Farmers to get help from Bayer in fight against saltwater-drought, COVID-19 hinh anh 1Many smallholder farmers will receive support from ‘Better Farms, Better Lives’ initiative to overcome difficulties caused by COVID-19 (Photo: VNA)

Dong Nai (VNS/VNA) - Around 80,000 smallholder farmers whose livelihoods and welfare have been severely impacted by COVID-19 will benefit from a global initiative by Bayer titled ‘Better Farms, Better Lives.’

The initiative was locally kicked off yesterday in the southern province of Dong Nai, is being implemented under the guidance of the Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development, will be carried out in collaboration with Grow Asia (GA), the National Agriculture Extension Centre (NAEC) and the ministry’s international cooperation department. 

The pandemic is putting additional socio-economic pressure on vulnerable smallholders already affected by drought and saltwater intrusion, especially in Mekong Delta.

According to the organisers, the programme will support 80,000 farmers by providing free “Better Life Farming” care packages that are tailored to local needs and will include a combination of Bayer’s seeds, crop protection products and corresponding training materials.  

“The main goal of the programme is to help smallholders in the Mekong Delta maintain and restore their farming activities, respond effectively to adverse situations such as drought, saltwater intrusion and the COVID19 pandemic in a sustainable way, ensuring that agricultural products can meet food safety and international standards,” Le Quoc Thanh, Director of the National Agricultural Extension Center, said.

In collaboration with Grow Asia, a platform set up by ASEAN to connect agricultural stakeholders, the initiative seeks to expedite recovery in communities across seven regions in the Mekong Delta and southeastern regions, many of which have declared a state of emergency.

It will grant farmers access to technological solutions for plant protection, and provide support to 80,000 smallholders in the Mekong Delta, at least 48 percent of them women, through distribution of corn seeds and plant protection products to sustain productivity in the event of drought and salinity. 

It will also help improve the knowledge of agricultural extension trainers and farmers in sustainable rice and corn cultivation through support for education, training, transfer of knowledge and practice of good agricultural practices (GAP), thereby driving production efficiency and enhancing the incomes of smallholders in the Mekong Delta. 

This initiative will focus on women smallholders to ensure they get the resources and knowledge they need to cope with COVID19 and protect themselves and people around them.

Weraphon Charoenpanit, country commercial lead of Bayer Vietnam‘s crop science division, said: “Smallholder farmers play a crucial role in ensuring food security for Vietnam, but the ongoing COVID-19 situation as well as drought and saltwater intrusion have impacted their ability to grow sufficient food for their families and communities. 

The Better Farms, Better Lives initiative will provide immediate additional support to smallholder farmers in the form of agricultural inputs and advisory during this summer-autumn crop and beyond. 

We hope that this project, under the guidance of the Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development and together with the National Center for Agriculture and Rural Development, the Department of International Cooperation and Grow Asia, will not only contribute to the resilience of smallholders but also ensure the stability and sustainability of Vietnam's agricultural sector.”

Beyond the immediate response in the form of support packages, Bayer is working with partners to put in place a medium- and long-term plans to build the resilience of the country‘s food systems and ensure smallholder farmers are better prepared for the future.

NAEC will provide farmers with tools, digital technology and training, handhold them all the way from sowing to harvesting, provide advisories on crop, disease and pest management and virtual training to improve their capacity in the use of modern agricultural technologies. 

Trinh Thi Moi, a Mekong Delta farmer, said: “This year has been extremely unusual and unfortunate for our family as well as our neighbours. Salinity affected my field, and it is not getting better and will take time for my family to get back on its feet. Worse still, because of COVID-19, I have earned a much lower income than last year, and this is also the lot of my neighbors and other farmers in the area. We are grateful and relieved to see that there are increasing efforts by the government and influential organisations that allows us to recover quicker and continue to deliver quality farm produce to the nation.”

As part of its sustainability commitment, Bayer aims to support 100 million smallholder farmers in low-and middle-income countries by 2030. The immediate COVID-19 response through the Better Farms, Better Lives initiative complements Bayer’s ongoing smallholder support activities, which will aid in mid-term recovery and building long-term resilience among smallholder farmers./.