Pioneer Hi-Bred Maize Field Guide

These kids had never seen a white man.

Recognized as a global agricultural leader, in 2001 Pioneer Hi-Bred held a summit in Bangkok, attended by nations both friendly and unfriendly with the US. It was dedicated to solving world hunger; a forum of good ideas. I was fortunate to be the summit’s AV producer. One of my take-aways was this: For most of the world, “farmer” means one woman farming one Hectare of land using her own two hands, primitive tools, and locally available resources.

The summit suggested that the best thing a farmer could invest in would be a hybrid or variety of corn that would thrive in that region. The right choice of hybrid offers the right resistances and characteristics can help farmers improve yields dramatically without additional labor. Pioneer wanted to help.

2003 found me working with Pioneer on a study in Tanzania. We were guests of the Prime Minister, and he offered his support for the study. With the help of local farmers, we sought to demonstrate that with the right choice of corn hybrid, one farmer working one Hectare of land could grow and sell the grain for human or animal consumption. Silage from the stalks and other local plants could feed a dairy cow for a year. Milk with high butterfat content could be sold locally, providing a steady revenue stream. It was a good, sustainable model. Had no trouble signing up 16 farmers and their 16 Hectares (40 acres) of land for the study.

Pioneer had previously demonstrated the 16-farmer co-op model had additional benefits for dairy farmers in the Philippines. Local bankers were willing to collateralize a farmer’s cow, enabling loans for seeds and supplies. A new dairy operation soon sprouted, greatly enhancing the distribution of milk, which in turn boosted the local economy.

What was needed was an interactive maize field guide and hybrid chooser that would work in the middle of nowhere on a laptop. So that’s what we did.

The Pioneer Maize Field Guide was designed for use by France-based representatives who would travel to developing countries and meet with famers. Actually, I was surprised that it still works pretty well after 16 years. Here’s the link. 

With the field guide, a Pioneer rep could quickly figure out the best corn hybrid for any farmer’s unique needs. When reconnected to the internet, the field guide would enable the rep to connect with Pioneer, determine hybrid availability, register the order, and get the seeds into the hands of farmers for the next planting season. Micro-financing options were soon to be available.

Sadly, Pioneer was sold to DuPont a week after we’d signed up our Tanzanian farmers, and the company’s philanthropic focus shifted away. Here’s a link for more stuff on my website.

It was a great idea then, and maybe an even better idea now.

What do you think?