2017 ANNUAL REPORT

Global 2017

From climate change to human rights to immigration, 2017 presented numerous challenges that required organizations to take a position and respond. With a growing world population, we need to deliver more food with the same amount of land and water available. Fortunately, more private and government players recognize that a sustainable, climate-resilient approach to global trade is key.

In 2017, Solidaridad Europe commenced a new way of working. This involved shaping the organization according to five core activities: Policy Influencing, Corporate Engagement & Partnerships, Donor Relations, Knowledge Management & Learning, and Communication & Campaigning. This structure has created a solid base for further growth. It will enable Solidaridad to better respond to European developments and strengthen its value proposition.

At Solidaridad South America, the model for continual improvement to scale sustainable production has grown beyond its piloting phase. The private sector is now responding by replicating and scaling this model up. Solidaridad is making advancements in establishing more overarching interventions to integrate these in farm solutions with landscape approaches. In addition, Solidaridad is fostering an enabling policy environment to improve native forest conservation and smallholder resilience to climate change.

Solidaridad, in association with Stahl, PUM, and Indian associations, launched a partnership to clean up the Ganges River. This is supported by the Netherlands Enterprise Agency with the aim to make Kanpur leather more sustainable. The partnership will reduce pollution levels from effluent water, creating a safer environment for 250,000 workers and cleaner water for 30,000 smallholder farmers who depend on wastewater for agricultural production.

Despite funding challenges, the year 2017 has been rewarding due to the enormous commitment on the part of the entire staff of Solidaridad West Africa. During the year, Solidaridad deepened engagement with several donors from the European Union including the embassies of Sweden and the Netherlands. This led to the creation of three new funding agreements for programmes.

In 2017, regional commodity-based multi-stakeholder platforms and sustainable landscape initiatives in Honduras and Nicaragua matured under the leadership of a strengthened and professionalized Solidaridad team. Innovations were integrated in impact investment, digital technology, gender inclusion, and climate solutions. Solidaridad introduced new business models to meet the growing demand for guidance and support from the private sector, government and civil society organizations.

One of Solidaridad’s key focuses for 2017 was creating an enabling policy environment in Uganda where all stakeholders in tea, fruit and vegetables are involved in policy discussions. In Tanzania, under the Golden Line project, Solidaridad engaged in advocacy initiatives where legal mining issues were discussed. Solidaridad also established strategic partnerships with private and public entities related to climate change, creating an enabling policy environment, impact investment, digital solutions and sustainable landscape innovations.

Solidaridad invested intensive efforts to promote key stakeholders’ awareness about sustainable commodities, enabling tools for improved CSR performance of enterprises and to reduction of China’s footprint both domestically and abroad in 2017.

Solidaridad Southern Africa has experienced an exciting year of learning and growth. The team has expanded, which has improved its expertise of critical innovation areas. A number of programmes were concluded in 2017 and this provided great opportunity for reflection. Going forward, Solidaridad is well-poised to take its strengthened team, new insights and learning, and embark on programmes in key commodities across the region.

The year 2017 was an eventful one for Solidaridad North America. The team continued to manage existing partnerships and develop new ones with leading brands and civil society organizations. Solidaridad focussed significantly on improving external communication and enhancing brand recognition through different channels. In addition, the North American team developed several important proposals in collaboration with other regional centres in the Solidaridad Network.

CREATING CHANGE THAT MATTERS

Foreword by Nico Roozen

In the current global environment, Solidaridad’s mission to create more inclusive and sustainable societies is increasingly relevant. We observe that traditional donors are keen to support civil society organizations that work constructively with the private sector.

By 2050 there will be nine billion people on the planet. This means we need to deliver more food with the same size of land and water available. As growing awareness of this challenge mounts, both private and government players recognize that a sustainable, climate-resilient approach to global trade is key.

Solidaridad’s Ambition 2020 Strategy created the framework for the global network to address these challenges. In 2017, we strengthened our capacity worldwide to focus on driving our innovation areas in Impact Investment, Digital Solutions, Gender and Social Inclusion and Landscape Approaches. This involved appointing experts in key regions to deepen our knowledge and expand our scope.

Across South and South-East Asia, Solidaridad promoted the adoption of climate-smart agriculture practices across 380,000 hectares of land and this led to an overall decrease in the use of agro-chemicals. Across multiple commodities in the region, farmers experienced production increases from 15% in sugar to 50% in soy.

In our global sugar programme, through the implementation of good agricultural practices including drip irrigation, trash mulching, use of biocontrols, and proper land preparation, a total of 27 billion litres of water was saved.

In South America, we strengthened our ties with organizations working against deforestation and built knowledge on sustainable approaches and low-carbon agriculture. In response to climate challenges in Chaco, Argentina, we established a governance body to facilitate access to loans for small producers to feed pasture-less herds. In Colombia, along with our partners and the government, we signed a national commitment ensuring a deforestation-free palm oil supply chain by 2020.

In the Ganges River basin  in India, a partnership was launched between agro-chemical companies Stahl and PUM, Uttar Pradesh Jal Nigam and the Indian leather industry association. This will reduce pollution levels from effluent water, creating a safer environment for 250,000 workers and cleaner water for 30,000 smallholder farmers who depend on this for agricultural production.

Worldwide, we have seen the demand for digital solutions increasing. In our sugarcane programme with Raízen (ELO), we assisted 2,100 farms with the development of a tested mobile application for extension officers. In cotton and textiles, QuizRR provided digital training for factory workers on issues such as labour rights, worker engagement, and wage management. These digital tools helped brands support the capacity development of their suppliers.

