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The cultivation of sugarcane provides a livelihood for millions of farmers and estate workers around the world. The commercial outlook for the sugarcane sector is good, with demand for cane sugar and ethanol on the rise. This provides excellent opportunities to address the challenges in this sector: helping small-scale farmers to get out of the vicious cycle of low productivity, high input costs, low income and consequently low investments; improving labour conditions in the sugarcane industry, which are still among the toughest in the world; making a responsible transition to mechanized harvesting, with care for large numbers of cane cutters who will lose their jobs and who often have little prospect of finding other work; expanding sugarcane cultivation responsibly, without entering into land and water conflicts with the local population.

Sugarcane programme: contributing to a global standard

Solidaridad is one of the driving forces behind the implementation of the global standard for better sugarcane production. As an active member of Bonsucro, the better sugarcane initiative, we are dedicated to improving the environmental and social impacts of sugarcane production. Bonsucro focuses on issues such as legal compliance, fair labour practices, responsible expansion, efficient water use and biodiversity conservation.

Solidaridad supports companies and farmers in the transition to a sustainable sugarcane sector. Our extensive experience in similar sectors gives us the ability to make a big contribution. We have producer support programmes for people-friendly and environmentally friendly production involving thousands of workers and small-scale farmers in Brazil, India, Pakistan, Malawi, Honduras and Belize. We also help processors and end users to make their sugar or ethanol supply more sustainable. In addition, we inform consumers and policy makers about how they can support the transition to a more sustainable sugarcane sector.

Impact: support for farmers worldwide

The Sugarcane Producer Support Initiative (SUPSI), formed by Solidaridad and Bonsucro, is a programme targeting around 55,000 small-scale farmers and 170,000 farm workers employed by larger plantations around the world. SUPSI is training 48,000 farmers in India and Pakistan in sustainable farming methods. Similar projects in Belize, Malawi, Honduras and Bolivia are enabling farmers to obtain better harvests and earn higher incomes.

Today we have formed the Farmer Support Programme (FSP) to train 400.000 workers and farmers.

History and prospects of the sugarcane programme

Start of the sugarcane programme2008Main issuesbasic labour rights of cane cutters and mill employees, mechanization of harvesting leading to redundancy of cane cutters, low productivity and income of small-scale farmers, land and water conflicts - especially in expansion areasCountriesBrazil, Bolivia, Paraguay, Belize, Honduras, India, Pakistan, Malawi, South AfricaPartnersWWF, Prakruthi, Bonsucro, ARGOS Energies, UNICA, Raizen, Suiker Unie, Concern UniversalDonorsNetherlands Ministry of Foreign Affairs (Millenium Agreement), NL Agency


In the next five years the sugarcane programme will focus on:

  • increasing smallholder productivity, net income and resource use efficiency through producer support programmes;
  • promoting market uptake of certified sugar and ethanol - engaging with mainstream market parties;
  • contributing to multi-stakeholder initiatives like Bonsucro to improve sector sustainability;
  • engaging policy makers, civil society, consumers and the general public in informed dialogue about better sugar, sugarcane ethanol and the biobased economy.

New partnerships


To stay at the forefront of developments in the sugarcane industry, Solidaridad wants to collaborate with:

  • processors and end users who want to improve the sustainability performance of their supply chain (in food & beverage, oil and chemical industries);
  • mills and producer organizations who want to improve their sustainability performance through best management practices and certification;
  • multi-stakeholder initiatives to act as stewards for sector-wide sustainability improvements;
  • donors, commercial and non-commercial, who can help to make this happen through donations, credits and investments.


Bonsucro: Standard for 'better' sugarcane

Bonsucro, previously known as Better Sugarcane Initiative (BSI) drew up a code of conduct for sustainable sugarcane production. Solidaridad took the lead in developing a tracking system.

Farmers save water in sugarcane cultivation

In Pakistan, Solidaridad trains farmers to grow more sugarcane while using less water. This improves farmer income and reduces the risk of water conflicts.

First sustainable supply chain of sugarcane

North Sea Group works with Solidaridad on the first large-scale sustainable supply chain of sugarcane ethanol from Brazil to the Netherlands.

We offer

Solidaridad aims at a sustainable and fair sugarcane chain, from farmer to consumer. The organization consists of a worldwide network of regional expertise centres and cooperates with local partners. Together we deliver the following services:

Our services in the Sugarcane programme:

  • Training farmers in farming techniques that have less negative impact on people and the environment and lead to better and larger yields.
  • Supporting agricultural producer organisations and industrial producer companies to qualify for social and environmental certification standards.
  • Developing certification standards for sustainable production and fair trade (such as Fair Trade and BSI).
  • Supporting companies to implement corporate social responsibility (CSR) related to sourcing in developing countries.


Some of the key results in Solidaridad's Sugarcane programme:

  • In 2010 a global standard for sustainable sugarcane production is implemented by the Better Sugarcane Initiative, of which Solidaridad is a board member.
  • Up to 2010, the Sugarcane Producer Support Initiative (SUPSI) trained 48,000 farmers in India and Pakistan in sustainable farming methods for increased productivity.
  • In cooperation with North Sea Group, Solidaridad is developing a chain for sustainable produced ethanol from sugarcane from Brazil.
  • Solidaridad raises consumer awareness about the challenges in the production of bio fuels.