Access to Seeds Index 2019 - Global Seed Companies

Measurement Area g
Capacity Building

Global seed companies are involved in capacity building activities in all index regions, often in partnership. However, in a large number of countries where companies have a sales presence, only a few accompany these with extension services for smallholder farmers. A specific focus on women and next-generation farmers is lacking.

Bayer leads the way in Capacity Building, demonstrating a broad range of activities and detailing innovative projects to address the needs of smallholder farmers. The company receives leadership points for its Food Chain Partnership output market scheme in countries including Kenya, Guatemala and India.

Bayer is closely followed by East-West Seed, whose Knowledge Transfer foundation provides comprehensive agronomic training in South and Southeast Asia and increasingly in Africa, and Syngenta, which along with its affiliated Syngenta Foundation, is at the forefront of smallholder farmer capacity building, particularly in Western and Central Africa. In fourth place, Corteva Agriscience provides holistic and interlinked training across both African index regions with its AMSAP, GAMSAP and ZAMSAP hybrid maize programs, for which it also receives leadership points.

Companies in the middle of the ranking also report extension services in index countries, but these tend to be standalone and without clear linkages to general company operations. Companies at the lower end of the ranking demonstrate more limited activities, both in terms of scope and variety.

Main Findings

This measurement area evaluates the extension services, ICT programs, output market schemes and activities for women and next-generation smallholder farmers offered by global seed companies that build the capacity of these farmers to adopt improved varieties and sustainable agricultural practices. Companies can offer these services and activities themselves or through partnerships.

Capacity building activities are concentrated in South and Southeast Asia; Latin America lags behind

South and Southeast Asia emerges as the geographic region with the most, and most varied, capacity building activities for smallholder farmers. East-West Seed, which is based in Thailand, has a strong presence throughout the region. The company’s Knowledge Transfer foundation explicitly focuses on pre-commercial smallholder farmers in Cambodia, India, Indonesia, Myanmar, the Philippines and Thailand (as well as Tanzania and Uganda in Africa). Similarly, Bayer and Advanta have a variety of activities in four and six regional countries respectively. Overall, India, Indonesia and Thailand in South and Southeast Asia and Tanzania in Eastern and Southern Africa have the most capacity building activities. India alone accounts for 67% of all the company technical staff involved in extension services in the four index regions. Syngenta, ranked joint second with East-West Seed, has a strong presence in Western and Central Africa, primarily through the Syngenta Foundation, while Corteva Agriscience, ranked fourth, has multiple capacity building activities across the African continent.

In contrast, Latin America lags behind. None of the companies report capacity building activities in more than two index countries, and collectively they report a quarter of the number of activities compared to South and Southeast Asia. Although 11 companies have a presence in Ecuador, and ten each in the Dominican Republic and El Salvador, no capacity building activities were reported in any of these countries. While a number of companies have activities in countries that fall outside the index’s geographic scope, such as Corteva Agriscience in Mexico and Syngenta in Argentina and Brazil, companies can clearly improve and expand upon their existing activities in the region.

Despite a higher number of activities than Latin America, Western and Central Africa has the largest proportion of index countries (55%) with no reported capacity building activities. Overall, companies do not report any capacity building activities in 25 of the 65 index countries: 12 in Western and Central Africa, eight in Eastern and Southern Africa, four in Latin America and one in South and Southeast Asia. Of these 25 countries, only three (Equatorial Guinea, Guinea-Bissau and Somalia) have no company presence at all, highlighting how capacity building significantly lags behind sales in index countries where global companies are present.

Global seed companies closely link extension services to sales and adoption strategies

The majority of companies (85%) are committed to providing extension services to smallholders to help them farm more sustainably and profitably. These activities are largely linked to promoting the use of companies’ own varieties.

Corteva Agriscience, which only has field crop seed in its portfolio, offers extension services in three African countries focusing on improving the productivity of smallholder farmers through the adoption of its adapted maize varieties. AMSAP in Ethiopia, GAMSAP in Ghana and ZAMSAP in Zambia combine access to improved varieties with advisory services, training in good agricultural practices and, in Zambia, the provision of basic financial and literacy training. This holistic approach has reportedly resulted in annual yield increases of 300% in Ethiopia.

Companies active in both field and vegetable crops report more frequently on extension services in field crops. Bayer’s Project Sahyog in India distributed five metric tons of its Arize rice hybrid to 600 farming families alongside technical support and training on improved rice cultivation practices.

Project Saath Saath, also in India, introduced hybridized pearl millet with crop rotation practices to 9,000 smallholder farmers, an approach that reportedly led to 25-35% yield increases. Advanta collaborates with local industries in Kenya and Uganda to combine training with the promotion of hybrid sorghum, as well as with NGOs in Tanzania for hybrid sunflower.

Of the companies providing agronomic training in vegetables, Limagrain, through its subsidiary Hazera, is the only company that appears to do so in Sierra Leone. Hazera held three training sessions in different locations throughout 2017, demonstrating the added value of its hybrid seed alongside training in nursery preparation and best agronomic practices for the climatic situation in each region. East-West Seed’s Knowledge Transfer foundation showcases profitable and sustainable farming practices through its four-pronged training program in crop environment, crop economics, crop management and crop protection, with the aim of creating demand for better quality agro-inputs including its hybrid vegetable varieties. Bejo provides smallholder farmers in Indonesia with shallot seed and training on how to grow it.

ICT and output market linkages, often through partnerships, allow global seed companies to extend capacity building reach

Companies broaden their capacity building reach through indirect services and programs, often with ICT tools and activities to link smallholder farmers to output markets. Companies report frequently working in collaboration, for instance with companies further down the food value chain, when implementing these programs in index countries.