With the implementation of the new strategy (2016-2020), Solidaridad’s objectives are to provide proof of concept for intervention with lasting impact and to increase the speed and scale of that impact. By acting on five intervention levels (producer, robust infrastructure, landscape, country and global market) we can identify barriers, develop approaches to overcome them, build alliances to finance the proof of concept and find avenues to communicate and disseminate these proven concepts to allow for uptake at scale.

In 2017 we have supported 273 companies to adopt sustainable practices as drivers for change. We also initiated or participated in 86 Multi-stakeholder initiatives as a primary forum for discussing and building consensus on the sustainability agenda of different private and public stakeholders. 2017 was the first full implementation year of our Ambition 2020 strategy. With the further uptake of our strategy, we expect numbers to further rise in 2018. Moreover, we increased our indirect impact in 2017 by providing proof of concept to producers, governments, companies and major development programmes, and thereby speeding up structures that facilitate duplication by third parties at scale.

We have also been focusing on building the capacity of 155 CSOs for them to play an active role in decision making and dialogue. Working on advocacy is a long-term process. This takes time to materialize, but we are on the right track by setting the foundations for effective dialogue through the multi-stakeholder platforms.

Across the Solidaridad Network, spanning 543 staff across 42 countries, we have built this knowledge and tools over the past 49 years. In 2017, we built our global capacity to accelerate our innovation themes and look forward to enhancing partnerships with players that are committed to enhancing agricultural sustainability.

Nico Roozen
Solidaridad Network Executive Director

Strategy

DIGITAL TOOLS TRANSFORM THE FUTURE OF FARMING

Solidaridad experts observed rapid innovation in product development and farming practices, especially with the advancement of technologies such as artificial intelligence, big data, and blockchain technologies. Digital tools provide a wealth of information that enables targeted technical assistance at an individual level. They also support the design of programmes that tackle farmers’ most common challenges.

Going forward, the Solidaridad team is particularly interested to explore how knowledge and technology can unlock innovation and facilitate the transition to a circular and biobased economy. The teams also understand that effective innovation must be rooted in local knowledge and take into account lived realities on the ground.

There is continued recognition that to support producers, comprehensive solutions are needed and that these solutions must go beyond certification and be linked with markets. To effectively tackle sustainability challenges today, a full suite of approaches is required. This ranges from ensuring access to finance to creating an enabling policy and institutional environment, as well as taking a landscape approach to interventions.

VISION & MISSION

In everything we do, we are driven by our vision and mission. We seek partnerships with others, collaborate with industries and aspire to be a financially sustainable organization. We will always ensure that what we do contributes to our vision of a sustainable and inclusive economy that maximizes the benefit for all.

MISSION

Our mission is to bring together supply chain actors and engage them in innovative solutions to improve production, supporting the transition to a sustainable and inclusive economy that maximizes the benefit for all. We aspire to transform production practices in such a way that it provides fair and profitable business opportunities, guarantees decent working conditions and a living wage, and does not deplete landscapes where people thrive.

Our strategy focuses on using innovative solutions, models, tools and policies to bring more sustainable and inclusive production to scale and speed. 

VISION

Solidaridad envisions a world in which all we produce, and all we consume, can sustain us while respecting the planet, each other and next generations.

BRINGING SUSTAINABILITY TO SPEED AND SCALE

Innovation is in our DNA. In all that we do, we look beyond existing sustainability solutions to find ways to make our work more effective. In our strategy for 2020, we defined five new areas in which we want to increase our expertise to expand our impact.

Globally, we are facing grand, complex challenges with regards to sustainability and inclusivity. To address these, we need to implement smart and holistic solutions. We have to look beyond the commodity level to understand how landscape innovation can contribute to sustainability. It is imperative to take gender equity issues into account, not just because we value inclusivity, but because there is a clear business case for including women. We need to look at how we can make our solutions more suitable to mitigating the negative effects of climate change. And, in one of our most prestigious programmes, we are exploring how the use of data and digital tools can increase the scale of our interventions and give farmers more ownership. Last, but not least, we are working on making new types of financial models, such as impact investment, to accelerate sustainable production.

IMPLEMENTING CLIMATE-SMART INNOVATION

Climate adaptation is key for farmer resilience. To combat the detrimental effects of climate change we are piloting climate-smart packages to enable farmers to sustain or increase yields in the face of climate variability and extreme weather events.

These packages advocate agroforestry systems in coffee and cocoa, improved water management practices such as solar drip irrigation in sugarcane programmes in India and Southern Africa, and introduction of trees and restoration of soils in pasture land in Novo Repartimento, Brazil and Irala Fernandez, Paraguay. In our coffee programme, we have developed climate-smart practices which include non-shade to agroforestry conversion, renovation (planting new rust-resistant varieties), improving tree density, rehabilitation (systematic pruning and 30% rotation in coffee plot), integrated fertilizer management based on soil analysis, soil erosion management by introducing cover crops, wastewater management with biofilters and biogas installations, and composting. Farmers who applied our climate-smart practices were much better adapted to cope with the effects of El Nino in 2016. These farmers made a profit in 2016 and 2017, while farmers using traditional open sun systems made substantial losses. Worldwide, Solidaridad has hired five additional climate experts who have been added to the Climate Innovation Taskforce with representatives from seven regional offices. The taskforce agreed on five climate contentious issues such as deforestation as topics for our climate positioning. The team have reviewed and scored 44 projects in the current Solidaridad portfolio on its climate mitigation and adaptation performance. The portfolio review feeds into the formulation of our innovative climate solutions in 2018.

