SmartBarley, the agricultural development programme for India by leading global brewer Anheuser-Busch InBev (AB InBev), began in 2013. The programme aims to train and monitor farmers in best practices related to cultivating barely. Apart from giving farmers in Rajasthan, Haryana and Madhya Pradesh access to a variety of malting barley which is suited to the soil and climatic conditions in India, they also have a team of agronomists who consistently monitor their farms and advise them on achieving optimum crop yield to increase profitability.
Farmers are connected through the 'Krishi Connect' programme where they are sent SMSes about crop prices, crop management and irrigation practices, savings schemes and sustainability initiatives. The company’s 'Krishi Vatika' initiative helps women farmers grow a diverse variety of fruits and vegetables in the vicinity of their homes for their own use. They have also set up 'Krishi Kendras’ so that farmers have access to farm inputs like machinery, seeds, insurance, etc. under a single roof.
AB InBev strives to drive change and build a sustainable future for communities and their farmers through the SmartBarley programme. Using an integrated approach, the Smart Barley programme impacts three major areas: Agriculture, Environment and Society.
In 2018 alone, 3268 farmers from the three northern states have benefitted from the programme which helps train them and enhance agricultural practices using emerging technologies.
To further empower the Indian farmer and reiterate their commitment to the cause, AB InBev held the 4th edition of Barley Growers Day on February 20, 2019 at Sri Ganganagar, Rajasthan.
Ben Verhaert, President – South Asia, AB InBev, took to the stage to speak about how every year, the response for the Barley Grower's Day was overwhelming. He said, "Since 2016, we have worked closely with farmers to empower them through great seeds, inputs and information." He added that India was a significant market for them, and that this programme aims to help create a sustainable livelihood for farmers and significantly impact their lives.
He emphasised how AB InBev’s initiatives have had a greater impact through smart partnerships with organisations from both the public and private sector. For example, last year, the “100+ Accelerator” by AB InBEV helped startup KisanHub provide farmers with an innovative decision-support platform.
Diane Wauters, Director - Sustainability & Agricultural Development – Asia Pacific, AB InBev, shared how the programme has a portfolio of technology and management practices which helps growers improve their yield and input efficiency, without compromising on high-quality products. "Currently, our area of work includes over 850 villages and 3,268 farmers across the country. We will continue to impact the livelihood of our farmers and their families through more such initiatives going forward,” she said.
She continued speaking about the sustainability goals they plan to achieve by 2025, which include Smart Agriculture, Water Stewardship, Climate Action and Circular Packaging. These four goals, she said, were key for them as a brewer to ensure they still grow barley with the farmers 100+ years from now. “We can’t solve our sustainability challenges on our own and strongly believe with the right partnerships we can have a bigger impact on the field,” she added.
On behalf of other farmers who are part of the programme, Hariram Agarwal, a barley farmer from Sri Ganganagar went on stage to talk about how the programme has given them an opportunity to earn a decent livelihood. He encouraged other farmers to join and get the right guidance. "The support and inputs given to us farmers have helped increase our yield. The programme offers us the right guidance and training to increase both productivity and profitability. We encourage our farmer friends to join and earn the best benefits," he said.