Bayer has joined like-minded companies in the private sector, in signing the Zero Hunger Private Sector Pledge with a $160 million (USD) commitment dedicated to help end global hunger.

The ‘pledge’, in the context of the United Nations (UN) Food Systems Summit of 2021 and as a part of the Summit’s Zero Hunger Coalition, recognises the need for governments and the private sector to work together to end food scarcity.

Companies taking the pledge commit to investing money, resources and expertise in areas of concern within regions where they do business.

Bayer’s commitment will go towards communities in Asia, Africa and Latin America.

Bayer drives its zero-hunger pledge commitments on multiple levels, according to the company.

This includes helping smallholder farmers access seeds, which contain the latest technology; educating communities on sustainable agricultural practices; providing growers with farming solutions; and introducing smallholder farmers to new income-generating opportunities.

More than half of Bayer’s investment will go towards vegetable seeds, and research and development to support smallholder farmers, the company said.

Through its vegetable seeds business, these farmers will receive improved varieties of quality seeds – critical to local diets – like okra and bitter gourd.

They will also gain access to innovative farming solutions, designed to reduce field and post-harvest losses, such as in the Ansal tomato.

This variety provides longer shelf life and fruit firmness, which is already helping to decrease losses in India from about 30% to less than 10%.

Donating vegetable seeds to non-profit organisations is also part of the commitment, to help combat hunger and promote the increased consumption of fruits and vegetables.

Hybrid rice solutions

Around 3.5 million smallholder farmers in Asia already benefit from Bayer’s ‘hybrid rice’ solutions.

An additional commitment of over $50 million for Bayer’s Arize hybrid rice will provide even more growers with seeds designed to improve yield while also optimising water and nitrogen efficiency.

One Arize variety launched in India is already helping growers combat brown plant hopper and bacterial leaf blight, two conditions known to cause huge crop losses.

Another hybrid can survive more than two weeks under sustained flood water often faced by farmers in Bangladesh.

Bayer is also seeking a solution for growing hybrid rice in high-salinity water and when faced with other physical or biological stressors.

All varieties are designed to help farmers improve their income levels, livelihood, and their contribution to food security in their communities.

Education, training, R&D

Bayer’s remaining commitment includes investing through partnerships and additional programmes, the company said.

By supporting Better Life Farming, Bayer, with partners Netafim and the International Finance Corporation (IFC), will make farming solutions, agronomic advice and good agricultural practices available to rural growers.

Partnering with the Inter-American Institute for Cooperation on Agriculture (IICA), Bayer, through its programme BayGAP, supports farmers to get certified and connected to the food value chain.

And the Modern Breeding Project with the International Institute of Tropical Agriculture (IITA) will use Bayer’s funding to support sustainable practices as well as education and training programmes.