2021 ANNUAL REPORT

Asia 2021

For Solidaridad Asia, 2021 was a year of resilience, adaptation and innovation. The team engaged farmers and workers through digital outreach and market access. We continued to strive for policies that support farmer welfare by establishing National Frameworks in soy and medicinal and aromatic plants (MAP) in India and cotton in China. A multi-country scientific publication on the role of palm oil in national development was unveiled in Sri Lanka. In the face of disruptions caused by the pandemic, reaching over 170,000 additional farmers in 2021 (overall 620,000) was a testament of translating intent to action. Solidaridad Asia delivered certification of regenerative agriculture and obtained market commitments. Regional alliances for sustainable trade continue to grow stronger and contribute to the intent of market transformation.

Highlights

Soy

In 2021, we trained 62,752 soy farmers and 22,500 workers on good soil management practices, bringing 81,000 hectares under sustainable management in India. We trained another 40,882 farmers in Bangladesh. Together with the Soybean Processors Association of India (SOPA), Solidaridad facilitated the design and launch of the Indian Standard for Sustainable Soy (ISSS).

Tea

In 2021 the Trinitea programme covered a total area of 41,400 hectares under climate management practices in India. 105,000 tea farm workers improved their working conditions, of whom over 60 percent are women (temporary) farmworkers.

Cotton and textiles

In 2021, 8,000 farmers covering 8,000 hectares of land adopted regenerative practices and gained certification. The programme also certified 12,494 farmers under Organic Certification with a land area of 5,559 hectares.

Gender inclusivity

More than 12,000 women dairy farmers were empowered with digital technologies to have better control on revenue earned.

Results

667,000

Farmers obtaining new and improved services from providers supported by Solidaridad

519,000

Hectares under sustainable management

579,000

Workers and miners under improved working conditions

A deep dive

Results across four areas

Solidaridad implements programmes in four integrally interconnected result areas: at the farm or producer level, at the business level, at the policy level, and at the market level. All with the overall goal of building resilient communities through sustainable supply chains.

Good practices refer to not only a change in agriculture or industry practices but include financial literacy, fair wages, protection of workers and legal compliance, and use of digital solutions to enhance intelligence as a prerequisite for production capability improvement, market and finance access. In 2021, Solidaridad Asia continued to focus on the dissemination of good practices among farmers, workers, and processors through directly working with them. Further, to tackle the rise and spread of Covid-19, digital technology-enabled learning and knowledge sharing was used to facilitate delivery of timely and targeted information. In 2021, Solidaridad Asia reached out to over 620,000 farmers and workers, and 300 processors with good practices training on agriculture, mining, pollution control, and decent work. Further, a key aspect of Solidaridad’s work remains to encourage women’s inclusivity in supply chains. While Solidaridad Asia has been continuously working towards integrating gender in its programmes, this year the specific focus was on ensuring the implementation of women-centric programmes in partnership with USAID and Reliance India Foundation.

The year 2021 also marked the start of the third Multi Annual Strategic Plan for Solidaridad Asia. From this year, Solidaridad Asia wanted to challenge the definition of good practice. For years, across organizations, good practices have been defined as activities that lead to an increase in yield. However, while this is true, Solidaridad also insists that deep ecological troubles like reducing water tables, desertification of farmland and falling quality of the products must not be ignored. From 2021, Solidaridad redefined its approaches of good practices to ensure that they not only make farmers and workers more resilient to ecological poverty through increased yield and income, but simultaneously leads to production which is in balance with nature. In 2021, Solidaridad Asia achieved the following milestones under the good practice domain, through the application of the newly defined approaches:

  • Promotion of regenerative farming covering 8,000 hectares of land
  • Reduced farm and industry pollution through optimum chemical usage, and the promotion of circular practices
  • Improved water-use efficiency in farms and industry through the adoption of cleaner technologies and practices

The supportive business ecosystem model is dedicated to the development of the concept of a democratic economy and redesigning basic business institutions and activities. Towards this end, Solidaridad Asia worked towards strengthening the capacities of Farmer Producer Organizations  and rural entrepreneurs to achieve the following:

  • Improved ownership of farmers in the value chain: More than 1,570 farmer groups were formed with the aim of increasing the ownership of farmers in the supply chain across commodities.
  • Building the financial viability of agro-entrepreneurs: Solidaridad Asia has supported over 3,000 entrepreneurs to build a financially viable business model. The entrepreneurs were supported on different trades like agro inputs, seed production, verm-compost, grain trading and collaboration with private and public sectors for improving backward and forward services. Areas of capacity building include book-keeping, financial management and business planning
  • New jobs and employment: Solidaridad Asia promoted 6620 new jobs for rural and agri entrepreneurs.

