Solidaridad North America continued supporting Solidaridad China in implementing the cotton project funded by the Walmart Foundation. Initiated in 2014 in the Hebei province, the project builds upon Better Cotton Initiative (BCI) training programmes to address the needs of women cotton farmers. Due to challenging conditions in the country’s cotton sector, the project adapted to also train the women in business development skills, enabling them to seek alternative livelihoods.
The US presidential election of November 2016 must go down as the defining event of the year. The change in government will shape the direction of America’s international development efforts, at least for the next four years.
Sizeable cuts in U.S. Department of State and USAID staffs and budgets are predicted. Climate change and environmental protection are expected to receive reduced priority within the US administration. The philanthropic and international development community is still working through the implications of this development.
The overall expectation is that the coming years will be challenging and that increased support for environmental, social and economic sustainability organizations will have to come from philanthropic and corporate sources, with less coming from the US government. Simultaneously, Canada’s new leadership may offer new opportunities that, to some extent, could offset and counterbalance any setbacks experienced in the USA.
Sustainability, environmental protection and the threats of climate change continue to matter to most Americans and Solidaridad expects continued support for its work. Solidaridad is reevaluating its strategy within the new political reality and will continue to work with partners to pursue common goals.
The year 2016 has seen significant activity in North America. Solidaridad entered into an agreement with PepsiCo to assist this global food and beverage company to achieve their sustainability goals. The initial focus is on sugarcane in India with other commodities and regions to follow.
Solidaridad North America also supported the West Africa office to implement the first year of the Maso programme, a $15 million, five-year programme supported by the MasterCard Foundation, as part of its Youth Forward Initiative. Maso is aimed at fostering entrepreneurship among the youth, both men and women, in Ghana’s cocoa sector. Solidaridad also serves on the steering committee of the Youth Forward Initiative.
A David & Lucile Packard Foundation grant, developed by Solidaridad North America, is supporting a programme in West Kalimantan, Indonesia, focused on improving the productivity and livelihoods of smallholder oil palm farmers, while reducing deforestation and associated greenhouse gas emissions.
Solidaridad North America supported Solidaridad China to implement the final year of a three-year cotton project funded by the Walmart Foundation. This project was aimed at addressing the needs of women cotton farmers, especially leadership development and community mobilization. Due to challenging conditions in China’s cotton sector, the project also trained the women in business development skills, equipping them to seek alternative livelihoods.
Furthermore, Solidaridad North America worked with every regional centre in the Network to develop new grant proposals, concept notes and/or partnerships. In so doing, Solidaridad North America achieved its stated objective of ensuring that it supported the entire Network throughout the year.
Solidaridad continues to build relationships and partnerships with North American companies and philanthropic organizations across a range of industries, including beverages, chocolate, textiles and coffee.
In 2016, Solidaridad led a mission of staff from Asia and Africa to Netafim, in Israel, to explore partnership potential with this world-leading drip irrigation company to address water stress in smallholder agriculture.
Solidaridad also continued to enhance its visibility in North America by participating in conferences at Stanford University and the University of California, Berkeley, the Clinton Global Initiative, the Chicago Council on Global Affairs, and the Tropical Forest Alliance 2020, to name a few.
For a lean organization such as Solidaridad North America, any personnel change is a significant event. In 2016, Solidaridad lost one manager and added another in the region. There are current efforts at active recruitment to expand its staff further. This has been challenging, as the markets where Solidaridad North America is located (California and New York) are extremely competitive.
Solidaridad moved its California office from San Francisco to Berkeley in order to stay cost-effective, while also improving daily employee travel.
Solidaridad North America led an internal assessment of the Network’s organizational culture with a special emphasis on gender. This was discussed, organization-wide, during the launch of Ambition 2020 in Ghana, in March. The Solidaridad North America team also contributed to internal strategy groups such as the Impact Investment and Gender Task Forces.