Asia 2018

In 2018 the Solidaridad South and South East Asia and China regional offices joined together to form one continental office: Solidaridad Asia. Over the last 12 years, Solidaridad has emerged as an innovative sustainable solutions provider in Asia, working in India, China, Indonesia, Malaysia, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka, Myanmar, Hong Kong and Israel. Solidaridad Asia provides training on climate-smart sustainable agriculture and decent work for 500,000 farmers and 200,000 workers in 13 commodity areas. All our work is tailored towards creating practical solutions at scale for feeding the ever-growing demands of the Asian population through a more-with-less approach.

Bangladesh’s SaFaL programme engaged with 8,709 farmers in 2018 to cumulatively support 37,411 shrimp farmers. In 2018, we piloted Prawn (Golda) Post Larvae production in earthen ponds to optimize the technology for Bangladeshi Golda producers. The pilot was successful and SaFaL supported farmer, Ms. Shaheena Begum, received best farmer award from the Bangladeshi Department of Fisheries. We also initiated a new project in India supporting 2000 shrimp farmers with good practices, as well as policy support to engage with EU importers.

In 2018 the Bangladesh dairy programme continued to support 23,283 dairy smallholders to improve their farm productivity and supply quality milk through the adoption and adaptation of sustainable practices. Dairy farmers reduced their farming costs while increasing their income through selling more milk at higher prices than before. Some community members also started to produce fodder for a living. Nine dairy collection centres have been established by the programme so far, and a pilot dairy production company was established in Narail.

In 2018 SaFaL supported 17,751 farmers (52% women) and market actors to achieve greater productivity through the adoption of sustainable technologies in production and post-harvest management. Three export clusters were developed, enrolling 532 vegetable farmers with an estimated production of 2626 metric tons of exportable cabbage. The implementation of good practices reduced farmers’ input costs, especially for chemical fertilizer and pesticide use. SaFaL supported the establishment of 12 vegetable and fruit collection centres where around 3,000 farmers sell produce.

In 2018, 646,150 tons (India- 346150 and China-300000) were extracted under Code for Responsible Extraction (CORE) guidelines. Since 2016, the CORE has supported 17,087 workers (India-12,008 and China-5079). CORE was established by Solidaridad together with Unilever, mineral extraction experts, civil society organizations, extraction companies and suppliers in 2015.

We initiated a project in India’s Kanpur leather sector in line with the National Mission for Clean Ganga. The project aims to reduce volumes and pollution levels of effluent water from tanneries. 250,000 workers in the tanning and leather industry (30% female) will directly benefit, as well as the 30,000 smallholder farmers who depend on the re-use of the wastewater for their agricultural production. The project was further expanded into Kolkata, and Bangladesh, together with business partner STAHL.

In Indonesia, Malaysia and India we supported farmers to manage their oil palm farms in a more sustainable way. The Indonesian Palm Oil Board, the Solvent Extractors’ Association of India and Solidaridad signed a memorandum of understanding (MoU) in support of close cooperation between key stakeholders in the promotion of sustainable palm oil. The MoU also supports smallholder farmers to produce efficiently as well as creating awareness of the health benefits of palm oil among consumers.

Solidaridad Asia supports four soy programmes working with more than 165,000 farmers. In India, thanks to the 22,509 farmers who received training, we saw a 23.16% increase in soy yield. In Indonesia, we worked with Business Watch Indonesia and Central Java Government to support soya-based landscapes working with 120,000 soy farmers. We also translated the sustainable-landscape.org website into Indonesian to benefit local farmers. In Bangladesh, the project introduced six new varieties which increased yields by almost 50%.

Solidaridad runs four sugar projects supporting over 250,000 farmers in India. In 2018 we developed the Indian Sustainable Sugar Smallholders Framework (I3SF), a digital self-assessment tool that captures data on four important aspects of sustainable sugarcane cultivation: Better farm management, labour and community rights, environment and ecosystem, and water and energy. It has already supported 48,000 farmers with self-assessment and will grow to cover 200,000 smallholder farmers in the next 1.5 years.

In 2018 we implemented phase two of the Trustea programme to deliver more than 550 million kilos of certified tea, supporting 500,000 workers and smallholders. To go beyond certification and our focus on tea smallholders whose conditions were not improving, we also launched the new TRINITEA programme together with the Indian Tea Association. The project aims to transform the tea smallholder segment (70,000 smallholders) in India while taking care of social and environmental issues.

In Myanmar, Coordinated Action for Sustainable Textiles (CAST Myanmar) continued to plan for long-term work on emissions regulation, sector Environmental Impact Assessment guidelines, education infrastructure and a process for Eco-Industrial Park assessment. In China, we joined forces with QuizRR to initiate a pilot project for improving labour conditions, and increasing opportunities for skills development and fair wages, for at least 1000 factory workers. We plan to roll out IT-based training, and wage management systems to more factories to reach scale and speed.