DIGITAL SOLUTIONS DRIVE TRANSFORMATION FOR A SUSTAINABLE WORLD

Advances in technology create unique opportunities for applications in agriculture. Solidaridad wants to make use of these opportunities to improve the speed and scale of its programmes. In 2016, Solidaridad announced its intention to become a data-driven organization. Since then, Solidaridad has made important progress towards this goal by developing requisite tools and an organizational culture that acts on data.

Based on the success of Solidaridad’s Rural Horizons Programme, we have developed and tested digital solutions to support farmers, extension workers, cooperative leaders, and business partners. Going forward, our digital solutions will help to engage a higher number of producers, increase the frequency of interactions with farmers, and provide them with tailor-made information on how to improve their production system and connect to markets. In 2017, Solidaridad launched its first mobile application for farmers. The Farming Solution targets the social and environmental sustainability of smallholder production systems and is designed to foster farmers autonomy to identify, plan improvements, and monitor progress on their farms. The solution, which is accessible for everyone through their phone, was tested with sugarcane, cotton, and cocoa farmers in Brazil. Going forward, the application will be used by more projects throughout the network. Solidaridad began developing two new solutions which are to be released in 2018. The Business Solution focuses on the crucial agro-economic decisions farmers make, such as “Should I expand, intensify and replant?” and “What are the consequences for the demand of labour, fertiliser and credit?” The mobile application for this solution is currently being developed in South Africa and Ghana. The Extension Solution targets extension workers who support farmers to adapt and modernize their production systems. This solution facilitates data gathering as well as individual and group support to track visits and share targets. Development of this solution is currently underway in Brazil in cooperation with Solidaridad’s long-term partner Raízen, a leading sugarcane processor.

ATTRACTING PRIVATE INVESTMENTS TO SECURE LONG-LASTING IMPACT

Traditionally, our work has been funded by donors. While this model of grant-funding is necessary to develop solutions for more sustainable production, impact investment can bring these solutions to speed and scale. To achieve widespread, long-lasting impact, farmers and their suppliers need access to finance to grow and sustain their businesses. For investors to supply this, Solidaridad creates a solid pipeline of investible propositions that catalyse change that matters.

Our Impact Investment Team is comprised of 15 finance specialists who are focussed on all of the regions in which Solidaridad operates. At the end of 2017, the team worked on a pipeline of 28 opportunities and is now engaged with 64 impact investors, 35 of which are actively managed by Solidaridad. In 2017, we started to build our track record and documented two major deals. One of these demonstrates impact across the sugarcane sector in India, while the other reflects on our involvement in Agrofair, a wholesale company in organic fruit. We also secured 35 million euro in grant-funding for projects that include a business case and will lead to investment opportunities. Our main challenge has been to support investment readiness and create investment opportunities that fit into the modalities and investment focus of investors. The impact investment industry is still struggling to align with a shared vocabulary to define and segment the industry. In addition, there is a challenge to increase the availability of appropriate capital of different types and to engineer effective blended finance packages that fit into the high-risk profile of investments. The majority of our projects are innovation driven. These projects offer challenging investment opportunities as they are both high impact and high-risk. This means they are not always the “low hanging fruit” impact investors are looking for. As a result, we foresee that Solidaridad will work with a select group of impact investors going forward.

IMPROVING THE RESILIENCE OF LANDSCAPES AND LIVELIHOODS

Solidaridad recognizes that landscape challenges are a complex phenomenon. The most significant of these are land degradation, water scarcity, pollution and loss of biodiversity. We seek to bridge the gap between nature conservation and agricultural production through our work with small-scale farmers worldwide. We work to optimize ecological functions on and off the farm and make land-use inclusive and sustainable while restoring and reconnecting water, soil and biodiversity.

Towards this goal, we have implemented seven global landscape programmes across Asia, Africa and South America. The commodity value chains we focus on include palm oil, sugarcane, livestock, leather and cocoa. In these programmes, we improve the resilience of landscapes and livelihoods of producers through a number of mechanisms. These include capacity building, business engagement, and knowledge-sharing through multi-stakeholder initiatives. In India, as part of our landscape programme in the Ganges, we are collaborating with the government in the Kanpur province on jurisdictional approaches on actions around agriculture, water use and industry discharge. This initiative has attracted many players including investment partners in an effort to address pollution in the Ganges. Our work in this programme focuses on sustainable sugarcane production and clean leather development. While the results of this intervention are positive, there is still a long way to go. We need to develop business models to attract financial investments that will further the restoration of landscapes. In 2018, we will develop tools for landscape performance measurement, finance and investment. These tools will speed up data collection and build a stronger body of evidence to guide further interventions.

MAINSTREAMING GENDER INCLUSION

To ensure that gender is included in all our solutions, Solidaridad has established a Gender Taskforce, with representatives from across all regions in which Solidaridad operates.

Solidaridad believes that knowledge and skills in mainstreaming gender should be anchored throughout the organization. Towards this end, the Gender Taskforce developed the ‘Solidaridad Gender Training Toolkit’. As part of the toolkit’s design, a test run was conducted during the year across three continents – Asia, Africa and Latin America. Key findings conclude that there is a need for gender knowledge in all 52 countries in which Solidaridad operates. The co-designed training toolkit will be made accessible to both onboarding and continuing staff through e-learning opportunities. To ensure expertise is not isolated and made functional, gender learning will also be closely connected to staff roles and responsibilities. The gender policy developed in 2017 by Solidaridad will provide the framework for gender mainstreaming in both programming, and across the Solidaridad network. Indicators have been developed to support measuring progress at both levels.

