Catalysing cultural shifts in soy producers

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.

Number of producers supported


Total hectares under sustainable management



The programme has been able to trigger and bolster the certification of significant areas dedicated to the production and trade of sustainably certified soy. About 20% of the certified soy traded in the world has been triggered by this programme. If the entire surface area managed within the programme is taken into account, this figure rises by an additional 44%. RTRS has reported an increase of more than 35% in the certified area from 2014 to 2015. The SFTF has clearly played a crucial role in assuring the availability of certified product and has significantly contributed to RTRS´s objectives.

From 2011 to 2015, a total of 43 projects were contracted by Solidaridad in partnership with implementing partners. Together we invested almost €6 million to incentivize the sustainable production of over 4.4 million tonnes of soy, covering an area of over 1.6 million hectares. We also leveraged co-funding of over €11 million and included over 3,000 producers / farmers in the region, ranging from large agribusiness companies to local smallholders. Results show an over-performance in regard to the targets established in the design of the programme.

A significant outcome of the programme has been its contribution to cultural change and awareness. The SFTF has increased the producers’ sense of responsibility towards their communities and allowed them to understand how complex their operations are in terms of their impacts.

Rural Horizons software has been successfully developed within the SFTF, adapted for local contexts and embedded into farmer organizations to facilitate capacity building and continual improvement. Almost 1,000 producers have used the tool so far.

Regional Commodity Programmes

  • The Netherlands

    In 2015 100% of the soy used for feed in the Dutch dairy sector (about 300,000 tonnes) was certified under the standard of the Round Table for Responsible Soy (RTRS). The criteria required this soy to be produced under responsible labour conditions and while protecting important habitats. The dairy sector is thus adhering to the Memorandum of Understanding on Responsible Soy that it signed in 2011 with Solidaridad and other NGOs.

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  • North America

    A large region in the center of South America is facing rampant deforestation due to unrestrained expansion of soy farming. Solidaridad, with support from the Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation and the Earth Innovation Institute, undertook the development of strategies to decouple farming and deforestation in Argentina and Paraguay.

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  • South America

    Five years ago, soybean produced under sustainable schemes was almost non-existent in the region. Today, however, a group of leading producers have set the precedent that responsible production is possible, affordable and good for business.

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  • South & South-east Asia

    Solidaridad is supporting smallholder soy producers to produce more with fewer inputs, use land and water efficiently and participate in multi-stakeholder engagements. This will help to improve livelihoods of a large number of smallholders by reducing poverty and creating better societal relations and ecologically sound supply chains.

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  • Southern Africa

    Solidaridad Southern Africa was involved in two soy projects: one through the National Smallholder Farmers' Association of Malawi (NASFAM) and one in Mozambique through Technoserve. A programme for promoting responsible soy in Mozambique and Malawi was part of the Farmer Support Program which came to an end in October 2015.

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Certification schemes were initially seen as the essential tool to drive change within the soy value chain, but ground and market tests revealed unforeseen restrictions that emerged after the standards were launched. As a result, market uptake for certified soy has remained low. This trend has shifted the focus of discussion beyond certification and toward concepts such as sustainable landscapes and jurisdictional approaches.

These new solutions may provide a route to increase the rate of transformation within the value chain as they are more comprehensive, systemic, inclusive and larger in scale with lower financial barriers. They are also adjusted to local realities and create opportunities to work with government sectors.

Solidaridad has responded by taking a proactive stance and including cross-cutting themes such as sustainable landscapes into its strategy. Projects are already under way with funding and deploying activities on the ground, allowing Solidaridad to create synergies within its network by bolstering South-South cooperation.

Programme investments in thousand euros


Contracted partners per region excluding producer organizations



Our single most influential partner donor has been IDH. The relationship to date has been steady. Solidaridad has proposed several improvements in the management of the programme along the way and the donor indicates satisfication with the overall management.

An additional collaboration was the launch of a Learn and Share project that aims to publish data, testimonies and experiences in a document reflecting the main lessons learned in the field by its participants. Disseminating the findings and experiences of the programme will increase the visibility and profile of Solidaridad in the region and help bolster institutional relations.

Solidaridad’s partnership with IDH has enabled us to pursue landscape approach projects, although the future of the collaboration is uncertain as IDH has yet to share its plans. In terms of implementing partners, Solidaridad has been able to roll out the programme by building relationships with over 30 different soy producer organizations.


Deforestation remains the major issue surrounding the commodity in the region covered by SFTF. Solidaridad´s strategy had been to promote certification as a means to stop deforestation, but this has had limited results in the market context. Our response is to develop pilots in different regions to test the fitness of different deforestation policies in the next five-year strategy plan.

A major challenge for the SFTF has been the lack of project management capabilities in nearly all implementing partners. It will require a high level of effort and energy to move implementing partners through the management process of each project. Stages include providing frameworks, supplying information, helping partners, communicating new concepts, building budgets, explain how monitoring could be done, completing paperwork, explaining indicators and collecting data. Delays have been caused by errors in reports, sources of information and the need to trace them.

The programme has provided learning opportunities at various levels. At a project level, Solidaridad needs to establish a stronger presence in the field to bring project activities within the scope of its control in order to mitigate risks associated with implementation. Certified Soy market constraints have forced the programme to shift from a certification-based approach to a proto-landscape approach with eight projects now active in the region.

Alex Ehrenhaus

International Programme Coordinator, Soy