We promoted 630 entrepreneurs. Rural entrepreneurs and service providers help bridge the gap in extension, market access and input supply and act as a link between the FPOs and the farmers. For the promotion of rural entrepreneurs, training and capacity building programmes were implemented, including book-keeping, financial management and business planning. Across programmes and countries, entrepreneurs were supported to ensure availability of appropriate knowledge and farm equipment for farmers.

Across Asia, Solidaridad worked towards strengthening the capacities of FPOs and rural entrepreneurs with the objective of ensuring long-term sustainability and viability of their business operations, and better and sustained service delivery for farmers. Three FPOs were registered under the electronic future trading platform provided by the National Commodity & Derivatives Exchange (NCDEX).

In 2016-2020, Solidaridad Asia also concentrated on leveraging the banking and finance sector. In Indonesia, Solidaridad Asia worked closely with the Credit Union Keling Kumang (CUKK) to extend the benefits of financial products to all of CUKK and strengthen their organizational capacity.

Along with the implementation of activities undertaken on the ground, policy influencing is critical to achieve speed and scale in sectoral transformations in a sustainable way. Solidaridad has achieved the following results under in creating an enabling policy environment in 2021:

  • We undertook a concerted campaign in Sri Lanka to create awareness and advocate against the ban on palm oil production and the import ban. It had a massive contribution in overturning the ban on imports and we are now working towards overturning the ban on production. The scientific and multi-country effort to address the concerns of environment, economic and social issues around palm oil resulted in publication of a book ‘Truth and Myth’ that showcases and highlights the benefits of palm oil in alleviating poverty in developing nations.
  • The Soybean national platform was established in India which resulted in the first soy national standard for India: a first step towards ensuring sustainability as a norm in soy.
  • We set up India’s first medicinal plants national association and published various publications that in coming years will drive policy formation in the Medicinal and Aromatic Plants sector.
  • We signed an MOU with CNTAC to develop a national sustainability standard for cotton in China and strengthen the effort to produce cotton sustainably.
  • Regional Alliances for Sustainable Trade were promoted for palm oil, cotton and tea. The participating countries continued their efforts to recognize and promote sustainability standards of each country.
  • The ten national sustainability frameworks developed or improved with Solidaridad support have created important improvements in the sector performance in palm oil, soy, minerals, and tea.
  • Solidaridad has continued to maintain strong partnerships with key public sector actors across all commodities and countries. Through the platforms built by Solidaridad, we have been able to create strong consensus between countries on the way forward for sustainably in the tea, leather, palm oil, and soy sectors. For instance in tea, Solidaridad worked with stakeholders from different countries to form an agreement to work together on traceability of tea coming from smallholders, with the aid of digital tools.

Market uptake has two key elements: enabling consumers and citizens to use their purchasing decisions in benefit of smallholder farmers, and democratizing nutrition through improved accessibility to healthy aspirational food.

The biggest achievement under market uptake in 2021 has been the progress made with the TRINITEA Traceability tool, also known as “Soli trace”. TRINITEA uses the QR code technology that allows consumers to view the producers and hear from them directly to learn about the safety and quality standards. Each pack of tea comes with a QR code that can be scanned by consumers to know about the origin of the tea, the indigenous farmer-producer, the sustainable farming practices followed, and all the other steps involved in the making of the tea. In the current form of traceability, we are tracing the green leaf plucked by the individual farmer. Similar interventions are planned for dairy.

In India, the soy programmes have targeted the government of India’s largest feeding programmes to build access to nutritious food. The midday meal school scheme for children and the integrated Women and Child development scheme is now piloted in one district and a memorandum of understanding with the Women and Child Development department of government of Madhya Pradesh has been signed.

