Rohini Chandrasekaran, FLA’s Agriculture Program Coordinator, recently visited several Syngenta-contracted farms producing hybrid vegetable seeds in India. Syngenta is a Participating Company in the FLA. One of the objectives of her trip was to learn more about the impact of Sygenta’s affiliation with FLA on the lives of workers. This is a guest post from Rohini.
I visited a farm in Giroli, where sweet pepper, watermelon, marigold, hot pepper, and tomato seeds are grown for Syngenta. The farm has been associated with Syngenta for the past 20 years. According to the farmers, their association with Syngenta resulted in decent money, increased social status and a good image in the society. The growers like the social compliance aspect of the Syngenta program. According to the growers, honesty and trust among workers builds ownership and leads to profitable seed production. Hence, they accept the requirement that workers should be treated well as these workers are crucial in completing the cross-pollination activity effectively. The growers realized that creating a good work culture and environment would help them to attain prosperity in the seed business.
Some of the practises introduced as part of Syngenta’s social compliance program include access to incentives like food, tea, medical support, transportation, sponsored picnics; provision of safe drinking water; dining with workers to build relationships; motivating workers’ children to attend school; providing shelter and care for small children; providing overtime premium during pollination; requiring that workers wear personal protective equipment; and more. The majority of the growers I spoke with said that their association with the FLA has helped them understand the importance and value of good working conditions on their farms. In fact, several said that even if they were not monitored by FLA in the future, they would continue these practices on their own because of the long-term benefits for their business.
During this trip I met with a 17-year-old girl, Sunita, who has worked on a seed production farm since last year. Here’s what a typical day looks like for Sunita:
- 10:00 a.m.: a vehicle from the farmer’s house arrives at her house
- Work begins upon arrival at the farm. Sunita works especially on inter-cultivation operations such as cross-pollination, ticking, tying, and fertigation.
- 2:00 p.m.: one-hour break
- Work continues after the break.
- 6:00 p.m.: transportation provided back to her home.
According to Sunita, the activity she likes the most in farms is cross-pollination. She also told me that she is treated like a member of the grower’s family. She has received new garments and was taken to movies and picnic once in a season. Sunita said that if she had to work in a farm not affiliated with Syngenta and the FLA, she would likely have to walk to work and wouldn’t be provided with any of the other benefits.
Syngenta’s affiliation with FLA has led to many improvements at farms throughout India, and especially for workers like Sunita. To learn more about FLA’s agriculture program, see the recently published Annual Report.