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Syngenta AG (Syngenta) is a Swiss-based agrochemical company founded in 2000, following the merger of Novartis Agribusiness and Zeneca Agrochemicals. In October 2017, ChemChina secured a $45 billion takeover after its participation in Syngenta exceeded 98% of Syngenta’s share capital. Syngenta offers a wide range of field crops, vegetable and flower seed and agrochemicals. Products are sold through independent distributors and dealers as well as directly to farmers. The company’s non-profit organization, the Syngenta Foundation for Sustainable Agriculture, focuses specifically on pre-commercial smallholder farmers and has projects in multiple countries in Eastern and Southern Africa.
Ranking fifth in the Eastern and Southern Africa Index, Syngenta improves both its position and overall score compared to the 2016 Index. The company leads in Governance & Strategy, with its global Good Growth Plan supported by the Seeds2B policy and programmatic work of its affiliated Syngenta Foundation in Kenya, Malawi and Zimbabwe. It also reports positions on Intellectual Property that are favorable toward smallholders, including tailored pricing strategies. Syngenta demonstrates high level quality and labor standards in its Seed Production activities in the region, though without engaging smallholders. It also has leading corporate-level commitments toward the conservation of Genetic Resources, albeit with limited regional examples. The company scores lower in Research & Development, where despite having breeding stations in six index countries the aims and smallholder-feedback mechanisms of its regional breeding programs are unclear, and Capacity Building, where despite notable output market and information and communications technology schemes the company does not report on broad extension services. Furthermore, no specific consideration of the needs and inclusion of women and young farmers, key target groups, is reported.
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One of the six commitments of the Good Growth Plan is to ‘Look after every worker’. Syngenta has worked with the Fair Labor Association since 2004, and the program currently covers 86% of the company’s seed supply farms, most recently in index countries Kenya, South Africa and Zambia.
The company is one of eight agribusinesses behind the public-private Farm to Market Alliance, which aims to enhance the access of smallholder farmers to output markets, finance streams, agricultural inputs and improve postharvest storage practices in Eastern and Southern Africa. Since launching in 2015, the program has interacted with 150,000 smallholders in Kenya, Rwanda, Tanzania and Zambia.
Although the Syngenta Foundation reports supporting breeding collaborations in index countries, Syngenta only discloses information in the broadest terms about its breeding programs in field crops and vegetables. The company is encouraged to disclose more on the scope of these activities and whether they consider the particular needs of smallholder farmers.
Although Syngenta performs well across the board in Transparency, it is encouraged to improve disclosure on the availability of its portfolio in Eastern and Southern Africa.
The Syngenta Foundation’s Seeds2B program focuses explicitly on improving access to seeds for smallholder farmers. It has ongoing programs in Kenya, Malawi, Uganda and Zimbabwe, where it facilitates the transfer of adapted varieties to local seed enterprises to help smallholders serve new and existing markets.
The Syngenta Foundation has two programs to help create an enabling environment for seed activities in Africa. Its Connect program identifies and assesses the performance of new varieties and de-risks entry for distribution, while its Build program facilitates the licensing of public-bred varieties for private companies and develops the market for smallholder farmers.
Syngenta worked with the Sustainable Markets Intelligence Center, the Sustainable Food Lab and other partners to conduct social impact assessments in Zambia. These guide the company on how to improve agronomic, environmental and safe-use training to enable smallholder farmers to achieve higher yields.
The Syngenta Foundation partners with USAID Feed the Future Innovation Labs to trial tropically adapted varieties of several crops, including soybean, in Kenya, Uganda and Malawi. It also partners with the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and the International Maize and Wheat Improvement Center (CIMMYT) to tackle maize lethal necrosis in Kenya.
The Syngenta Foundation funds and assists the University of Bern and the Ethiopian National Research Program (EIAR) for a tef breeding program in Ethiopia. The program has successfully incorporated semi-dwarf traits, resulting in yield improvements.
Syngenta’s UWEZO scheme develops and promotes the introduction of small and affordable packages tailored to the needs of smallholder farmers. The company also uses pictograms to help overcome language and literacy barriers. In 2017, the company reached 440,000 smallholders in Africa.
The Syngenta Foundation was a driving force behind the Farmforce mobile app, which was independently rolled out in 2017 and is available in a number of regional index countries. The app tracks all farm activity, which increases traceability and compliance for buyers/exporters and improves access to formal output markets for smallholder providers.
Syngenta collaborated with TechnoServe in the Mavuno Zaidi (Grow More) program to train 20,000 Kenyan smallholders – of which one third were women – in best practices for growing potatoes and tomatoes. The company also recruits female trainers to lead the program and specifically targets women farmer groups.