In Bangladesh, the Dutch ministry extended support for coastal aquaculture. Solidaridad started the conversion of ponds for integrated mangrove-shrimp culture as part of research led by Wageningen and Khulna Universities. Solidaridad also began the Myanmar Sustainable Aquaculture Programme, an EU-funded multi-partner programme of 20 million euros. The Seafood Trade Intelligence Portal (STIP) team expanded. As part of its corporate engagement programme, STIP built transparency and sustainability dialogues with over 250 global seafood importers and exporters.

Solidaridad took significant steps for the cocoa sector in 2017, especially in West Africa. It engaged public and private organizations to secure co-funding to upscale activities, enable new businesses and enhance environmental governance. Solidaridad also designed a climate-smart business case for cocoa producers and enhanced multi-stakeholder platforms in order to promote landscape governance and influence public and private policies to reduce deforestation.

Digital tools offer enormous potential to enhance sustainability efforts. In 2017, Solidaridad commenced a digital journey with coffee farmers in both Peru and Colombia to focus on improving agricultural practices. The use of digital tools and farming data compliments Solidaridad’s existing work in these countries. Building on this knowledge ensures that new interventions are tailored to the specific needs of producers, and in a more efficient, more affordable manner.

Continuous improvement at all levels of the supply chain is essential to achieve a sustainable cotton sector. Solidaridad engages directly with all stakeholders to understand their needs and identify sustainable solutions. Its experts work at a strategic level to promote cotton sustainability standards and have an active role in the development of national policies. Solidaridad promotes sustainable practices among all supply chain players and supports cotton farmers in moving toward a more sustainable future.

Dairy is potentially a cash cow for farmers, but often it is unable to live up to expectations. Optimizing production can make it more climate-smart and sustainable. Professionalizing the whole value chain is the key to success and the reason why business development is relevant for farmers, service providers, fodder producers and dairy processors. Solidaridad is catalyzing and supporting this using tailored methods in different countries.

As the global population urbanizes, fruit and vegetables will be key to nutritional security. More than 90% of fruit and vegetables are consumed in the country of production. While domestic markets are growing fast, production and supply chains are fragmented and informal and not ready to satisfy these growing markets. The urban population of the world has grown rapidly from 746 million worldwide in 1950 to 3.9 billion in 2014 and is expected to surpass 6 billion by 2045. Much of this growth will be in developing countries. As a result, these countries will face many challenges in meeting the food and nutrition needs of their populations.

Solidaridad introduced an innovative model, the Accelerator for Responsible Gold, in 2017 in response to the rapid global growth of artisanal and small-scale mining (ASM). By developing a small business incubator, Solidaridad will enable entrepreneurs to deliver the equipment and knowledge needed for responsible ASM and adopt good practices faster. The global spotlight on gender inequity in 2017 was reflected in Solidaridad’s growing focus on women’s economic empowerment in ASM in both established and new partnerships.

In the project “Pollution prevention and efficient water use in the Kanpur Unnao leather cluster” in India and in the Green Tanning Initiative in Ethiopia, Solidaridad has kick-started promoting sustainability in the leather sector, in partnership with local stakeholders and global actors in the value chain.

In Colombia, palm oil producers and industry leaders have committed to eliminating deforestation from their palm oil supply chains. Colombia is the first country to present a national agreement on deforestation. In West Kalimantan Indonesia, 1,885 farmers were trained in good agricultural practices and 1,891 farmers were trained in financial literacy. In the village of Sepulut, a total of 14,16 hectares of communal forest was mapped and a regent decree was secured to ensure the forest’s protection.

The Solidaridad Global Soy Team is working with partner organizations to address soy sustainability issues across the Solidaridad Network. Solidaridad is proud to move beyond certification and build strategic partnerships to collaborate with diverse stakeholders including civil society organizations, the public and the private sector. The soy value chain is facing systemic challenges which require an integrated vision to ensure a positive impact.

As well as input and output price variability, the sugar sector remains susceptible to shocks related to climate (drought, floods or cold spells), biotics (pests and diseases) and finance (cashflow, liquidity and interest rate changes). Productivity and labour issues can also be sources of stress. Smallholders are the worst affected. Solidaridad promotes value chain partnerships by building trust and transparency, making commitments and pooling resources. This enables smallholders to become entrepreneurs and manage their farms as businesses.

Solidaridad has achieved consensus on sustainable governance within the tea sector. It has been able to improve the livelihoods of farmers through raising awareness on the benefits of collectivisation and encouraging them to form self-help groups. Solidaridad also enhanced the understanding of tea pricing for small-scale farmers. While prevailing certification standards still have limitations, they provide an opportunity to engage with the tea industry stakeholders through national platforms and allow for discussions around more complex issues which cannot be addressed through certification alone. Solidaridad has been able to leverage these new approaches to gradually transform beyond the certification agenda.

Solidaridad believes a sustainable industry can also be a competitive one. To ensure sustainability is part of the sector’s growth strategy, it continues to bring key stakeholders together and sustainable practices to scale. Meanwhile, Solidaridad has seen continued expansion into countries where there is a large availability of cheap labour. Further, due to a lack of scalability of many improvement programmes, the environmental impact of washing, dyeing and finishing textiles is not decreasing.

ORGANIZATION

Solidaridad is an international network organization with a culturally diverse staff. People, learning and development are key factors which help the global organization to realize Solidaridad’s vision and strategy. Our HR strategy ‘Growth through Connection’ emphasizes the strength of an interconnected learning organization, which is open for, and has trust in, the talents, expertise and knowledge of its staff.