We facilitated the market uptake of regenerative agriculture certified cotton with multiple brands. We worked with farmers to grow cotton using regenerative agriculture production systems. The certification process was initiated by the Control Union and farmers were certified. Market linkages were established with the private sector companies and through the farmer producer organizations 900 MT of cotton certified for Regenerative Agriculture was sold to the companies. 

The Village Super Market in Bangladesh was registered formally as a farmer cooperative. Private sector partnership in dairy is resulting in an uptake of more than 5000 litres of milk each day from the Village Super Market. Quality input supplies for aquaculture are facilitated through the market and branding for its produce is in progress.

Most Significant Changes

Children wash their hands at an outdoor sink

Reaching the unreached: Beating the sanitation crisis in Sri Lanka

Four years in, the Reaching the Unreached programme has reached 23,037 people in the rural parts of Sri Lanka, giving them access to a safe water supply and sanitation.

Starting Afresh with Regenerative Agriculture

Solidaridad’s cotton programme in Maharashtra, India, is paving the way for future endeavours in regenerative farming, upholding the promise of sustainable food and fibre while regenerating the planet.

Prosperity with high-value medicinal and aromatic plants

Working with growers in India’s Madhya Pradesh and Rajasthan districts, we’ve been successfully promoting new technologies and practical knowledge to develop a sustainable value chain of medicinal and aromatic plants.

Solutions and Innovations

Insights

Pushing the envelope

We doubled down on our commitments to integrate gender inclusivity, and balance economic development with environmental preservation. Digital innovations were leveraged to engage and connect smallholders, while also bridging gaps created by Covid-19 restrictions.

Implementation and practice: Gender focal persons from different projects formulated a gender action plan and took relevant steps according to the plan.  A standalone project was conceived and implemented with support from USAID. The project aims at bringing women dairy farmers into formal supply chain. The projects plans were integrated with aspects with the support of Gender Strategies.

Knowledge products: Covid-19 has impacted women and men in different ways. A study was conducted in order to determine the impact of Covid-19 on women in South and South East Asia (represented by countries, Bangladesh, India, Sri Lanka and Indonesia) on attributes related to 1. Access and usage of technology and extension services related to farming practices 2. Financial inclusion 3. Livelihoods (farm and off farm) and entrepreneurship 4. Household power dynamics and 5. Health & nutrition including access to medical services and drinking water.

This report would further lead to formulation of strategies on gender inclusivity post Covid-19. Human Centered Design for technologies: As digital tools are being proposed and used in the dairy project, it was realized that the tools should be designed as per the needs and demand from women farmers who are supposed to use these tools. A study was conducted in Bangladesh to understand the need of the women farmers and accordingly the tools have been designed.

Internal Organization: In the year 2020, all the new recruits were provided gender training during their induction and a separate training for all the staff was conducted for the team in China. Internal Complaints Committee was formed as per the Anti Sexual Harassment policy formulated in the year 2018. The committee met every quarter to update the status of any incident reported and measures taken. Regular online meetings were held by the gender focal persons from different projects to keep an update of the gender interventions being implemented, promote cross learning and support each other.

Policy and Advocacy: We participated in and contributed to several external forums, e.g. Sankalp, which had more than 5,000 attendees; Asia Venture Partner Network which had more than 1,000 attendees and SoCap with more than 1,000 attendees. A session on ‘Policy Issues on Access to Finance’ was organized internally that had about 100 attendees as part of a ‘core group’ for policy recommendation. Another online event on ‘An Introduction to Impact Investing’ from the Japanese lens highlighted the role and relevance of impact investing in Asia. These activities enabled Solidaridad Asia to play a prominent role in policy influencing by defining what impact investment is and how it should enable access to finance for MSMEs and farmers. They also create a bridge between Solidaridad’s MASP 3, wherein access to finance is a key issue, and the role of impact investing in it, which acts as an accelerator.

Implementation and Practice: Structuring the Village Super Market (VSM) into a community-owned business remained a focal point of our work. The complexity around impact investing, managing private stakeholder interests, alignment with farmers’ interest and the overall impact of Covid-19 have made it a long and complex but meaningful exercise. A financial and legal structure and a handover plan to the farmer community was made in 2020. We also completed the concept creation for the social-landscape theme ready for pilot (July 2021-22), which will lead to the design of a large-scale impact finance (impact bond), and winded up the flagship TRINITEA programme’s e-commerce business plan.

