Campus and Community

Técnico alumnus participates in project awarded by the United Nations

The Better Life Farming (BLF) – Bayer's multi-stakeholder global model was awarded the “Build Back Better Infrastructure Award for Stakeholder Engagement”.

The project Better Life Farming (BLF) – Bayer’s multi-stakeholder global model, developed by the Técnico alumnus Lino Dias, was awarded by the United Nations Economic Cooperation and Integrations (UNECE), during the 5th UNECE International Public-Private Partnerships Forum (PPP’s).

The BLF is Bayer‘s global multi-stakeholder partnership model, which contributes to some of the United Nations’ sustainable development goals, enabling the inclusion of less developed rural communities in sustainable food value chains. “The Better Life Farming model is actually very simple. If we succeed in providing a concerted and effective response to the problems of farmers, we will be able to create sustainable businesses and stimulate the entire rural community”, explains Lino Dias, Bayer Vice President of Smallholder Farming.

The model begins by demonstrating that in each region where it is set up all partners manage to simultaneously increase food production and farmers income. “The BLF centers are created after that and are normally owned by our partners’ Agri-entrepreneurs, who are usually recent graduates. This model serves as the reference point for the entire community”, says Lino Dias. In these centers, in addition to seeds, fertilizers, plant protection products, irrigation equipment, services, credit and access to markets, the community can also have access to training on better agricultural practices, basic business skills, etc.

According to the Técnico alumnus, “each BLF center can cover more than 500 smallholder farmers”, and the promotion of the role of women, both at the level of producers and at the level of Agri-entrepreneurs, plays a very important role in this project. “We recently started to promote family planning and basic notions of medication and nutrition. We still don’t have final results, but the first indicators reveal a good acceptance by the communities”, says the vice-president of Bayer.

The model is currently being applied in India, Indonesia and Bangladesh, with more than 900 operational BLF Centers, and is expected to reach 1000 by the end of the year. “We have had enormous interest and support from the governments of these countries, in particular from the ministries of agriculture, but not only. At the beginning of the pandemic, the BLF Centers immediately adopted prevention and hygiene measures”, stresses Lino Dias. “We also managed to get the support of several partners to ensure the purchase and transport of agricultural products, in spite of the severe restrictions on the movement of people and goods. This was very well received by communities and governments”, he adds.

A project in line with the United Nations sustainable development goals

UNECE aimed to find and recognise the most resilient projects, which, besides involving public-private partnerships around the world, put people at the center of their operations and demonstrate their ability to help communities to maintain and rebuild themselves, in the post-pandemic context. BLF was one of the 6 projects that stood out from 66 applications, involving 25 countries, for providing holistic and innovative solutions for smallholder farmers in developing economies.

“UNECE has developed a very interesting methodology, which allows to follow up projects along the different dimensions of impact, present and future, in line with the UN sustainable development goals”, highlights Lino Dias. According to the Técnico alumnus, this award “validates the project’s potential that we hope also extends to African and Latin American countries very soon”. “The recognition that the private sector plays a fundamental role in sustainable development is also a very important conclusion to be drawn from this award”, he adds.

We often don’t understand how this work is important for our future, but Lino Dias recalls “the world’s population is expected to increase by 2 billion persons by 2050”. “It is estimated that it will be necessary to increase food production by more than 50% of current values, but we can no longer afford to continue reducing the forest area of our planet. Low- and middle-income countries, located in Asia, Africa and Latin America, present low agricultural productivity”, he stresses. Most of the population growth is expected to occur in these countries until 2050, where agriculture is dominated by small farmers, who are responsible for feeding more than half of their population. “Therefore, finding models that work in agricultural production chains, based on smallholder farmers, has been the object of research in the last two decades”, he stresses.

Twenty years after joining Bayer

20 years have passed since Lino Dias joined Bayer. He started to work in the Research & Development (R&D) area – Thermodynamics and Property Forecasting – in Leverkusen. “Apart from the language, I didn’t feel any difficulty adapting to this position and I quickly started to lead research projects. I then realised the importance of the skills I developed at Técnico”, recalls the Técnico alumnus.

After working in the R&D area, Lino Dias started to work in Logistics, more specifically in Supply Chain, and also in Communication and Change Management. “I worked in Communication and Change Management areas, I was project manager in Distribution, IT, Marketing and Management areas. I also worked in the company’s Strategy area and I was advisor to the president before my current position”, he says.

Lino Dias stresses that he had always used the same “toolbox” in all these positions. “Obviously, many of these tools have been updated and I’ve also been acquiring new ones, but the knowledge I gained and developed at Técnico is, above all, the most important”, says the alumnus.