Solidaridad and Hindustan Unilever Foundation launch major water efficiency programme

Solidaridad and Hindustan Unilever Foundation (HUF) have jointly launched one of the largest water efficiency in agriculture programmes in India that can save cumulatively 0.4 to 1 trillion litres of water in 3 years through sustainable agriculture. The programme aims to save water at large scale and touch 779 thousand workers and farmers in the sugarcane, cotton, soy and tea sectors.

Water and supply chain programmes combined

Through its commodity based sustainability supply chain programmes, Solidaridad is directly contributing to poverty alleviation by supporting producers in sustainable crop production, certification and market access. Currently it has various support programmes for major crops in India in close partnership with diverse stakeholders (producers, NGOs, communities, businesses, etc). These programmes aim to improve crop productivity per unit area and profitability of farming in 38 districts of 9 states covering an area of 677,880 hectares.

Water conservation is crucial for sustainable agricultural practices. This is where Hindustan Unilever Foundation and Solidaridad have joined hands to explore decentralised water efficient end use in various crops. Both Solidaridad and HUF believe that the programme has the potential to go beyond the value chain approach and enthuse business to invest on issues like water management in the societies they operate. At the heart of this programme lies the principle of collaboration and active involvement of the stakeholders. Some of the major stakeholders from the sugarcane sector supporting this initiative are EID Parry and Rajshree Sugars. The programme also draws in the energy of local NGOs and other institutions to deepen collaborative arrangements.

Shared focus

Solidaridad and HUF believe the programme can move forward with the following shared agenda:

  1. Focus on the demand side of water management in agriculture in different agro-climatic zones and diverse hydrological areas. In order to have large scale impact, a business case for individual farmers is a precondition.
  2. The project seeks to build the capacity of smallholders, workers as well as communities for reducing water application in the crops.
  3. It seeks to enhance agricultural production in the selected region.
  4. Involve smallholders, workers and businesses to join water platforms and enable them to engage on policy dialogues around water management in agriculture in selected crops.
  5. The programme seeks to clearly demonstrate success through measurement of impact by independent third party assessment.

India’s limited water resources

With 17.5% of the world's population, India is projected to be the world's most populous country by 2025, surpassing China. Its population will reach1.6 billion by 2050. But it has only 4% of world’s renewable water resources and 2.6% of world’s land area. This limited water and arable land availability offer opportunities for improved water efficiency and productivity. It can provide the incentive to tackle the problem of degrading water sources.

Stakeholder opinions about the programme

Shatadru Chattopadhayay, Managing Director of Solidaridad Network South and South-East Asia says: “Crops like sugarcane alone used an estimated 61 trillion liters of water in India during the season of 2012-2013. But at the same time sustainable agriculture as promoted by Solidaridad can meet the requirements of future populations of India to produce more food, feed, fibre, and fuel. We need to avoid competing claims over the limited agricultural land and water available.” “75% of the additional food we need over the next decades could be met by bringing the production levels of the India’s low-yield farmers up to 80% of what high-yield farmers get from comparable land. Better water management plays a key role in bridging that gap”-he added.

Mr Ravi Puranik, the CEO of Hindustan Unilever Foundation (HUF) mentioned: “The collaborative nature of this programme sees the engagement of multiple actors in the private sector and their supply chains, producer groups, NGOs and others in Hindustan Unilever Foundation’s (HUF) journey on ‘Water for Public Good’ in India. It weaves water as a common wave across the ongoing initiatives of Solidaridad and leverages on the existing networks and resources to enhance social return on investment for all the stakeholders. It aligns with the framework for independent assurance adopted by HUF and tests it for a crop water demand management oriented endeavor.”

Nico Roozen, Executive Director of Solidaridad Network explains: “Stakeholders involvement is crucial for achieving a meaningful and durable impact in programmes like this. NGO's like Solidaridad only can initiate and contribute to the development of large-scale water savings mechanisms. But in the end only the farmers and the companies are in the lead. Real impact and sustainable results can only be achieved by the stakeholders in the supply chain. This local ownership could be the main asset of this programme”.

Mr. Krishnan of Rajshree sugars & Chemicals Limited (RSCL) mentioned: “The company led by promoter chairman Ms. RajshreePathy is taking a lead in sustainable practices. She is a well-known philanthropist and ‘Padmashree Awardee’ for her contributions to rural agriculture. The partnership with the Solidaridad/ IFC project on sustainable sugarcane production is aimed at improving productivity and profitability of the cane famers by implementation of sustainable practices of water conservation (drip+ fertigation) , balanced fertilizer application, organic carbon improvements etc. The farming community in RSCL command area are appreciative of these initiatives and enthusiastically participating and implementing these programmes. We are confident that these partnership will enable us to elevate our farming community to global bench marks and make them sustainable champions beyond our rural village.”

Mr. Sarvesh Shahra, Head FMCG and Specialty Ingredients of Ruchi Soya Industries Limited said: “The business of Ruchi Soya originated with the firm partnership with Indian Farmers. In the past three decades of our growth, we always believed that corporates could be successful only when the societies around succeed. Ruchi Soya is proud to be associated with Solidaridad towards it path of ensuring sustainability for all its stakeholders.We are committed to brighten the lives of millions of farmers across India through Sustainability Verification Programme with the Indian Farmers aimed at long term sustainability in Soya production in India. Farmer livelihood development has always been at the core of Ruchi Soya’s corporate philosophy. Our commitment to No GM foods will see new initiatives in the times to come and our partnership with Solidaridad is bound to grow in the times to come”.

Dr Manjunatha S. Rao, General Manager R&D of EID Parry Ltd says: “The Project with Solidaridad is expected to bring about changes in Sugarcane cultivation practices aimed at reduced use of water, improved sustainable agricultural practices leading to increased productivity and economic and environmental gains for small scale farmers.”

About the programme partners


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

We bring together supply chain actors and engage them in innovative solutions to improve production, ensuring the transition to a sustainable and inclusive economy that maximizes benefits for all.

Solidaridad is an international network organization with ten regional expertise centres that are dedicated to th
e responsible production of food, textiles, gold and alternatives to fossil fuels.

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Hindustan Unilever Foundation (HUF)

HUF was established in 2010 to further the community development initiatives of Hindustan Unilever Limited. HUF supports national priorities for conserving natural resources and thereby contributing to socio-economic development, through its “Water for Public Good” programme. This programme has three core principles: Governance of water, Quantity of water, and benefits to the community. It has initiated several projects across different river basins and varied hydrological regimes in India that go well beyond Hindustan Unilever value chain. At the heart of these projects lies the principle of collaboration through active community involvement and participation of co-funders.