Innovation at the Heart of Indo-Dutch Cooperation
H.E. Mr Marten van den Berg, ambassador of the Netherlands to India, joined Jeroen Douglas, and Solidaridad Asia’s Managing Director, Dr Shatadru Chattopadhayay, to reaffirm Indo-Dutch collaboration on key developmental projects in India. The discussions highlighted the various innovations and strategies adopted by Solidaridad towards making sustainability the norm in supply chain management.
Dr. Shatadru Chattopadhayay and Jeroen Douglas expressed gratitude for the continued support of the Dutch government and enthusiasm for further collaboration in the future.
Innovation to Build Resilience of Smallholders
The workshop emphasized the importance of producer-centered innovation as the pathway for sustainable development, with technology playing a key role. Jeroen Douglas explained technology as a driver of innovation; “Technology is a catalyst—a tool that can help us reach our purpose in a more effective and smarter way. Our focus has been and will always be small farmers and workers. All innovations are centred around their well-being and development.”
Examples of innovative solutions were showcased throughout the workshop, from regenerative agriculture initiatives to waste-to-value programmes and more:
- ‘Regenagri’: In a session on ‘Regenagri’, General Manager-Water & Sustainable Agriculture, Prashant Pastore, explained how regenerative agriculture can bridge the gap between commodity and landscape concepts.
- Waste-to-value: General Manager-Pollution Management in MSMEs, Tatheer Zaidi, presented the various breakthrough innovations Solidaridad has achieved in India, including the waste-to-value interventions among others, bringing sustainable solutions through the double-engine public-private partnerships.
- Social landscape approach: Senior Consultant, Ayan Banerjee, introduced the concept of social landscape through an innovative lens. He introduced the audience to the concept of VUCA (volatility, uncertainty, complexity and ambiguity) and its relevance to social-landscape-based initiatives for Asian farmers.
- Technology as enabler: In her presentation on technology as a key enabler for next-gen sustainability, Senior Editor, Anumita Ghosh, appealed to the audience to bring their focus on consumers. She emphasised on the dire need to bring consumers in the sustainability discourse to observe the real change in market behaviour towards making sustainability the norm.
- Climate-smart tools: Assistant Manager-Climate Expert, Dr Maneesh Patasaraiya, in his presentation on climate-smart tools, elaborated on the various innovations and scientific tools developed and piloted across different projects in Solidaridad Asia.
- Marketplace initiative: Country Manager-Bangladesh, Selim Raza Hasan, presented the village super market (VSM) concept, an innovative, state-of-the-art marketplace developed by Solidaridad that fosters backward and forward market linkages among the producers and traders and connects producers directly with the end market.
The visit included the launch of the Good Farming – Good Food programme, as well as the inauguration of the resource centre for Rakshika Mahila Producer Company.
‘Good Farming-Good Food’ for Growers
The workshop continued on the road, with a visit to Madhya Pradesh centred around soy smallholders. The visit also served as the launch of the implementation phase of ‘Good Farming – Good Food’. The programme aims to support 50,000 vulnerable families, including rural women and school children, through access to nutritious food. Farmers shared personal stories about their experiences, and agricultural experts and scientists engaged in discussions around innovative solutions. A book on medicinal plants and herbal medicines and another on herbal home garden was also launched during the event.
The visit was complete with food tasting during the Soy Food event, as well as dancing and performances.
Innovations on the Ground
The workshop concluded with a visit to the soy fields on the outskirts of Bhopal and Sehore, showcasing the creative side of the farmers, especially women farmers, who organized a demonstration of nutritious home-cooked dishes made with soybean, including meals, savouries, cakes and sweets. The farmers also gave a tour of the demo nutrition garden and vermi-compost units and other GAPs. At Gunaga village, Jeroen Douglas was invited to inaugurate a resource-cum-training centre for Rakshika Mahila Producer Company—an all women-owned FPO.
At the smart-agri automatic weather station, installed in one of the soy fields, a farmer demonstrated the utility of the smart technology installed by Vodafone-Idea. He mentioned, “The machines can preempt weather change among other features, thereby helping us in decision-making; for example, to decide whether or not to irrigate.”
The four-day sojourn underlined the theme of innovation as the driving force towards reclaiming sustainability—with the small farmers and workers as the centerpiece of it all.