Soy

Soy is fundamental to both the human and animal food supply. In fact, most soy goes on to feed livestock. As the fastest-growing agricultural product, soy fuels expansion that encroaches on the environment, workers and surrounding communities. This small bean has a big impact, affecting millions of lives globally.
New partnership puts soy farmers at the centre to manage impact on Brazil’s environment Read featured story

385,229

tons of GHC emissions mitigated

138,705

farmers and workers trained to adopt good practices

5,068,137

volume produced according to Climate Smart Agriculture practice

Challenges

Farmers struggling towards sustainability

Soy is one of the world’s fastest growing crops and has a market value of 100 billion USD. It’s highly versatile, used for human and animal consumption, and as fuel. But there’s low demand for sustainably-produced soy, and many smallholder farmers can’t make the transition to sustainable production alone.

When soy is grown as a monoculture, it causes soil erosion and nutrient depletion. To correct this, farmers use pesticides and fertilizers and replace the otherwise naturally-occurring nutrients found in the soil. Runoff from soy fields pollutes water supplies and further reduces soil quality. Small-scale producers often lack the resources to follow good practices, causing further harm to the environment.

Poor productivity plagues many small-scale soy farmers, hindering their ability to provide for themselves and their laborers. The main consequence is that they can’t afford to re-invest funds in their own enterprise, which includes improving labor conditions. Farmers often don’t earn living wages, resulting in child and slave labor.

The benefits of certification are often difficult for small-scale farmers to obtain. Certification can assist smallholders in producing sustainable soy and raising incomes, but these farmers often find themselves facing traders and processors reluctant to invest in sustainably-produced soy. This deepens the problems soy famers face.

There was a shed containing pesticides, oil and tools all mixed together; an oil tank with no containment; empty pesticide packages; used engine oil stored for many years on farm. Each of these issues was resolved with low-cost infrastructure organization and improvements.

Maurício Soares – Cresol Technician, Brazil

Solutions

Collaboration for inclusive supply chains

Solving these challenges requires the soy industry to move towards more sustainable and inclusive supply chains. This means soy production will take place in harmony with its producers, their communities, and the environment.

We approach small-scale producers with the aim of adding value to their contributions to the soy supply chain. We do this through giving small-scale producers better access to certification, good agricultural practices, and business management tools – all of which are centered around sustainable land use.

We seek to solve soy supply chain problems – including a lack of transparency – through engaging in dialogue with all sector influencers. We design better supply chains that will increase the global demand for sustainably-produced soy through working with initiatives like the Round Table on Responsible Soy (RTRS).

In India, 30,000 farmers with an average farm size of just over one hectare increased yields by more than 54% while reducing the amount of fertilizer used by 23%. This efficient use of land also resulted in the doubling of incomes, equal remuneration for women, and a drastic reduction in child labor.

Being part of the soy producer support programme has been important to me to better understand the environmental regulations in our region and learn about best agricultural practices.

Mr. Dilo Parerro, soy producer, Brazil

Achievements

Global progress

In Asia, our Soy programme trained directly and indirectly trained more than 25,167 farmers, 73% of whom adopted a set of three critical practices: improved seed, seed treatment, and spacing. Our programme in Malawi meanwhile provided smallholders with training in good agricultural practices, access to high-quality seed, mechanization, and finance, and promotes the participation of women. Yields and livelihoods improved most dramatically in Mozambique, with over 17,000 farmers participating and yields up from 400 kg to 1,450 kg per hectare. Finally, in Paraguay, the MejorAgro project contributed to more sustainable management of 6,129 hectares (+122% of the target), which yielded 21,513 tons of soybeans (+170%). The UN Global Compact recognized the project’s use of digital technology, real-time analysis of farming practices, and continuous improvement.

Integrating digital solutions

Across the soy-producing regions, Solidaridad supported local actors to improve supply chains, making them more robust and transparent, and developing awareness about deforestation issues. Over 1.65 million hectares were brought under improved management production systems and 4.9 million tons of responsible soy were produced. In eastern Paraguay and southern Brazil, we worked to support smallholders with environmental, social and economic issues including legal compliance and integrating digital solutions.

Efficiency and high yields

Solidaridad has played a crucial role in increasing farmers’ capacity to use good agricultural practices focussed on sustainability. In terms of benefits for producers, there has been strong evidence of productivity increasing both through yield increases per surface unit and by more efficient use of resources.

Increases in economic returns and margins were achieved by adopting good agricultural practices in basic farming activities such as keeping records at the farm level, crop management (e.g. optimal fertilizing moments and sowing dates) and machinery management (e.g. upkeep, calibration and adoption of technology). Solidaridad also supported the first group of farmers in Africa to receive RTRS certification.

Local concepts spark shift

Soy underwent an intense shift in 2016 towards new concepts being deployed at the local level, while also phasing out a more traditional approach that had a strong emphasis on producer support. As a result, Solidaridad is using all its knowledge and experience to create new mechanisms for expanding its collaborations with governments, big soy associations and business platforms to increase the scale of impacts on key issues such as deforestation and agrochemicals.

Soy Fast Track Fund

Solidaridad has been active in fostering and strengthening sustainable production of soy in Latin America and its sourcing in Europe through the Soy Fast Track Fund (SFTF) since 2011. The programme aims to help transform the global soy value chain into a sustainable one by using the Round Table on Responsible Soy (RTRS) standard as the main reference framework to guide improvements and implement change at the farm level.

RTRS in Africa

The RTRS (Round Table for Responsible Soy) standard is new to Africa. Solidaridad is involved in promoting RTRS methods through two projects in Mozambique and Malawi. As a result farmers in Mozambique have seen a substantial increase in yields, while in Malawi approximately 38,000 farmers have received certified soybean seed.

Multi-stakeholder success

Through cooperation with Solidaridad, Sinograin, a large Chinese company, brought 25,000 hectares of soy under RTRS certification. Solidaridad China played a crucial role in organising the RT8 in Beijing, bringing Chinese stakeholders together with companies, producers, and civil society organisations from other soy producing and buying countries.

Mozambique

Solidaridad’s began its first soy programme in Africa, in Mozambique.

New commitments

Together with Solidaridad, companies involved in the Dutch animal production chain signed an agreement to collectively finance a stepwise transition towards 100% RTRS soy in 2015. Friesland Campina, CONO, Ben & Jerry’s, Keurslagers, ARLA, and Interchicken companies are supporting Solidaridad soy programmes.  

The first transaction in the Round Table on Renewable Soy (RTRS) certification system took place and commitments to RTRS soy in a number of countries including Belgium, Sweden and UK are published.

RTRS approved

Solidaridad entered into a new partnership with dairy company Arla Nederland and Friesland Campina commited itself to responsibly produced soy for a further four years.

The Round Table on Responsible Soy (RTRS) standard for responsible soy was approved. This standard is a worldwide agreement on the principles and criteria for responsible soy production.

Where we work

Featured Programmes

Empowering smallholders

Solidaridad has been supporting smallholder soy producers in India since 2009. It does so by promoting sustainability principles with coalitions of partners, including governments and businesses. Solidaridad strategies are based on a combination of good agricultural practices and robust rural infrastructures integrated with market solutions to develop “proof of concepts” for scale and impact investments.

Supporting good agriculture

Much like other regions of the world, smallholder soy producers in Southern Africa often suffer from low productivity. Solidaridad’s soy programme began in an effort to address this challenge and improve smallholders’ livelihoods and sustainable farming practices. The first project began in Mozambique in 2012 with the goal of improving smallholder production management, thereby increasing productivity and improving soil conservation.

Join us in making soy truly sustainable.