A team of volunteers from global crop science company, Syngenta, have won an award for transforming the lives of marginalised farmers in Bangladesh. Team Leader, Anna Maria Klimza, picked up the award on behalf of her colleagues at a prestigious event in London earlier this month, hosted by leading international development charity, VSO. This award was one of eight awards which recognises the outstanding contribution that VSO volunteers have made to developing countries in recent years. Anna explains why the ‘Growing Together’ volunteering project is so important…
Last November, thirteen of us from Syngenta worked with VSO’s local partner, RDRS, in northern Bangladesh for one month. We developed a new ‘Franchise Model’ which enables Farmers to access a Farmer Centre which is more sustainable. We established a ‘Farmers’ Network’ where Farmers could learn more about the market, overcome challenges and identity opportunities. We also provided quality seeds and training so that Farmers could adopt more effective methods in rice and vegetable production. They’ve also gained better access to finance so their businesses can grow. This model has enabled Farmers to access different services, get a fairer price for their produce and boost their productivity and income. The ‘Growing Together’ project has benefited more than 7,000 Farmers and over 1,300 young people. (Learn more here).
On behalf of my team, I am incredibly proud of what Syngenta has managed to achieve. I am also grateful to VSO who supported us throughout this challenge. I will never forget the Farmers who I worked with. I learnt so much. ‘Growing Together’ reminds me of a beautiful Buddhist saying, “If you light a lamp for someone else, it will also brighten your path.” That is exactly what this program has done. No one could have prepared me for what I would receive from this farming community. By impacting others, I too have been transformed. It has made me a better person and woken me up to the injustices of this world. The impact has been tremendous.
I now have a deeper appreciation of the challenges concerning the future of food security. This experience has given me hands on experience about how Syngenta’s products impact people’s lives. It’s amazing to see how we are making a difference up close. Every human life is precious. We are all equal, but we need a global shift to correct this imbalance. If we are to survive as a species, we need a higher critical mass of people all over the world who care and are willing to make the right decisions. This is an urgent matter. It’s made me want to do more about it.
‘Growing Together’ is a small piece of a bigger jigsaw. Self-sustainability is just one small way of helping people break free from poverty. The success of this model means it will be replicated in four other Bangladeshi farming communities. This has also paved the way for VSO to engage with more international corporations in future. I feel honoured and truly humbled to be part of something that makes such a difference to so many people’s lives. I’m really happy that Syngenta has been recognised for their efforts. Thanks to the ‘Growing Together’ volunteering project, Farmers no longer feel alone. Now they’re aware that others care about their challenges. We have given them hope.