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[genet-news] BUSINESS & POLICY: Monsanto launches image campaigns aiming at Indian and minority U.S. farmers

                                  PART 1

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SOURCE: Monsanto, USA

AUTHOR: C. Samuel


DATE:   20.04.2009

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Monsanto recently launched Project SHARE (Sustainable Harvest - Agriculture, Resources, Environment) in India. The project is Monsanto?s fourth partnership under its commitment to sustainable yield?produce more, conserve more and improve farmers? lives.

Project SHARE is a four-year pilot project that aims to improve the socio-economic conditions of 10,000 small-marginal cotton and corn farmers?from 1,100 villages, across three states in India?Andhra Pradesh, Maharashtra, Rajasthan?to help them improve yield and income.

?Some farmers have a problem getting a positive cycle of higher productivity,? Gyanendra Shukla, Monsanto India corporate affairs lead, said. ?So in addition to Bollgard® cotton, it will take new sustainable models and partnerships.?

The project was announced during India?s Sustainable Yield Initiative Employee Town Hall on Feb. 20.

?I do not see Project SHARE as CSR [corporate social responsibility], Jerry Steiner, Monsanto executive vice president corporate affairs and sustainability, said during the town hall. ?This is an opportunity to show how our products can change lives and help create an environment that protects the investment and innovation.?

Monsanto has partnered with Indian Society of Agribusiness Professionals (ISAP) ? a non-profit entity, to develop the project.

?ISAP brings its expertise in agriculture extension services, rural and social development, market linkage and capacity building around the country,? Jyotsna Bhatnagar, Monsanto India CSR lead, said. ?The organization also brings its relationships with union and state governments, which will supplement our FTO efforts. We will jointly reach out to policymakers to show how our farmers can produce more by conserving more.?

Steiner signed the Project SHARE Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) with ISAP CEO Rajeev Dar, following the town hall.

?Our partnership with Monsanto on Project SHARE will develop a sustainable model that provides small and marginal farmers access to technology, better inputs, agronomic practices, and market linkages to improve farm productivity, thereby making farming a viable proposition,? Dar said.

Through the Project SHARE program, farmers also have access to educational materials, intensive hands-on training and field-level demonstrations, farmer groups to enable collective bargaining power, and increased exposure to state universities with agricultural focuses, Krishi Vigyan Kendras and social development programs for farmers? wives.
On, Feb. 20, Steiner also discussed Project SHARE and Monsanto?s commitment to sustainable yield during the Confederation of Indian Industry?s (CII) Sustainable Agriculture through Technology, Practices and Partnerships seminar in New Delhi.

?We need to increase food production sustainably, in the face of rising demand, limited natural resources and climate change,? he said. ?Yield-enhancing, innovative technologies are a potential solution that can help farmers earn higher incomes and thereby impact their socio-economic status. Monsanto?s more than four-decade partnership with Indian farmers is a part of our company?s commitment to improve crop productivity and help make India a global leader in agriculture.?

The seminar focused on agriculture?s key imperatives and requisite policy interventions. The keynote address was delivered by T.N. Kumar, India?s secretary of agriculture and cooperation, and attended by more than 100 stakeholders representing the ag industry, R&D institutions, NGOs and the Indian government.

                                  PART 2

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SOURCE: Monsanto, USA

AUTHOR: R. Johnson


DATE:   22.04.2009

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In 2005, reportedly less than 18,000 of the 2 million farmers in the United States were black. More recent numbers are difficult to find. Ellis Bell would argue so are black farmers. This is one of the reasons Bell, founder of Bell Community Services., started the Future Agriculture Resources for Minority Youth (F.A.R.M.Y.) program.

?There is such a void when it comes to agricultural education within the African-American community,? Bell said. ?F.A.R.MY.?s goal is to reach out to our communities to make them aware of the rapid changes taking place in agriculture and the related sciences and how these changes impact our everyday lives.?

Bell, a fourth-generation farmer, grew up in Forrest City, Arkansas, where he still manages soybeans, wheat and milo on 500 acres. He said although the southern states were built on the farming practices of African-Americans, over time, things have drastically changed.

Statistics show in 1920, one in seven U.S. farms was operated by black farmers. In 1992, that number dropped to a mere one in 100. Various sources point to discrimination by the USDA and economic stress as factors of the decline.

Bell suggested that during the Civil Rights Movement many African-Americans left the farm?some out of fear of racial violence, others to pursue better lives in the city. He said a lot of interest in agriculture was also lost when schools integrated.

F.A.R.M.Y. was created in 2007 to increase the awareness of agriculture science and technology amongst minority youth in southern states. For the past two years, the Monsanto Fund has helped fund the program.

?This program is especially important because it aims to get minority students interested and exposed to areas where they are underrepresented, which includes science and agriculture,? Deborah Patterson, Monsanto Fund president, said.

The program consists of three components: classroom instruction; supervised agriculture experience; and preparing for the future--assessing agricultural and/or farming activities, public speaking, personal and career development. Currently, the program is active in three high schools, in three different school districts in Pine Bluff, Arkansas.

?F.A.R.M.Y. is incorporated into the school?s curriculum as an enrichment program led by teachers and college interns,? Jim Harris, consultant, former board member and co-creator of F.A.R.M.Y. , said

?One of the major reasons for a high dropout rate is classes are not interesting,? he continued. ?Our strategy is to make classes more interesting and develop various projects students can do.?

This past year, the program served 52 students, and this year it will serve 55.

Rodney Echols, Jr. teaches personal finance at Watson Chapel High School in Pine Bluff. He has worked with the F.A.R.M.Y. program for the past two years.

?I chose to work with the F.A.R.M.Y. program because I wanted minority students to explore the variety of opportunities dealing with agriculture,? he said. ?My students now realize there are opportunities for them out there, and they can be successful by taking advantage of them.?

This past year, Echols worked with 20 students?10th, 11th and 12th graders?in the program. He recruits students for the program, organizes field observations and conducts informational meetings with the students.

?Students? response to the program has been tremendous,? Echols said. ?Although the program began slowly, students became enthused about some of the things we did and accomplished. Students always thought that agriculture was just farming. Over time, students have seen a side of agriculture they thought never existed.?

And right now, Bell and his staff are hoping the enthusiasm spreads.

?We are looking to expand F.A.R.M.Y. into multiple states and other counties in Arkansas,? Harris said.

This year, the program will partner with a school district in Bolivar, Mississippi, to establish a summer gardening project. Catherine Coleman, co-project director of F.A.R.M.Y., has also incorporated F.A.R.M.Y. Fest--an event allowing students to interact with employers, college professors and financial advisors in the field of agriculture.

?Our expansion will be achieved through partnerships,? Harris said. ?We have been working with local MANRSS [Minorities in Agriculture Natural Resources and Related Sciences] programs to place college students as interns in area high schools. We would also like to create a junior MANRSS program for at-risk youth at each of the high schools where there are currently college interns.?

The program is also looking to team up with Land Grant Universities to incorporate additional at-risk youth programs and develop community advisory councils in areas where F.A.R.M.Y. is active.

?We just hope to make more people familiar with agriculture,? Bell said. ?People don?t know what the future holds, and how greatly we can benefit from making more people aware of agriculture.?



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