The most significant external developments in the Asia region in 2018 came as a result of the trade war between the US and China. The effects are visible through China’s 25% levy on soybean. China is the world’s largest importer of soybeans, accounting for 60% of global trade. 2018 witnessed the lowest Chinese imports of US soybean since 2011, while the volume of soybeans exported from Brazil to China grew 15%. Such colossal demand created in a short space put pressure on the deforestation-free soybean production agenda, not only in Brazil but also in Argentina and Paraguay.

Solidaridad, therefore, worked to create the Sustainable Soy Trade Platform. In 2018, under a programme financially supported by NORAD, we facilitated the signing of a memorandum of understanding (MoU). This MoU, focussed on responsible sourcing, was signed by the China Soybean Industry Association, Brazil’s Vegetable Oils Association and the Soy Producer Association for the state of Mato Grosso, Aprosoja.

In January 2018, the European Parliament voted to ban the use of palm oil for the production of biofuels in the European Union by 2020. This led to wide-scale protests in Malaysia and Indonesia. It will likely lead to a further fall in palm oil prices and, in turn, demand will increase outside the European Union, in countries such as India and China. Solidaridad’s activities are therefore focused on engaging India and China (two of the world’s largest importers of palm oil) with Indonesia and Malaysia. Together we want to find a regional solution for sustainable growth of palm oil as a healthy, economically viable, edible oil in Asia while taking care of the environment and society. In 2018 we supported the creation of the Indian Sustainable Palm Oil Framework and signed MoUs with the Indian Solvent Extractors Association, the Indonesian Palm Oil Board and the Malaysian Palm Oil Board as positive steps in this direction.



We worked to optimize food production as part of the bigger agenda to feed the ever-growing population in Asia, as well as responding to the increasing global demand for food. We deployed IT tools to support farmers in the production of soy, tea, sugarcane, palm oil and cotton, which have proved to be effective. Sustainable farming concerns a wide range of social and ecological dimensions of production. Our strategy of working with national sustainability assurance frameworks (Trinitea, I3SF, ISPO, MSPO, SUCCESS, CORE, LESTARI) has helped farmers significantly and is considered as a best practice model.


To support Indian cotton farmers during the drought we worked alongside experts from the Indian government to revive 3000 ponds. Through the Sustainable Agriculture, Food Security and Linkages (SaFaL) programme, we constructed two village supermarkets in Bangladesh which are now in operation. Through our soybean programme, we directly supported 12 farmer producer companies to aggregate inputs and outputs. In our tanneries programme, we created a state-of-the-art model tannery for training tanners in India with the support of project partners STAHL.


In 2018 our SaFaL programme focussed on four landscapes: The Merapi volcano landscape in Central Java; the Green Village concept in West Kalimantan; the Ganges landscape in Northern India; and the coastal areas of Southwest Bangladesh. In all these landscapes, unlike other civil society organizations, we engaged with local governments instead of businesses as the starting point. This strategy helped us to focus on the critical issues in the landscape.


Solidaridad Asia is increasingly working to influence policy to achieve speed and scale in sectoral transformations in a sustainable way. For example, we are working closely with the Indian government on cleaning Ganga river, and with the Indonesian government on palm oil production and trade, and making Merapi volcano region more sustainable. We are working with the Bangladeshi government on sustainable fisheries and fruit exports, with the Sri Lankan government on the health and nutrition of tea workers and surrounding communities, and with the Malaysian government on creating sustainable livelihoods for palm oil smallholders. In China, we are working with traders and government officials to support them with the sustainable procurement of soy, livestock and palm oil.


In 2018, the number of Solidaridad Asia employees reached 300, or 267 full-time equivalents, up from 185 in 2017. The number of offices managed by Solidaridad Asia increased to 28 during 2018. We invested in an experienced fundraising team to cater to different proposal development. This includes domain experts, specialist writers, planning, monitoring, evaluation and learning, budget experts, and the managing director.

Each of the country offices regularly conducts internal training and orientation on Solidaridad’s policies in close coordination with the HR department.

The most significant change in the organization was the merger of the China office with the South and South East Asia office, joining to become the Solidaridad Asia continental office. The Solidaridad offices in China, Sri Lanka, Myanmar and Malaysia were officially registered or began the process of becoming registered, and country managers appointed.

We launched a new matrix-based performance appraisal system with an emphasis on continuous improvement and learning for staff. For individual staff members, the country offices organized internal and external training for personal and professional growth. At group level, the region arranged exposure visits to other countries in the network. During 2018 the Gender Team organized workshops in various Solidaridad offices throughout Asia including India, Indonesia, and Bangladesh, among others. The Finance, Operations and HR teams regularly conducted remote, online training and interaction.