Solidaridad is an international network organization with a culturally diverse staff. Its staff are the key factor which help the global organization to realize the vision and strategy of Solidaridad. However, the differences between the regional expertise centres (RECs) in terms of the initial HR situation and challenges are significant. But there is a common denominator to be found.

The overarching HR strategy at the Network level, “Growth Through Connection” (the HR Strategy Solidaridad 2016-2020) emphasizes the strength of an interconnected organization, which is open for and has trust in the talents, expertise and knowledge of its staff. Implementation of the human resources policy and its related performance and talent management takes place at the regional level. This requires strengthening the HR capacity of the global organization to address the growing need for human resources management.

Solidaridad is a learning organization. The Solidaridad innovation agenda is meant to increase the impact of development efforts toward a sustainable and inclusive economy. In 2017, Solidaridad invested in Global Task Force teams to implement the Innovation Agenda and build the organization’s track record on the basis of existing best practices and successful new interventions.

CREATING A SUSTAINABLE ORGANIZATION

Learning together means creating a culture of cooperation, providing and receiving feedback, and allowing staff to learn and improve. In 2017, employees and managers prepared, conducted and recorded discussions about performance, personal growth and improvements. In addition, the regional Managing Directors have evaluated their performance with the members of the International Supervisory Board.

In 2018, extra attention will be invested in aligning effective and consistent HR policies and work processes, as well as define quality standards. Creating clarity about roles and mandates are needed to harmonize Performance and Talent Management.

Furthermore, attention will be paid to the establishment of the Solidaridad Academy. The aim of the Academy is to continuously enhance staff development and capacity building and improve the quality of their work in the field to improve the lasting impact of Solidaridad solutions. The Academy focuses on “Doing things better” based on rules of professional conduct and effective methods, guidelines and protocols. In addition, the Academy delivers services that focus on aspects such as leadership, intercultural communication, Solidaridad values and Solidaridad’s Innovation Agenda.

GENDER DIVERSITY

At the end of 2017, Solidaridad employed 543 people. The goal of the diversity policy is that Solidaridad’s staff should reflect the local population wherever possible. With 198 female and 345 male employees, we aim to improve the gender balance in our staff. 

INTERNATIONAL OUTREACH INCREASED

Being a global network, Solidaridad emphasizes on profiling itself online. In 2017, Solidaridad managed to attract more visitors to its website and increased engagement through social media. Specifically in the Netherlands, the Cotton Barometer and the coffee campaign ‘A world without coffee’ attracted significant media attention.

IMPROVING INTERNAL COMMUNICATIONS

Strong external communication starts with solid internal communications. Therefore, Solidaridad invested significantly in improved internal communications in 2017. The transition to the Google Suite for the whole Solidaridad Network was an important enabler for this achievement.With minimum investment, a global intranet was set up and this is now the single source of reference for internal documents and guidelines for Solidaridad staff worldwide. Google photos facilitate easier sharing of photographs and several internal Google Plus communities were established to promote internal knowledge sharing and discussion.

To increase understanding of the Solidaridad’s “Ambition 2020 Strategy” and to promote alignment with the strategy, Solidaridad developed a convenient summary of the strategy which was shared with all staff in hard copy.

ONLINE ENGAGEMENT

The online engagement continued to grow across all of Solidaridad’s global channels.The monthly e-newsletter, which was introduced in late 2016, grew by over 1,500 subscribers through organic engagement only.

In 2017, the number of sessions on the website ranked well above industry average. Compared to 2016, the number of individual users grew by nearly 10,000. In addition, there was an increase in the number of visitors from non-western countries. The two most effective tools for inviting visitors to the Solidaridad website were Facebook, accounting for 33% of all traffic, and LinkedIn.

THOUGHT LEADERSHIP

LinkedIn was the most successful channel in 2017. It contributed to a total of 46% of website referrals, and the number of followers of this corporate account grew from 6,457 to 8,352 through organic growth. As part of Solidaridad increased focus on thought-leadership, the communications team paid special attention and support Executive Director Nico Roozen’s online profile, primarily through his LinkedIn account. In just one year, Roozen acquired more than 25,000 individual followers. Increasing the visibility of Solidaridad’s leadership will continue to be part of the global communications strategy going forward. 

INTERNATIONAL OUTREACH

In 2017, Solidaridad positioned itself strongly in international media through clear and consistent communications about the signing of the Gold Covenant. In addition, Solidaridad effectively coordinated communications around the Cotton Ranking report, in close cooperation with Pesticides Action Network UK and WWF International. This report created massive online international publicity with a potential reach of 17 million people worldwide.

Solidaridad in Europe completed work on two films: “Jesser and the Sugar Cane”, a short documentary for children, and “Angel in the Sugar Cane”, a longer documentary for adults. Both films, funded by the Dutch Postcode Lottery, were shot during a three-year project aimed to end the spread of chronic kidney disease affecting agricultural labourers in the sugar cane industry in Central America. The children’s documentary was shown on Dutch public television (NPO) early in 2017. The main film highlights how the sugarcane industry is adopting a new way of working to prevent the epidemic from spreading. This film was pre-screened during a private donor event and submitted to the Movies that Matter Festival 2018.

The slogan of a Dutch campaign to raise awareness about the serious effects of climate change on coffee production was “A World Without Coffee; Nobody Wants That.” Through online media channels, a humorous campaign video and a pop-up “No Coffee Bar” was created in the centre of Amsterdam. This campaign reached more than three million citizens in the Netherlands.

