A ground up approach to food security

When Hetram Sharma first bought some land 10 years ago in India, he had one goal in mind: To grow his own rice and wheat in order to earn a decent income for his family.

Like millions of smallholder farmers in India, cultivating land has become a way of life that enables progress towards stability and economic improvement.

However, with crop productivity falling through the years, Hetram begun to suspect that a key contributor to this decline was poor soil health. Numerous soil reports and analyses did not give him the answers he needed.

“I wasn’t sure what went wrong. I tried employing different soil care solutions from various organisations, but things didn’t get better,” said Hetram. Crop yields across his three acres of land continued to decline at an alarming rate despite efforts with different types and quantities of fertilizers.


Soil has a central role in food production, with over 95% of food produced globally depending on healthy soil. Maintaining nutrient-rich, biodiverse soil is vital to agriculture and building resilient food systems. Measures such as improving farm management practices, reducing soil disturbance, adopting crop rotation and optimizing nutrient use are key to good soil health. Smallholder farmers produce up to 80% of food consumed in Asia Pacific.

With better access to tools and information on soil health that is tailored to the needs of their farms, smallholders can play a pivotal role with the adoption of sustainable practices that protect soil while increasing crop productivity.


To help farmers improve soil health and increase their crop yields, Syngenta has teamed up with non-profit organization, the Indian Society of Agribusiness Professionals, to launch a program named SoilCare. The program supports farmers through outreach activities on soil health and the provision of comprehensive soil testing support. These efforts reduce tillage, weed growth and erosion, leading to healthier crop yields.

The soil testing activities are timed according to cropping schedules and are provided in a timely manner to help farmers make the right decisions for every season. The soil samples are collected by Syngenta before every monsoon season and are tested to determine soil fertility.

Results provide farmers with a detailed understanding of their soil composition and gives recommendations for crop growth. The timeliness of these reports, available to farmers in under a month, allows interventions to be done without delay before each season. Technical reports also include visual cues and text translations in the farmers’ own languages, making it easily understandable. Hetram joined Syngenta’s SoilCare program a few years ago and with tailored advice, training and support provided by Syngenta and our partners, he was able to turn around the situation on his farm, increase yields while lowering costs at the same time.

“Soil is a critical component for agricultural productivity. Our soil conservation program has helped 3000 farmers across 25 villages increase their soil health, productivity and land value,” says Dr KC Ravi, Head, Business Sustainability from Syngenta India. Helping farmers maintain healthy soils will also help ensure effective carbon sinks that contribute to reducing overall emissions from agriculture, says Chris Argent, Syngenta’s Head of Business Sustainability, APAC.

“There is a huge, untapped potential for farmland to be a natural carbon reservoir and healthier soils have a greater capacity to trap carbon. Our work helps farmers to reduce their environmental footprint, while growing better crops and building more resilient farms,” he adds.

Once overlooked, soil health is regaining recognition not only as an essential resource for farms, but a crucial defence against climate change as well.

“With healthy soil, I believe that we are going to reduce our overall impact on the environment and reap the benefits for the climate and my community too,” said Hetram.

From soil tests to the applying of crop protection products and practising crop rotation, farmers across India have benefitted from this partnership and transformed their farming practices to better protect their soil.Find out more about how partnerships can help scale up these initiatives across India and beyond.