Solidaridad organized a two-day conference for its Asia staff and the global Executive Board of Directors along with key governmental and industry partners. The conference celebrated ten years of Solidaridad’s work in Asia to develop innovative sustainability solutions for businesses, farmers and governments.

The conference included workshops around sustainable landscapes, blockchain technology, impact communication, use of technology in agriculture, pollution management in industrial sectors, food and environmental security and national sustainability standards. See more on the event: https://youtu.be/QHZWlPnL6wQ


At the end of 2017, Solidaridad China ceased to exist as a separate expertise centre and from 2018 onwards the whole continent came under the management of Solidaridad Asia. At the end of 2018, Solidaridad Asia had one parent legal entity in Hong Kong with branches in India, Sri Lanka, China and Bangladesh. Other legal entities were established in Indonesia. The Continental Supervisory Board of Solidaridad Asia remains the parent legal entity in Hong Kong.

In 2011, Solidaridad Asia contributed less than 0.1 million euros to the total aggregated income of 18.3m euros. This increased to a contribution of 5.5m euros in 2018, representing 10% of Solidaridad Network’s total income. This is slightly less than in the two years prior, when the contribution was around 8m euros, and also lower than the foreseen growth to 10 million euros in 2020. This is due to Solidaridad Asia’s preference in 2018 to spend funds that were contracted by other regional expertise centres, therefore delaying the use of funds that were contracted from within the region. The trend will therefore correct itself and contribution to income by Solidaridad Asia will continue to grow.  

For further details, please see the official audited annual accounts of Solidariad Asia which can be found here.


In 2018 Solidaridad maintained 100 close partnerships with businesses, business associations, government departments, NGOs and smallholder associations. The Embassy of Netherlands in Bangladesh remained the main funding partner for Solidaridad. Solidaridad Asia also received direct support from the Netherlands regional office. We work closely with the Embassy of the Netherlands in India, Indonesia, China and Malaysia.

The partnership with regional government agencies further intensified in 2018. We continued our cooperation with Indonesia’s Ministry of Economic Affairs, the provincial governments of West Kalimantan and Central Java, the Malaysian Palm Oil Board, Indian Tea Board and Uttar Pradesh Jal Nigam. The National Mission for Clean Ganga under the Ministry of Water Resources in India also gave Solidaridad special-partner status. During 2018, Solidaridad Asia signed MoUs with different government departments in Sri Lanka, including the Ministry of Hill Country, New Villages, Infrastructure and Community Development, Department of National Community Water Supply and National Water Supply and Drainage Board.

Our main corporate partners with whom we worked closely throughout 2018 were Unilever, Coca Cola, BASF, Arkema, Jayant Agro, PepsiCo, Olam, Renuka Sugars, DSCL, Henkel and Godrej. C&A Foundation became Solidaridad’s major supporter in cotton programmes across Asia. Vippy Soya emerged as Solidaridad’s biggest partner for soy in India.

The partnership with STAHL in the leather sector is unique. It brings together the products and processes of a global Dutch company and Solidaridad’s skills for training and motivating the tanners to adopt good practices.

We further strengthened our partnership with some of the oldest and most influential associations in Asia. This includes our partnership with Indian Tea Association, United Planters Association of Southern India, China Tea Marketing Association, Ceylon Planters Association and Indonesian Tea Marketing Association. In palm oil, Solidaridad continued its close partnership with Solvent Extractors Association of India as well as Oil and Fat Industries Association of China.


For increased visibility, Solidaridad Asia’s communications team promoted news stories about events, launches and training, along with the creation of impact stories for donor and stakeholder engagement. Mainstream media such as newspapers and news channels provided good coverage of Solidaridad’s work. For example, the Village Supermarket project was covered by a telecast on Bangla news channel, and the TRINITEA signing was covered by the Hindu and other English newspapers in India. Province-level meetings with the government and workshops in Uttar Pradesh were covered by prime Hindi newspapers and the signing of MoU between the Indonesian Sustainable Palm Oil and the Indian Palm Oil Sustainability Framework was covered by vernacular and English newspapers in Indonesia.

Solidaridad Asia published 30 blogs in 2018 with 2060 views and 1149 visitors. The communication team also made five videos.

The communications team supported the Planning, Monitoring and Evaluation team with brand and content alignment during award submissions. Field visits to programme areas were organized to cover events, impact stories, photo and video shoot, and to interact with stakeholders and partners.

Staff training sessions were organized in programme and field offices to train colleagues on social media and presentation skills, which resulted in trained personnel posting on social media such as Facebook and LinkedIn. Additionally, country managers and programme managers were active with their own updates on social media. Solidaridad country offices also published newsletters from Indonesia and Bangladesh to keep the local stakeholders involved and informed.

The communications team supported programmes with branding and content guidance in creating print and online materials including reports, brochures, backdrops, display panels, leaflets, e-invites and posters, among others.

The focus was to strategically position and align the communication towards different target groups as per the requirement of the programme.