Javier Valdés is country head at Syngenta Mexico, a global seeds and crop protection company. Any opinions expressed are his own.
Improving productivity, fighting rural poverty and protecting the environment are among the significant challenges the Mexican agricultural sector faces. For Syngenta and the International Maize and Wheat Improvement Center (CIMMYT), responding to such demands is a priority and a key component of collaboration projects for promoting sustainable agricultural practices. That is why we have worked together since 2010.
More recently, under an agreement signed in 2013, we strengthened our joint commitment to meet the challenges that Mexican farmers are facing. This public-private collaboration is forged on CIMMYT’s aim to work with various sectors throughout society to establish strategic alliances and on the “Good Growth Plan” an initiative by which Syngenta has made six ambitious commitments with farmers and the environment to contribute to the global fight for food security.
One of these objectives has to do with Syngenta’s commitment to train 20 million smallholder farmers worldwide in the proper use and management of crop protection products, which play a key role in ensuring food security.
In Mexico, CIMMYT-trained technicians working on MasAgro (a research and capacity building project for sustainable intensification of maize and wheat systems funded by Mexico’s Agriculture Department, SAGARPA) are receiving specialized advice from Syngenta experts on the correct use and management of agrochemicals or BUMA, its acronym in Spanish.
To date, Syngenta has offered the BUMA training to 130 technicians of the States of Mexico, Sonora and Guanajuato, who have, in turn, offered advice to groups of about 25 small farmers each. Moreover, CIMMYT’s knowledge-sharing methodology has a multiplier effect on the transfer of knowledge that increases the number of small farmers trained exponentially.
The BUMA training focuses on five key rules of pesticide application: understand products labeling; follow the labeling; regularly maintain equipment used for pesticide application; proper use of protective equipment and safe clean up practices. Furthermore, the training includes additional basic information about what to do in an emergency, and general information on first aid, among other topics.
Crop protection is vital for modern-day farming because it can substitute soil nutrients absent or depleted in poor soils and eradicate pests or control diseases that affect yields. While large scale farmers in developed countries often have access to crop protection products, smallholder farmers in developing countries face the challenges of applying optimal doses of fertilizer or pesticides to make products affordable but also to prevent environmental damage and increase yields.
The overall intention of the Syngenta-CIMMYT collaboration in Mexico is to improve the working conditions of smallholder producers who make up the majority of farmers, provide security for their families, highlight the importance of the role of crop protection and encourage them to continue using them sustainably.