We continued our efforts to strengthen the initiatives around climate change. New programmes were introduced in Malaysia and Indonesia that would result in adoption of climate adaptive, mitigative practices in Palm oil with improved productivity. Three landscapes programmes firmly embedded actions that resulted in reduced carbon emissions. New varieties of seeds were developed in collaboration with Research agencies in Soy that shortens the crop cycle and negates the effects of early rainfall. Regenerative and Organic farming in Cotton was initiated and is now protecting the farmers from pest attacks. Solidaridad supported farmers were able to save part of their crops in comparison to other farmers in Soy in spite of a large-scale pest attack in India. We participated and anchored workshops and learning sessions on Climate Change in the region and as a first, we developed “Climate Smart Index” that will be rolled out in 2021. 

In Solidaridad Asia, information technology (IT) has been instrumental in developing technologies based on GIS software and GPS agriculture. Satellite imagery, drone and other aerial imagery. Major technology innovations have been focused in areas such as the Internet of Things (IoT) and robotics, livestock technology, precision agriculture and artificial intelligence, machine learning, natural language processing and blockchain. We have developed about 31 products that are functioning in different parts of Asia, catering to 300,000 small farmers in various agri-sectors. Some of our products are mentioned:

Traceability applications:

  • TRINITEA: Traceability-Factory app, Traceability-Agents app, Traceability-Drivers app, Traceability-Factory Managers app, TRINITEA website, TRINITEA analytics web app
  • I2I Bangladesh, Dairy Dashboard

Capacity Building Applications:

  • Solibot
  • Digital leaf disease recognition system
  • Event/programme management application
  • Leather Mgmt application
  • Bentang Savit -Indonesia, Palm Oil Management
  • I3SF sugar-Sugarcane Digital Village Web app

Data analytics and Management:

  • Solidaridad Asia Dashboard
  • Industrial Mineral Dashboard
  • Bentang Savitt Dashboard, Malaysian Palm oil Management

Waste management

  • Smart-Bins Admin App, Smart bins Collection centre App , Smartbin Province App , Smart-bin Dashboard web App, Smart bin Local Authority App

Predictability using satellite imagery

  • Pineapple Management application
  • Soy Yield Prediction

Organization & governance

Developments

A strong foundation

Despite the challenges posed by the Covid-19 pandemic, we were able to pivot and work with team members and partners to achieve the targets set out.

In Asia, Solidaridad has 425 staff members. During 2021, an organizational restructuring was implemented as part of developing the regional team. The country specific team is now always placed within the country it serves. The effort to recruit women in leadership positions was successfully undertaken through initiating recruitment of a country manager for India (Ms. Monika Khanna) and a chief of party for Solidaridad in Sri Lanka (Ms. Anitha Munnasinghe). During 2021, looking at the risk in Myanmar for project implementation and projects on hold by the donors, the Myanmar country office was temporarily closed. The region expanded its operation to Thailand and a country manager for Thailand was appointed (Transferred from Myanmar). The regional leadership team includes the Managing Director, general managers, the finance controller, the PME manager, the HR Manager, the gender manager and country managers.

In Asia, we were able to diversify the funding source to include local donor organizations like Vodafone and the Reliance India Foundation. Other major donors for Asia are the Netherlands Enterprise Agency (FVO), and the European Union. Unfortunately, Covid had a direct impact on our success with fundraising. Many donors either diverted the funds for immediate Covid relief or reduced the budget substantially. The internal civil conflict in Myanmar also affected approaching new donors. In total, around 4.5 million euros worth of projects were secured in 2021. 

There was one integrity incident reported in Asia in 2021. An independent internal team consisting of the integrity advisor and senior managers were assigned to execute an independent enquiry. The complaint was found to be unsubstantiated.Through an extensive staff induction process, all new staff is made aware of the policies on integrity. The Code of Conduct of the organization is an integral part of the employment contract. The integrity advisor and person of trust of the regional office also have informal discussions with colleagues to increase their understanding of the policies and procedures and encourage a safe environment for bringing up any possible issues on integrity. At present, the Asia integrity advisor and person of trust are both appointed and part of the global integrity community of the organization. In this capacity they are also trained for a better orientation and implementation of integrity policies within the region. In 2021, 35 colleagues from India participated in an online course for prevention and redressal of sexual harassment at the workplace.