ACCOUNTABILITY AND INTEGRITY

Solidaridad aims to achieve a high quality on all fronts, which is particularly important in the area of financial management and control. Since the start of the creation of a worldwide network, the team of Financial Controllers has been working on alignment of the global internal control system. Each REC delivers annual financial statements that are audited by external auditors. Furthermore, 4 RECs (Solidaridad Europe, Solidaridad West Africa, Solidaridad East Africa and Solidaridad South & South East Asia) are certified under the ISO 9001:2008 norm.

NETWORK ACCOUNTING METHODS

All RECs are continually striving towards enforcement and global alignment of Solidaridad systems and standards for financial management and control. The Solidaridad Network works in a cloud-based system that provides support in the following areas in an integrated manner: account management, fund management, financial management and planning, and monitoring and evaluation (PME) of projects.

In 2016, further steps were taken to harmonize the accounting standards of the nine regional expertise centres so they can report their annual figures to the Solidaridad Network Secretariat on the same accounting basis. Preparations were also made to work in one global accounting system as of January 2018. This global accounting system will be integrated with Solidaridad’s project and fund management system.

QUALITY STANDARDS

Solidaridad Europe, the largest regional expertise centre of the Solidaridad Network, is entitled to use the quality mark of the Central Bureau on Fundraising (CBF) and complies with its requirements. The CBF monitors all philanthropic bodies in the Netherlands and evaluates their management and policy in order to increase the transparency of the charity sector.

The Dutch Association of Fundraising Organizations (VFI) is the umbrella organization for philanthropic organizations that raise funds across the Netherlands. Its goal is to increase public confidence in fundraising institutions. The Solidaridad Network Foundation and Solidaridad Europe uphold the principles of the VFI in relation to respect, reliability, openness and quality. These standards are promoted throughout the network. In accordance with the policy of the Solidaridad Network Foundation, other RECs also respect the principles of the VFI.

INTEGRITY

Solidaridad remains fully committed to creating a safe and sound work environment for all staff and to building an organizational culture of integrity and equality. In 2017 therefore, more attention has been given to internal awareness building around the code of conduct, including codes for issues of sexual intimidation. Also, Solidaridads policy for the prevention of fraud has been reemphasized internally.

In addition, a whistleblower procedure for employees of Solidaridad was developed and officially approved. In this procedure it is made clear what the internal procedure is for complaints and grievances. In each region, a person of trust has been appointed to support people with complaints and help them with procedures for further steps. 

In 2017, in two different regions, we received a single report each of alleged sexual intimidation. As an organization we investigated these two reports thoroughly. In both cases, we concluded that the complaint was justified. In line with our zero tolerance policy, we took appropriate disciplinary actions.

COMMODITY PROGRAMMES

Solidaridad´s goal to become a data-driven organization has important implications for our monitoring, evaluation and learning (PMEL) structures and systems. Gathering solid data requires solid procedures while reliability and validity of data become key. Real-time monitoring is needed in order to adjust implementation and make informed decisions at every step of our programmes. Real-time data provide information on results to guide decision-making at all levels, from strategic choices to implementation methods during project implementation, rather than at project end.

With this in mind, Solidaridad has further developed and refined a network-wide Monitoring Protocol with the aim of aligning indicators, definitions and data collection tools so as to correctly collect and analyze the data required for each indicator. This allows for aggregating and comparing data across all programmes in the network. The development of an IT system for real-time monitoring is currently under development. This will allow frequent data collection, regular reporting and monitoring, and iteratively updating and adjusting program indicator and metrics.

While monitoring is key for adjusting interventions during programme implementation, at Solidaridad we also believe accountability towards our donors and partners is of great importance.  External programme evaluations provide concrete evidence on the impact of our work and are also important input towards future programming. In order to assure the same principles are applied among all evaluations conducted across Solidaridad, we work with the DAC Principles for the Evaluation of Development Assistance namely: relevance, efficiency, effectiveness, impact and sustainability. All our evaluations are publicly available.

Below we present the findings of some of the most relevant evaluations conducted over 2017:

PARTNERING FOR BETTER LIVELIHOODS IN THE GOLD SUPPLY CHAIN

Globally, artisanal and small-scale mine workers generally work under severe and unsafe labour conditions. Earnings are usually low, the health of workers is frequently at stake, and the nearby communities often suffer from pollution from these mines.

The ‘partnering for better livelihoods in the gold supply chain’, implemented in partnership with Cartier Foundation in Ghana and Peru, addresses these challenges in close collaboration with the mines, local government and community members. The evaluators found that the programme made a clear contribution to the improvement of both health and safety. In particular, the use of protective equipment by workers increased because of the programme. Both in Ghana as well as in Peru mines pay more attention to safety at the mining sites as a result of the training and technical assistance. This has contributed to a reduction in occupational hazards (knowledge of an accident at the mine went from 55% to 16% in Ghana) as well as a reduction in the number of sick days (from 7 to 3 days in Ghana and 5 to 4 days in Peru) for the great majority of miners. The role of Solidaridad was particularly important in providing guidance and a set of practical solutions that can be used by mines and provide the means for implementing these solutions.

While external factors have played a role, the programme has been key in facilitating the transition to responsible mining.

SUSTAINABLE AGRICULTURE, FOOD SECURITY AND LINKAGES

This project has been in operation in the south-western region of Bangladesh since 2012, impacting 58,492 farmers households engaged in aquaculture, horticulture and dairy. The overall objective of the programme was to ensure food and nutrition security for the smallholders and landless labourers through increased income and production. The programme followed a comprehensive approach wherein total beneficiaries were collectivized into 1020 producer groups and farmers were given training on modern sustainable practices relevant to their respective sectors through lead farmers to encourage adoption and thereby to increase productivity and income of the households. Further, farmers in three sectors were connected to several actors in the value chain to enable farmers to get quality inputs and other required services at best prices and also earn a better price for their produces. The project emphasis was on ensuring availability, accessibility and affordability of food which is supplemented by awareness generation leading to improved nutrition and dietary status of the farmers.

