Solidaridad South and South-East Asia provides scalable and economically effective sustainability solutions in agriculture and mining sectors in collaboration with governments, businesses and the community. Solidaridad aims to drive sustainability from niche to norm in Asian markets and among Asian producers in a way that can sustain people, planet and profits.
Producing more food with fewer natural resources to meet ever-rising and evolving demand is emerging as the ultimate challenge for South and South-East Asia. Pressures on land, water, and energy resources are increasing due to competing claims. Moreover, the average farm sizes are growing smaller, and availability of farmland is becoming scarce.
Governments across South and South-East Asia have become pro-active in increasing farm productivity through optimum utilisation of scarce resources. The Indian government’s initiatives towards “more crop per drop”, Indonesian government’s efforts towards reducing deforestation and Bangladesh government’s policies towards agricultural exports are clear signs pointing in this direction. Governments and sector organizations in South-East Asia have an increasing stake in the long-term competitiveness and productivity of their essential commodities: to generate jobs, provide food security and maintain export revenues. Solidaridad is partnering with governments in India, Malaysia, Indonesia and Bangladesh to support this agenda.
The sustainability discourse in the region is driven through locally developed and owned standards. The Indian government actively supports the Trustea standard for tea. The Indonesian government is working on a presidential decree to make Indonesian Sustainable Palm Oil (ISPO) an independent entity. The Malaysian government made Malaysian Sustainable Palm Oil (MSPO) certification mandatory by 2019. Solidaridad is actively supporting in implementing these schemes in all the three countries.
South and South-East Asia faces a challenge of two kinds. It is home to the world's largest middle-class population, and yet poverty is not wiped out of the region. Using a revised World Bank benchmark of poverty at $3.20 and accounting for food insecurity and vulnerability, the estimated poverty rate would be significant in the region. Not only that, but the increased consumption by the middle-class is putting a huge demand on agriculture.
Smaller land size, the unorganized nature of farming, reduced availability of water for agriculture, rapidly degrading farmland and impacts of climate change are making agriculture a less desirable option for farmers. For example, India is losing more than 2,000 farmers every single day since 1991 and the young generation does not find farming to be a profitable career choice in most cases.
Producing more food with fewer natural resources to meet the ever-rising and evolving demand is the ultimate challenge for the region in the coming decades. With a growing income and more mouths to feed, pressures on land, water, and energy resources are increasing.
Over the last decade, Solidaridad has pioneered development and implementation of national sustainability standards in the region. Together with partners, it has founded the Teh-Lestari standard for tea in Indonesia in 2011 and the Trustea standard for the Indian tea industry in 2013. These sustainability standards are now dominant in both countries with more than 400 million kilos verified supporting 350,000 workers (50% women) and 40,258 smallholders.
Solidaridad has placed emphasis on regional cooperation for an Asian consensus between India, Indonesia and China on sustainability issues. These two countries are the biggest producer or consumer of most of the commodities in which Solidaridad is active. Solidaridad is now facilitating joint programmes in these three countries on sustainable palm oil, industrial minerals and tea focussed towards attaining SDG targets.
Supported by the Embassy of Netherlands, the regional office runs one of the largest food security and market development programme - SaFaL in Bangladesh. It has so far helped 57,000 smallholder farmer families to become successful agricultural entrepreneurs while addressing their food security. In its next phase, the programme will be scaled up to 100,000 families.
Climate change related challenges like watershed management, land use planning, deforestation, biodiversity and degraded land cannot be solved at producer or supply chain level only. Thats why Solidaridad has initiated 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. Our approach is to develop a shared understanding of the main problems with the stakeholders to reach cooperative solutions.
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.
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.
- Palm oil
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.
- Fruit & Vegetables
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.
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’s textiles programme in South and South-East Asia is to prove and scale up established best practices among large established textile producers while seeking to guide sustainable development of the sector among emerging producers.
Solidaridad, in association with Stahl, PUM, Uttar Pradesh Jal Nigam (state water management organization) and the Indian leather industry association, launched a partnership to clean up the Ganges River. This is supported by the Netherlands Enterprise Agency with the aim to make Kanpur leather more sustainable. The partnership will reduce 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.
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 an Indian framework for the sustainable production and trade of oilseeds and vegetable oils.
The sustainable soy programme in India successfully supported 80,085 smallholders in major soy growing provinces covering 93,154 hectares of area under socially and environmentally sustainable soy in lines with RTRS principles. Solidaridad is convening the national platform for sustainable soy in India. Please watch the short video on Solidaridad Soy programme here. Also, read the 2015 cover article in Business Standard on the programme here.
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 as well as civil society organizations. Verification under CORE offers a globally acceptable and credible assurance to buyers and other stakeholders that the industrial minerals are extracted in a responsible way.
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.
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.
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.
Solidaridad initiated one of the largest interventions around water efficient sugarcane production with EID Parry to supporting 40,000 smallholder farmers in southern India.
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.
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.
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.
Aquaculture Innovation Challenge 2019 kicks off with a splash
This year’s Aquaculture Innovation Challenge (AIC) Indonesia will kick off in Jakarta on 23 January, starting at 13:00. The AIC is intended for students, start-ups, project teams, small and medium-sized enterprises and other companies who boast groundbreaking ideas or innovations that can improve the shrimp industry but require knowledge, networks, finance or capital.
India steps up to make leather production more sustainable
The city of Kanpur, India, at the borders of the Ganges, hosts a lively tannery industry, employing 50,000 people directly and 250,000 indirectly. Leather processing, however, is one of the most polluting industries in the world and it consumes huge amounts of water.
Solidaridad calls for sustainable production of palm oil in face EU ban
The EU’s recent ban of palm oil for use in biofuels by 2030 has caused discontent among palm oil producing countries, and put the entire industry under scrutiny.
Village Super Market: A Facility for Improving Food Systems in Bangladesh
In this blog, Solidaridad Executive Director Nico Roozen highlights a new facility in Bangladesh that has the potential for far-reaching impact across the country. Learn how this village super market is setting a new standard for sustainable business in South Asia.
International Leaders Celebrate 10 Years of Sustainable Growth in Asia
Sustainability, profitability, growth and the means to achieve benefits for all were the main themes adorning the anniversary celebration as Solidaridad looked back on a decade of sustainable development in Asia on 1 and 2 November.
Responsible Leather: The Need to Connect the Worlds of Beef and Leather
Friday 12 October, Solidaridad had the honour of giving the Opening & Welcome presentation at the First Global Forum on Responsible Leather in Kilkenny, Ireland. The forum was hosted by the Responsible Leather Round Table (RLRT), an initiative of Textile Exchange. The purpose of the forum was to address the impact of the entire leather value chain.