Asia

Solidaridad provides scalable and economically effective sustainability solutions in agriculture and mining sectors in collaboration with governments, businesses and the community. We are driving sustainability from niche to norm in Asian markets to support people, planet and profits.
Time for a new approach to sustainability in the Indian tea industry Read featured story

Where We Work

Solidaridad operates both in production and market sectors in Bangladesh, China, Hong Kong, India, Indonesia, Japan, Malaysia, Myanmar and Sri Lanka with more than 425 experts operating from its 38 offices. It is crucial that Solidaridad works to stimulate sustainable production in the region, starting with encouraging the use of deforestation-free commodities.

Commodities

504,000

farmers, workers, and miners trained to adopt good practices

1,531

Producer groups formed

461,891

hectares under sustainable management

Challenges

Growing inequities

Asia faces a challenge of two kinds. It is home to the world’s largest middle-class population, and yet poverty persists in the region. Using a revised World Bank benchmark of poverty at $3.20/day and accounting for food insecurity and vulnerability, the estimated poverty rate in the region is significant. Not only that, but the middle-class’ increasing consumption is putting a huge demand on agriculture.

Less land, the unorganized nature of farming, reduced availability of water, rapidly degrading farmland and the impacts of climate change make agriculture a less desirable option for farmers. The average age of farmers is 48 years indicating lack of interest among the youth. For example, India has been losing more than 2,000 farmers every day since 1991 and, in many cases, the younger generation does not find farming to be a profitable career choice.

For many developing countries the need to increase incomes, to achieve a prosperous and harmonious society at the same time as reducing environmental damage represents a real policy dilemma. Developmental and sustainable agriculture needs, together with the macroeconomic imbalances, put pressure on the region’s natural resources in order to keep health threats such as air pollution and food safety issues under control.

Society long ago democratized government, but we have never democratized the economy. More than 2 billion people work in the food system, with half of the world’s working population active in agriculture. The food system fails to provide most of these people with an adequate income. Three-quarters of all farmers live in poverty It is estimated that about 87 per cent of the world’s 500 million small farms (less than 2 ha) are in Asia and the Pacific region (IFPRI, 2007). China and India alone account for 193 million and 93 million small farms, respectively. Three other Asian countries with a large number of small farms are Indonesia (17 million), Bangladesh (17 million) and Vietnam (10 million).

Perpetually low-income levels are one of the key reasons why Asian farmers remain stuck in poverty and under-invest in their farms, and why young people are leaving rural areas. For many small-scale farmers, significant gaps exist between their actual income and income levels sufficient to ensure a decent standard of living. The demand for ecosystem services by the ever-growing middle-class segment is now so great in Asia that trade-offs among services have become the rule. Asian countries are continuously expanding the supply of food, feed, fibre and minerals to meet the increased demand from the population by overexploiting water resources and converting forest to agriculture

Asia is at the cusp of being a dominant player in driving the market transformation towards sustainable trade beginning from initiating a regional sustainable trade initiative. The last two decades have seen an increasing emphasis on company and supply chain driven approaches to promote sustainable production and trade of agricultural commodities such as tea, cocoa, coffee, cotton, soy, palm oil and staple crops. While they have resulted in ‘islands of success’, many others struggle with the systemic issues including price volatility, unaffordable—and therefore missing—services for farmers, and a lack of transparency. Increasingly, supply chain actors realize that to reach sustainability at scale, value chains need to be part of high performing and resilient sectors.

Solutions

Capacity and collaboration across the region

Solidaridad has placed emphasis on regional cooperation around sustainability issues through its signature Regional Sustainable Trade Initiatives. Solidaridad is now facilitating joint programmes in India, Indonesia, and China on sustainable palm oil, industrial minerals and tea with a focus on attaining Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) targets.

The sustainability discourse in the region is driven by locally owned and developed standards. From the Trustea standard for tea in India, to the Indonesian Sustainable Palm Oil (ISPO), and the Malaysian Sustainable Palm Oil (MSPO) certification, Solidaridad is actively supporting the implementation of these schemes across the region.

Through training farmers and workers in complementary skills such as entrepreneurship, finance, and public health, there is greater capacity to improve livelihoods overall. The Sustainable Agriculture, Food Security and Linkages (SaFaL) programme in Bangladesh has helped 108,000 smallholder farmer families to become successful agricultural entrepreneurs while addressing their food security.

Solidaridad understands that tackling climate change will need an approach that integrates ecology, economic and social solutions. Pioneering the ecological landscapes models, the programmes in mid-Ganges river basin in India, Merapi Volcano in Indonesia and Sundarbans in Bangladesh  support at least half a million farmers, and develop a shared understanding of challenges to reach cooperative solutions.