The evaluation found dairy productivity for SaFaL farmers was 90% higher than that of the comparison groups. In the horticulture sector, SaFaL farmers experienced a 45% productivity increase. In the aquaculture sector, SaFaL households produced more fish (across all fish species) per hectare (by weight) than their counterparts in the comparison group. The calorie intake among the treatment groups was also found to be higher than among the comparison group.  

SaFaL’s gender-balanced inclusive approach, endeavouring to bring women to the fore in farming activities, as well as empowering them as decision makers in the process, is seen in their inclusion within the producer groups: 48% of all Producer Group members are women. One of the major thrusts of the project was to increase market access for beneficiary households, and building networks at various levels (local, regional, national) by facilitating deals between producer groups, buyers, processors/other intermediaries simplifying the supply chain, with the presence of fewer intermediaries. More than 75% of the farmers responded that they sell their produce directly in the market, bypassing the middlemen as a result of the project. Food security has been improved showing a reduction in post-harvest losses of up to 95% in some horticulture commodities.

SUSTAINABLE WEST AFRICA OIL PALM PROGRAMME

The main objective of this programme, implemented over a four year period in Ghana, Cote d’Ivoire and Nigeria with funding from the Dutch government, was to improve the incomes and livelihoods of farmers, millers and other stakeholders along the palm oil supply chain. The programme aimed to improve the adoption of Better Management Practices in terms of processing and production and to improve access to finance and the provision of incubation services to firms/farms. It also aimed to gather and disseminate information to bridge knowledge gaps on oil palm in the region, as well as to raise awareness on RSPO.

The evaluators found that nearly 90 percent of the smallholder farmers surveyed implemented more than five out of the ten main recommended better management practices. The programme has had a significant impact on productivity: average yield per hectare in 2016 was 7.9 tonnes, as compared to 6.85 before the intervention. 84 percent of the smallholder farmers reported that SWAPP has helped to reduce accident or injuries on their farms.

A total of 8 mid-scale mills benefited from the programme through the provision of credit to acquire or upgrade machines. 20 artisanal millers received improved milling equipment (screw presses) on credit. 68 percent of the farmers reported improvements in incomes. About 49 percent of farmers reported that improvement in their incomes has helped improve their food consumption. SWAPP spearheaded the development of an RSPO national interpretation document for Ghana, with that for Nigeria and Ivory Coast in advanced stages of development at the end of the programme.

WORKING IN THE CLOUD

Solidaridad has migrated all its email from Microsoft Exchange/Outlook to Google Apps for Business, now known as Google Suite or simply G Suite. The reason to make this transition was to improve global collaboration and to save costs.

During 2017, Solidaridad staff had a full year of using Gmail and a number of other G Suite applications such as Google Calendar, Google Drive and Google Sites. The full migration of over 450 email inboxes, some with over 10 years of email, went surprisingly smooth and was carried out in a single weekend.

Solidaridad staff can now work more easily on documents and spreadsheets together, share photos and calendars, and video conference through Hangouts. Most users have picked up the new system quickly and are able to find their own solutions online for problems they encounter. This has lead to significant savings in help desk costs. The new systems have also brought important savings in user account costs and by managing the administration ourselves and in the cloud.

The transformation to G-suite also brought along challenges. For some people, it was difficult to get used to the new system and the ICT team had to make guidelines and rules for protecting sensitive information. For 2018, Solidaridad expects the use of the new systems will intensify. Management hopes this will lead to fewer emails and more collaboration within documents and platforms, like Google+.

STRUCTURE & SUPERVISION

Solidaridad is an international network organization with partners all over the world. There is one agenda and one strategy: together we learn and progress, together we achieve results and together we decide on future steps.

STRUCTURE & MANAGEMENT

During 2017, the organization consisted of 9 regional centers throughout the world with a Network Secretariat connecting the regions. The Network Secretariat (officially Solidaridad Network Foundation, founded in 2011) is located in Utrecht, the Netherlands, in the same office building as Solidaridad Netherlands, one of the regional centers. The Network Secretariat consists of the Executive Director (Nico Roozen) with a small staff surrounding him and delivering the following tasks that support the whole network:

  • Providing services for the development and enforcement of our quality assurance systems and standards for financial management, accountability and control, planning, monitoring and evaluation, ICT infrastructure and human resource management.
  • Responsible for global communication, including our international website and the development of tools for global branding and communication guidelines.
  • Facilitating the process of global policy development by supporting our global organizational entities such as the Executive Director, the Executive Board of Directors, the Global Commodity Teams and the Global Account Teams.

All managing directors have to adhere to agreed policies and have to stimulate optimal cooperation, open communication and knowledge exchange between the regional centers. Furthermore, they are responsible for fostering a “giving factor” between regions, making fair deals on payment for joint and mutual services and joining forces in order to be stronger together.

In order to ensure efficient daily operations and an efficient payment structure, the nine regional expertise centres in 2017 were grouped on five continents, each with their own supervisory structure. Legal entities for these five continental Solidaridad regions are established in Utrecht, the Netherlands (for Europe), San Francisco, USA (for North America), Panama City, Panama (for Latin America), Nairobi, Kenya (for Africa) and Hong Kong, China (for Asia).

