* ‘Better Life Farming’ is a global multi-stakeholder partnership to support smallholder farmers in developing economies to earn sustainable farm incomes
* In India, the partnership includes Bayer, IFC, Netafim, Yara Fertilisers, DeHaat, AgriBazaar, BigBasket, Tata Trusts and now Axis Bank
* Axis Bank will offer holistic and cost-effective financial solutions to smallholder farmers and rural farming communities
Axis Bank, India’s third largest private sector bank has joined Bayer’s Better Life Farming initiative in India to provide enhanced and holistic financial solutions to smallholder farmers and rural farming communities. Through the partnership, Axis Bank will offer a wide range of end-to-end financial solutions and services like affordably priced loans, deposits, withdrawals, payments etc. Digital financial solutions and doorstep delivery of these services will be an integral part of the Bank’s offering to ensure convenient and hassle-free transactions. These solutions will be offered through Bayer’s Better Life Farming centers which are owned and operated either by a Farmer Producer Organization (FPO), Federation, agri-graduate or a local farmer/entrepreneur.
Better Life Farming (BLF) is a global, multi-stakeholder alliance, which works with partners across the agri-value chain to support smallholder farmers in developing economies to increase crop yields and farm incomes. Launched globally in April 2018, the BLF alliance has global partners that include – Bayer with its expertise in seeds, crop protection and agronomy; IFC, the development finance institution for impact assessment; and Netafim for drip irrigation technologies. In India, the BLF alliance works with additional local partners including Yara Fertilisers for soil and nutrient management; DeHaat, AgriBazaar and Big Basket as off-takers; and Tata Trusts for improving rural livelihoods and promoting self-reliant agri-entrepreneurship.
BLF has set up small centers across villages to offer farming advisory to the communities. Each BLF center consists of a group of 500 farmers from five to six nearby villages where an agri-entrepreneur provides smallholder farmers with access to agri-inputs, crop advisory, irrigation best practices and new technologies. The centers also support aggregation and sale of farm produce and operate model farms to share good agricultural practices around crop nutrition, micro-irrigation technologies, mulching etc., and demonstrate safe handling of seed & crop protection products. Additionally, BLF has also helped create local employment opportunities, supported doubling of farmers’ incomes and empowered rural youth to be a part of the agri value chain.
“Since the launch of Better Life Farming in 2018, we have continuously identified various need-gaps faced by smallholder farmers and roped in partners who can strengthen our offerings to them. Affordable farm credit, farmer financing and digital banking solutions rank as high priorities for rural farming communities. Bayer’s partnership with Axis Bank will help deliver last mile connectivity and create a more inclusive agri eco-system where all smallholder farming needs ranging from agri-inputs, agri-advisory, knowledge & capacity building, market linkages and financial solutions are taken care of under one roof,” said D Narain, MD & CEO, Bayer CropScience Limited and Global Lead for Bayer’s Smallholder Farming initiatives.
Speaking about the partnership, Amitabh Chaudhry, MD & CEO, Axis Bank, said, “Axis Bank has made significant investments and commitments to empower rural communities and smallholder farmers. To strengthen these objectives further, Axis Bank has partnered with Bayer to combine forces and work together in addressing the diverse challenges faced by these communities. We have invested in providing end-to-end financial solutions for the agrarian and rural population, which have been built on the backbone of sound digital and technology capabilities to deliver secure financial products and seamless services. This partnership achieves multiple goals including promoting rural entrepreneurship and delivering holistic financial solutions under one roof, at the doorstep of the rural community.''
The BLF initiative has led to a doubling of crop yields and tripling of farm incomes among participant farmers in India. It has also created price transparency in the marketplace, increased the bargaining power of smallholders and promoted clusters of rural agri-entrepreneurs running their own Better Life Farming centers. The BLF initiative is supporting these agri-entrepreneurs to operate like business owners, thereby increasing their sales, revenues and profitability. Through its gender-smart approach, the BLF initiative has integrated women smallholders into mainstream farming operations by economically and socially empowering them as producers and entrepreneurs.
Currently 150+ Better Life Farming centers are operational in India in the states of Uttar Pradesh, Jharkhand and Bihar with plans to expand to West Bengal, Odisha, Madhya Pradesh, Maharashtra and Rajasthan. By 2025, the BLF initiative aims to empower 2.5 million smallholder farmers in India by providing them access to modern agri-inputs and improving their standard of living. These smallholder farming communities will be served by 5,000 agri-entrepreneurs across horticulture, corn and rice.