Climate change challenges like watershed management, land use planning, deforestation, biodiversity and degraded land cannot be solved in a vacuum. Solidaridad runs programmes around the mid-Ganges river basin in India, Merapi Volcano in Indonesia and Sundarbans in Bangladesh that will support at least half a million farmers, and develop a shared understanding of challenges to reach cooperative solutions.

Achievements

Surpassing goals

Despite Covid-19 challenges, we supported more than 500,000 producers to adopt good practices, with more than 383,000 hectares now under sustainable management. Work continued at the market level, with more than 50,000 farmers engaged in a federated model, who now own the Village Super Market. On the policy level, we contributed to 20 policy recommendations across 37 multi-stakeholder platforms.

New pathways

This was the first full year of operations for Solidaridad Asia following the merger of Solidaridad South and South East Asia, and China. In 2019, we expanded our market-based approach to cleaner water to two new locations. We also adopted Fair Data – a unique solution beyond certification – for our Tea and Sugarcane programmes. And on the sustainable palm oil front, we supported a much-awaited consensus between Indonesia, Malaysia and India.

Joining forces

In 2018, the Solidaridad South and South-East Asia and China regional offices joined together to form one continental office: Solidaridad Asia. Over the last 12 years, Solidaridad has emerged as an innovative sustainable solutions provider in Asia, working in India, China, Indonesia, Malaysia, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka, Myanmar, Hong Kong and Israel. Solidaridad Asia provides training on climate-smart sustainable agriculture and decent work for 500,000 farmers and 200,000 workers in 13 commodity areas. All our work is tailored towards creating practical solutions at scale for feeding the ever-growing demands of the Asian population through a more-with-less approach.

Partnerships for good

In India Solidaridad launched a partnership to clean up the Ganges River. The partnership’s aim was to make Kanpur leather more sustainable by reducing 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.

In China Solidaridad supported 1,650 farmers in cultivating sustainable cotton in Guazhou City. The project focused on reducing the application of fertilizers and chemicals, promoting water saving technology and integrated pest management. By the end of the year a total of 7,085 tonnes of seed cotton were certificated by the Better Cotton Initiative.

Breaking barriers

The Malaysian Palm Oil Board signed an agreement with Solidaridad, the first such agreement with an international development organization to enhance the effective implementation and adoption of the Malaysian Sustainable Palm Oil standard for 100,000 smallholders. Similarly, The Solvent Extractors’ Association of India signed an agreement for the first time with Solidaridad to develop a framework for the sustainable production and trade of oilseeds and vegetable oils.

In China, sustainable development found a new place at the forefront of the political and economic agendas. Solidaridad worked directly in the manufacturing, agriculture and international commodity trade sectors to improve environmental and social performance alongside economic growth.

Growing impact

Solidaridad’s sustainable soy programme in India successfully supported 80,085 smallholders in major soy growing provinces. The programme covered 93,154 hectares of socially and environmentally sustainable soy in line with RTRS principles. Watch this video about Solidaridad’s Soy programme.

Big ambitions

Solidaridad initiated an ambitious programme on responsible mineral extraction together with Unilever. A Code for Responsible Extraction (CORE) was jointly developed and is one of the first independently auditable global codes for minerals at the extraction site, supported by leading companies and civil society organizations. CORE verification offers a globally acceptable and credible assurance to buyers and other stakeholders that the industrial minerals are extracted in a responsible way.

Demand for change

Solidaridad and Hindustan Unilever Foundation (HUF) jointly launched one of the largest demand-side agricultural water efficiency programmes for Indian sugarcane, cotton, soy and tea sectors spread across 4,000 villages in 38 districts of nine states covering an area of 677,880 hectares in India. The programme aims to save 0.4 to 1 trillion litres of water cumulatively in three years through sustainable agriculture.

A consolidated approach

With 12 million euros in support from the Dutch embassy, Solidaridad launched the Sustainable Agriculture, Food Security and Market Linkages (SaFaL) programme in Bangladesh to improve the lives of 57,000 families and 1,000 producers’ groups for aquaculture, fruits and vegetables, and dairy. This was the first time sustainable agriculture, sustainable supply chain development and traditional nutritional security approaches were combined to develop a unique consolidated approach towards a market-based food security solution.

A sustainability first

Solidaridad pioneered the development of a national sustainability standard from a bottom-up national perspective. The Lestari sustainability standard for tea became first the domestic sustainability standard ever launched in Indonesia. Pilots were initiated in partnership with Hindustan Unilever to develop a “stepping stone” sustainability standard for the first time in the Indian domestic market.

Promoting water efficiency

Solidaridad initiated one of the largest interventions around water efficient sugarcane production with EID Parry to supporting 40,000 smallholder farmers in southern India.

Smallholder certification for coffee

Around 4,000 coffee smallholders from three Indian states joined forces under one forum and were supported to be certified under UTZ Certified sustainability standard. This was the first smallholder certification for coffee in India under UTZ with support from seven coffee curing operations in the region. The UTZ Certified sustainability code for tea was also launched for the first time in India.