Despite the clear and growing potential of ICTs, only seven companies (54%) report using these technologies to reach smallholder farmers, an increase of just one company since the 2016 Index. Monsanto’s subsidiary The Climate Corporation has developed the FarmRise mobile farm care initiative, a platform that provides free agronomic knowledge and advice directly to Indian farmers. The number of registered users exceeded 4 million in 2017. In Kenya, Syngenta has joined forces with Arifu, a digital education marketplace, to disseminate learning content (from land preparation to harvest) to smallholder farmers via SMS. As well as using ICTs to broaden their reach nationwide, companies are increasingly using mobile apps to achieve similar results internationally across index regions.

East-West Seed’s CropWiki app is available in all index countries in which the company is present and provides farmers with customized information on the features of available varieties, including days to maturity and crop sizes. Similarly, the Syngenta Foundation was a driving force behind the Farmforce app, which was spun out in 2017, tracks all farm activity and improves smallholder access to output markets in countries across all four index regions.

Despite a surprising lack of progress by companies without ICT programs in both the 2016 and current index, the latter two examples demonstrate clear progress in terms of scaling, and companies are encouraged to continue leveraging the full potential of technology for the inclusion of smallholder farmers in all index countries.

Output market linkages are a more popular avenue for capacity building, with ten companies (77%) reporting programs within index countries, an increase from six in the 2016 Index. Rijk Zwaan states that it is a leading partner in the Amsterdam Initiative against Malnutrition (AIM) vegetable project in Tanzania, which links smallholder farmers to restaurants and supermarkets through broker Ojay Greene. Bayer, through its Food Chain Partnership in countries such as Kenya, India and Guatemala, collaborates with importers, exporters, retailers and processors to help smallholder farmers meet the required quality standards to gain access to national and international markets. In Senegal, Bejo helps smallholders with postharvest storage solutions, securing them a more consistent year-round income from the onion market. Syngenta and Bayer are both members of the Farm to Market Alliance, reaching 150,000 smallholders in Kenya, Rwanda, Tanzania and Zambia since 2015 and targeting four pathways to comprehensive value chain reform that includes postharvest handling and storage and access to new agricultural technologies. The alliance intends to expand to ten African countries by 2022, a clear indication of the scalability of successful output market schemes and a model all companies should consider for their own programs.

Lack of strategic focus on women and next-generation smallholder farmers among all global seed companies

Concern is growing about the rate at which young people in index countries are leaving farming and seeking alternative livelihoods. Similarly, women smallholder farmers make up almost half of the global agricultural labor force, but their production is limited by barriers to finance, inputs and extension services as well as constraining land tenure and ownership rights. None of the 13 companies in the global index report corporate strategies to address the issues facing women and next-generation smallholder farmers. While these groups dominate international agricultural policies and present both a challenge and an opportunity for global seed companies, there appears to be a significant disconnect between policy and company activity on the ground.

Bejo (in Guatemala), Bayer (in India) and Monsanto (in South Africa) all support agricultural schools that aim to give students the skills and knowledge they need to pursue farming as a sustainable and viable career. Although notable, Bejo and Bayer’s projects together account for less than 100 students per year. While the Buhle Academy in South Africa, for which Monsanto was a founding partner in 2000, trained 816 students in 2017 only 61% were youth and 44% women, demonstrating the limited reach of all three initiatives.

Higher level programs, such as KWS’ training of Peruvian students in new breeding strategies for quinoa and Syngenta’s collaboration with USAID’s Connections program to inspire Asian agriculture students to become champions of smallholder issues, are also notable but do not directly encourage young people to stay in or enter agriculture at the farm level.

Similarly, five companies (38%) report offering dedicated programs for women smallholder farmers, all of which are limited in scope to a single index country. East-West Seed, one of the few companies to detail capacity building activities in Myanmar, has partnered with MEDA, an international economic development organization, to launch ADVANCE Myanmar. The program aims to provide agronomic training to 60 women lead farmers in Kayin State over a two-year period. Corteva Agriscience, through its ZAMSAP maize adoption program in collaboration with USAID, offered training to Zambian women lead farmers through 206 women’s groups. In 2016, Monsanto held a two-day conference for 300 Filipino women smallholder farmers focusing on finance management and digital literacy. Like Syngenta’s Farm Family Training program in Bangladesh and Bayer’s Integrated Rural Development Village Program in India, these projects are worthy but standalone and offer little potential for meaningful impact.


In each measurement areas activities or approaches are identified that stand out or can be considered innovative in the industry. They contribute to the score of a company through leadership indicators.

Bayer – Food Chain Partnership

Bayer’s Food Chain Partnership is a global program that aims to implement best agricultural practices through partnerships along the food value chain, reporting on 61 projects in 11 index countries across all four index regions (India, Guatemala, Senegal, Nicaragua, South Africa, Colombia, Malaysia, Thailand, Kenya, Vietnam, and Philippines).

Through these projects the company offers seeds, crop protection products, certification support and field demonstrations to ensure smallholder producers meet consumer requirements regarding food quality, safety and traceability. The company highlights particular programs with smallholder pea farmers in Kenya and vegetable producers in Guatemala with an average plot size of 0.3 hectares

Corteva Agriscience – African hybrid maize projects

Corteva Agriscience’s holistic maize hybrid projects in Ethiopia, Ghana and Zambia demonstrate the company’s commitment to providing smallholders with access to modern inputs and technology, and the improved yields and profits that can result from such access.

Both companies receive leadership points not only for the contents of their capacity building activities but also for demonstrating the successful expansion and roll-out of positive initiatives to other index countries.