In 2021, several restrictions remained across the region due to Covid-19, and we continued to adopt new mechanisms to capture the progress and results. Increasingly, we are trying to capture granular data in our programmes. For this, several initiatives have been undertaken like the use of TRINITEA app in India and Bangladesh, i2i application, I3SF and Sourcetrace. The most recent addition to this list is the data collection application developed for data models.

In 2021, Solidaridad in Asia took the lead in developing a data collection application for the global data model. This data collection application is for monitoring and evaluation staff, project managers, and data collectors who want to retrieve information about data collection instantly via the internet. The major benefit of the web portal is to store the collected data at one place (like SERVER) and it can be accessed via online interaction. The application will work at three levels: Secretariat, regional and at the project level.

Additionally, several evaluation studies and annual surveys were conducted in 2021, such as a study on sugarcane cropping, an impact study for Castor, a study conducted on understanding the status, scope and challenges of Soybean production in Bangladesh, a baseline study for TRINITEA Bangladesh, a gender analysis for palm oil farmers in Indonesia, and a pilot study conducted in sugarcane and tea to capture results on GHG emissions.

In 2021, the communications team engaged in activities that ensured visibility and outreach of the programmes in Asia. The team organized and contributed to online and physical events, including advocacy events, townhalls, webinars and an annual two-day residential event, on the occasion of the ED’s visit to India, based on the theme of ‘Reclaiming Sustainability’. The team also contributed stories and articles, related to the running programmes in Asia, to the global website and ensured regular communication of events and programme activities on social media.

The communication team played an active role in writing, editing and designing publications such as annual reports, programme reports and booklets like the leather business booklet and the leather interim narrative report, gender report, climate-smart agriculture report among others. The team was involved in the development of articles, stories, presentations and position papers for different programmes across Asia, along with a website for the tea programme (www.trinitea.org). Some of these programmes are TRINITEA, sugarcane, leather, castor, aquaculture and others across Asia.

The team has also contributed to the production of more than seven videos for different programmes, including improvising scripts, designing graphics and other related activities. Some of these include ‘Tides of Change’ (Sugarcane, India); ‘Occupational Health & Safety in Agriculture‘ (Sugarcane, India); ‘International Menstrual Hygiene Day’ (WaSH, Sri Lanka); ‘Mobile Health Unit‘ (CORE, India).Throughout the year, the communications team actively supported the programmes with creating marketing materials, such as brochures, videos, flyers etc. for effective branding and communication. For example, the team created a brochure for the ‘Reaching the Unreached’ in Sri Lanka and the ‘Commodity at a Glance’ brochure for all operational commodities in Asia; along with creating messages and designs for flyers and email campaigns, such as ’16 days of Awareness’ email campaign for gender inclusivity; flyers and message cards for ‘Waste to Wealth’ initiative for the leather programme among others. In total, more than 50 reports, brochures, flyers, banners and other communication materials were published by the team. A book on Medicinal and Aromatic Plants was also published by the communication team in collaboration with an external publisher. The team regularly collaborated with media agencies to publish news and feature articles, including podcasts, in various newspapers and online portals.

The team also contributed to securing two awards: i) The EEF (Energy and Environment Foundation) Global Industrial Water Project Award of the Year 2021 for our programme on ‘Pollution Prevention and Efficient Water Use in Kanpur-Unnao Leather Cluster’ in India, and ii) Agriculture Today’s Award for Excellence in Eco-agriculture Advocacy in India for the Sustainable Soy programme.

Finance

In Asia, the expenditure on projects stayed behind budget because of the situation around the Covid-pandemic. As Solidaridad recognizes its revenue on the basis of the progress of its projects, the revenue stayed behind at a similar pace. A positive result on finances reduced the negative result to 16,000 Euros.

The full audited annual statements of 2021 will be uploaded here once they are available.