo. Under the program, training workshops are held for vendors and growers; with a focus on pest and disease management, safe use of crop protection products and application technologies. This is followed by field monitoring at the grower level.

All these interventions have resulted in improved yield and higher returns for the growers and good quality potato availability for PepsiCo.

Using the power and reach of Public Private Partnerships

In 2008, Bayer CropScience India joined hands with the Confederation of Indian Textile Industry - Cotton Development & Research Association (CITI-CDRA), Rajasthan Textile Mills Association and the Rajasthan State Department of Agriculture. The objective of the partnership was to make a difference to the lives of small, marginal, tribal and women cotton farmers in south and central Rajasthan. Over the last 6 years, the various farmer education initiatives executed by the project team and Bayer experts has led to significant enhancement in the productivity and income of cotton farmers.

Under this collaborative project, average cotton productivity has gone up by 80 - 105 % with a return on investment of 1:2 from the basic level of 245 kg lint/ha in the tribal Banswara district of Rajasthan. In the adjoining districts of Bhilwara and Rajsamand, average cotton productivity went up by 33 % with a return on investment of
1:1 to 1:1.4 from an average basic level of 455 kg lint/ha.

In 2012, the project was extended to 4 new districts in south Rajasthan. The project provides good scope to link the project cotton farmers and an assurance to key stakeholders along the cotton value chain. It is also a good example of public-private-partnership for sustainable development of small and marginal cotton farmers.

Conclusion

Indian agriculture is highly diversified and operates in an environment faced with many variable and complex factors influencing the speed of adoption of new techno-
logies. Reaching out to more than 100 million farmers requires a multifaceted approach in knowledge transfer. Bayer CropScience has developed a large number of targeted interventions for farmers’ education and advisory.

These include its large number of highly experienced field staff and Farm Advisors, a strong network of trade partners and Bayer Solutions Stores, Bayer Labhsutra on farm demons trations, a dedicated National Helpline and Public Private Partnership projects. Technology and capacity building together will support a further sustain-
able increase of agricultural productivity, support the demand for food and improve the lives of farmers.

Bayer CropScience's national farmer helpline provides free technical advisory, crop related advice and information on crop protection products to farmers across India
A potato farmer under Bayer CropScience's Food Chain Partnership demonstrating his healthy produce of potatoes to a Bayer expert
Bayer experts and the CITI-CDRA team during a visit to the project cotton field in Jodhpur, Rajasthan

Joerg Rehbein

Joerg Rehbein is the Head of Bayer CropScience, Indian Subcontinent, a role he has been in since June 2011. Prior to this, Joerg has held several leadership positions at Bayer over the past 20 years, where he gained a wide range of experience by managing Bayer's agrochemical business in countries with varied agricultural, distribution and farming characteristics. Since September 2013, Joerg is also handling the role of Spokesman India, German Agribusiness Alliance (OAV).

www.cropscience.bayer.com