Bringing people together

The UTZ Certified tea standard was implemented in India, Indonesia, Sri Lanka and Vietnam for the first time with large plantations as well as smallholders. National Reference Groups (NRGs) were set up in all the four countries. The NRGs are an informal assembly of key national tea industry stakeholders committed to working together for enhancing the accountability and credibility of different national and international CSR standards applicable to the tea sector at the production end.

Fair say and fair share

Solidaridad supported 7,000 cotton farmers to have “Fair Say and Fair Share” in the supply chain. Cotton farmers were supported in organizing under Chetna Organic Producers’ Company and Solidaridad facilitated farmers for the first time in gaining about 10% shareholding in a garment company.

Regional Programmes

Exploring emerging markets

Globally, Bangladesh ranks third in terms of production of vegetables and eighth in mango. The Sustainable Agriculture, Food Security and Linkages (SaFaL) is supporting 11,715 farmers (58% women) and the market to tap the potential of productive gains by adopting sustainable technologies in production and post-harvest management.

The white gold revolution

The dairy industry in Bangladesh is transforming with the economic growth and the demand of a growing population. The dairy production in Bangladesh largely depends on the smallholders, engaged in subsistence farming. They can hardly supply quality and quantity of milk to meet the demand of the dairy industry.

Improving sustainable business

Aquaculture is the most important sub-sector of Bangladesh providing 60% of the animal protein intake, food security, poverty reduction and export earnings. Bangladesh is the fifth largest aquaculture producing country in the world.

Inclusive empowerment

Globally, around 33 million hectares are planted with cotton, out of which 12 million hectares are in India. Cotton is a very important fibre crop for India as it provides the basic raw material to cotton textile industry. India has nine major cotton producing states and Solidaridad has been working on improving the cotton since 2004 by promoting the use of both organic cotton and BCI cotton projects initially in states like Maharashtra, Andhra Pradesh and Orissa. It then gradually expanded its scope of work to other states as well.

Scaling up impacts

The focus of Solidaridad Asia’s textiles programme is to prove and scale up best practice among large, established textile producers. It also seeks to guide the sector’s sustainable development with emerging producers.

A pioneer in leather

In India, Solidaridad ventured into the global leather sector by choosing Kanpur-Unnao leather cluster to make a real contribution to the “CLEAN GANGA” project. For this intervention, Solidaridad conceptualized a potential project to strengthen the value chain of the Kanpur-Unnao leather cluster through building capacities of relevant stakeholders on eco-friendly and innovative technologies. The project would also establish a few pilots to demonstrate the value of best practices.

Inspiring sustainable practices

Together with key industry stakeholders, Solidaridad has instituted the “India Sustainable Tea program” called “Trustea” since July 2013. The Tea Board of India (TBOI), IDH, Unilever, Tata Global Beverages (TGB), Wagh Bakri, Rainforest Alliance and the Ethical Tea Partnership are the key partners in the programme.

Moving beyond certification

Solidaridad’s sugarcane programme strategy is embedded in the local reality. The model of Solidaridad builds on an aligned agenda driven by a strong business case for producers, processors and end users. The programme not only allows buyers to move beyond their immediate supply chain but also diversify their base of sustainable suppliers while addressing the most critical issues faced by sugarcane farming sector in India.

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.

Sustainable and inclusive

Palm oil has been a source of significant livelihood improvements for many rural communities in Indonesia and Malaysia. Demand for palm oil from India and China is growing rapidly given their population and economic growth. Solidaridad is aiming for improving sustainability performances for inclusive and long-term sustainability of palm oil sector in Asia through better inclusion of smallholders, sustainable production and trade while safeguarding the environmental value.

Promoting responsible practices

Solidaridad and Unilever developed the Code for Responsible Extraction (CORE) to address issues in the mining industry. It is one of the first independently auditable global codes for minerals at the extraction site, supported by leading companies and civil society organizations.

Change that matters with partners who care. Find out what we can achieve together.

Get in touch

Want to know more about our work in Asia? Get in touch with our team!


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A-5, Shankar Garden, Main Najafgarh Road, Vikaspuri, New Delhi-110018

+ 91-011-45134500

info@solidaridad.in

Shatadru Chattopadhayay

Managing Director

Saroj Kumar Sahu

Regional HR Manager

saroj.kumarsahu@solidaridadnetwork.org

Nitin Rao

Regional lead, PME

nitin.rao@solidaridadnetwork.org

Continental Supervisory Board

Our board members are (left to right): Dr. Shatadru Chattopadhayay, Padmashri Dr. M. H. Mehta, Jeroen Douglas, Shahamin S Zaman, Kan Hiroshi Sato, Dr. Xiaohui Liang, M. Subbramanium

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