SUPERVISION & GOVERNANCE

Solidaridad’s governance structure is based on the continental European governance model. This means, amongst others, a board with a two-tier structure, emphasis on dialogue with stakeholders and focus on achieving consensus. This governance model follows the subsidiarity principle. It aims to ensure that decisions are made as closely as possible to the deepest levels in the organization and that constant checks are made to verify that actions across Solidaridad Network are justified in light of the possibilities available at continental, national or REC level.

Within Solidaridad, the International Supervisory Board (ISB) is at the highest level of international oversight. The ISB monitors policies, the quality of programmes, financial control and the performance of the Executive Board of Directors (EBoD). Direct supervision of the RECs is organized by continent. Each Continental Supervisory Board (CSB) is represented in the ISB by its chairman, thus enabling the ISB to focus on the interest of Solidaridad Network as a whole, instead of focusing on individual RECs. The members of the ISB are:

NameFunction in the board
Mariam Dao GabalaAppointed per 22 June 2015 as chairperson of the ISB, representing the CSB Africa.
Gerrit MeesterAppointed per 13 December 2016, representing the CSB Europe.
Shahamin Sahadat ZamanAppointed per 19 December 2016, representing the CSB Asia.
Maria Patricia Flores EscuderoAppointed per 20 June 2016, representing the CSB Latin America.
Kannan PashupathyAppointed per 5 June 2014, representing the CSB North America.

The ISB met twice in 2017, in June and December, both times in the Netherlands.

The Continental and Supervisory Board’s work in their respective regions set the parameters for growth, determine the future direction, and ensure a strong national and continental presence. The boards strive for an optimal composition of five members, respecting a balanced composition in terms of gender, regional representation and areas of expertise and knowledge.

CSB / Representative name and countryPosition
CSB AFRICA
Mariam Dao Gabala (Ivory Coast)Chair / ISB representative
Audrey Gadzepko (Ghana)Member
Kamau Kuria (Kenya)Member
Graham von Maltitz (South Africa)Member
CSB ASIA
Shahamin Zaman (Bangladesh)Chair / ISB representative
Mumunusamy Subbramaniam (Mr. Subbu) (India)Member
Mahesh Haribhai Mehta (India)Member from 16 June 2016
CSB LATIN AMERICA
Patricia Flores (Peru)Chair / ISB representative
André Nassar (Brazil)Member
Roxana Barrantes (Peru)Member
Marina Stadthagen (Nicaragua)Member
CSB NORTH AMERICA
Kannan Pashupathy (USA)Chair / ISB representative
Arlene Mitchell (USA)Member
Jeroen Douglas (Argentina)Member
Sebastian Teunissen (USA)Member
CSB EUROPE
Ton Geurts (NL)Chair / ISB representative until 13 December 2016 – Member afterwards
Gerrit Meester (NL)Member until 13 December 2016, Chair/ISB representative afterwards
Theo Jan Simons (NL)Member
Carlos Alva Nieto (NL)Member from 2016
Jan Karel Mak (NL)Member from 2017
Katrien Termeer (NL)Member from 2017
Claire Kouwenhoven-Gentil (NL)Member from 2017

REMUNERATION

The Solidaridad Network Foundation and Solidaridad Europe adhere to the Dutch Wijffels Code and the VFI’s Guidelines for the Remuneration of Directors in Philanthropic Organizations (Adviesregeling Beloning Directeuren van Goede Doelen). The latter proposes a framework for annual incomes of management positions in philanthropic organizations.

Furthermore, remuneration of all employees of the Solidaridad Network Foundation and Solidaridad Europe, plus all managing directors of the Solidaridad Network, is based on the so-called “BBRA scales”, the salary scaling system that is used for civil servants working for the Dutch central government. The job description of a managing director places the function in BBRA scale 14 to 16, depending on seniority and experience.

In accordance with Solidaridad’s statutes, neither the members of the International Supervisory Board nor the Continental Supervisory Boards of Solidaridad receive remuneration of any kind.

NETWORK FINANCES IN 2017

The Solidaridad Network implementation budget for 2017 was lower than budgeted and also lower than in previous years. 2017 was a key year in which new contracts were agreed with donors. Spending of those contracts however, was lower than anticipated in the year.

As in previous years, Solidaridad Europe held the largest share of contracted income, but financial contributions from other regional expertise centres (REC) are growing each year. These indicators confirm the effectiveness of Solidaridad’s innovative model of continental contracting, supported by a continental governance system.

AGGREGATED BUDGET

The total amount that Solidaridad Network invested in 2017 was €39.7 million against a budgeted investment of €55 million. The budget for the year was set at an ambitious target. New contracts were agreed but spending of the contracted funding was lower than anticipated for the year.

Consolidated financial statements for all entities of Solidaridad Network are not prepared. The audited financial statements of each regional expertise centre can be found on the respective annual report pages for those centres as soon as they are final.

The figures below present the aggregated income figures of all entities within Solidaridad Network; all independently contracted income of each Solidaridad Office together forms an income for all of the Network of € 39.7 million.

Solidaridad Network Income Statement 2017
in €1,000

INCOME2017 Actual2017 Budget2016 Actual
Solidaridad South America1,5961,7864,969
Solidaridad Central America953214
Solidaridad West Africa3,9582,0704,594
Solidaridad Southern Africa1,5698454,132
Solidaridad East & Central Africa1,2861,7862,772
Solidaridad South & South-East Asia7,9804,7627,620
Solidaridad China1310396
Solidaridad Europe22,85923,66618,541
Solidaridad North America2175,131322
Estimated income in pipeline014,9220
Total income39,69155,00043,360

NETWORK GROWTH PER CONTINENT

OVERALL NETWORK GROWTH

EUROPE

CENTRAL AND SOUTH AMERICA

AFRICA

ASIA