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Mumbai - The onset of the COVID-19 pandemic adversely impacted migrant workers in big cities like Mumbai and triggered a mass exodus back to rural areas. Migrant workers had to depend on agriculture as their sole source of livelihood, but they lacked the necessary resources, finance and skills to practice sustainable agriculture. When migrant workers (mostly men) return to cities in search of jobs and better incomes, rural women will be left to manage their small family farms single-handedly. Women smallholders have limited access to quality agri-inputs and also need timely farm advisory. On the health front, they often lack the necessary awareness to safeguard their health or improve it.

Recognizing the need to rebuild rural livelihoods and improve women’s health awareness in under-developed areas of Maharashtra, Bayer is partnering with Deutsche Gesellschaft für Internationale Zusammenarbeit (GIZ) GmbH, a global service provider in the field of international cooperation for sustainable development and international education work, and Mahila Arthik Vikas Mahamandal (MAVIM), a semi-government corporation focused on women’s development.

Over a year-long EUR 1 million (INR 8.7 crores) Covid-response program; Bayer, GIZ and MAVIM will support rural women smallholders in Maharashtra focusing on the districts of Vidarbha, Marathwada and Amaravati. Bayer, GIZ and MAVIM are working together in a development partnership of the programme, that the GIZ implements on behalf of the German Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development (BMZ).

“This project holds special significance for Bayer as we are contributing towards better nutrition and health for rural women, with interventions from both our Crop Science and Pharmaceuticals businesses. Bayer will support women smallholders to improve their livelihoods through agriculture and create awareness on women’s health topics,” said D. Narain, Senior Bayer Representative, South Asia. Adding further, he stated, “Bayer has a long association with GIZ both globally and in Bharat. MAVIM is driving several state government livelihood programs in Maharashtra and creating powerful social impact. With strong partners such as GIZ and MAVIM, Bayer aims to empower rural women and make them more self-reliant.”

As of date, Bayer has engaged with 30 locally registered Women Farmer Federations in 9 districts of Maharashtra covering 30 blocks. Each of these Federations have over 2,000 members. Over 2,500 farmers across 13 blocks have received agri-inputs and advisory and the Farmer Federations plan to procure agri-inputs for over 500 to 1,000 farmers for summer vegetables with an aim to reach 6,000 farmers throughout the Kharif season in 2021.

“GIZ, on behalf of BMZ, is already supporting 6,000 women smallholder farmers with agri-input kits for cultivation of vegetables, pulses and corn. Bayer will complement this with advisory services and training across 9 districts to indirectly impact 20,000 farmers. This will be conducted through Model Farms with plans to set up 80 such farms in Maharashtra in 2021. In addition, GIZ will develop 30 market access points at existing agri-input shops owned by Women Farmer Federations at block levels to facilitate the sale of agri produce seamlessly, said Rajeev Ahal, Director NRM & Agroecology, GIZ India.

“Women across 1,000 villages will be supported by MAVIM’s health workers and will receive training on health modules developed by Bayer. This collaborative project will help us power rural prosperity in underserved districts of Maharashtra and usher growth for farming communities,” said Shraddha Joshi, Managing Director, MAVIM.

“MAVIM will sustain its efforts around training and empowerment of women smallholder farmers in Maharashtra even beyond the year-long Covid-Response project. This will be driven through Bayer’s Better Life Farming initiative, where women smallholder farmers and Women Farmer Federations will be empowered to practice commercial farming that will help them earn sustainable incomes, rather than relying on subsistence agriculture for their livelihoods,” concluded Smt. Jyoti Thakare, Chairperson MAVIM.

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