Soy

A Protein Source To Feed The World

The Solidaridad Global Soy Team is working with partner organizations to address soy sustainability issues across the Solidaridad Network. Solidaridad is proud to move beyond certification and build strategic partnerships to collaborate with diverse stakeholders including civil society organizations, the public and the private sector. The soy value chain is facing systemic challenges which require an integrated vision to ensure a positive impact.

Number of producers supported

 

Total hectares under sustainable management

 

Achievements

Solidaridad has played a crucial role in increasing farmers’ capacity to use good agricultural practices focussed on sustainability. In terms of benefits for producers, there has been strong evidence of productivity increasing both through yield increases per surface unit and by more efficient use of resources.

Increases in economic returns and margins were achieved by adopting good agricultural practices in basic farming activities such as keeping records at the farm level, crop management (e.g. optimal fertilizing moments and sowing dates) and machinery management (e.g. upkeep, calibration and adoption of technology). Solidaridad also supported the first group of farmers in Africa to receive RTRS certification.

Regional Commodity Programmes

  • South America

    The third stage of the Soy Fast Track Fund programme in Brazil and Paraguay highlighted the importance of integrated approaches on a landscape level to bridge the gap between public and private policies on sustainability and its implementation on a territorial level. Solidaridad is now facilitating a multi-stakeholder dialogue in Bolivia and northern Argentina to improve land use governance and is enhancing exchanges with China to spur sustainable trade.

  • South & South-east Asia

    Soy plays a valuable role as a source of food and nutrition, significantly contributes to income, and is resilient to climate change. In India, Solidaridad’s decade-long experience of successfully supporting large numbers of smallholders is instrumental for the inclusion of soy in Indonesia and Bangladesh. Solidaridad is building on its strength through strategically engaging with regional and national businesses, governments, relevant associations and platforms to improve sustainability performances through efficient, “beyond certification” market-based solutions.

  • Southern Africa

    Solidaridad hosted the Global Soy Meeting and the local team learned invaluable lessons from the other regions. The first ever group of farmer associations were awarded certification in line with the Round Table on Responsible Soy. Access to quality seeds remains a key challenge and there is great need to develop a regional soy programme to support farmers to start enterprises as seed multipliers. This will provide quality seed to farmers across the region.

  • China

    As one of the co-founders of the Sustainable Soy Trade Platform, Solidaridad led two delegation trips to the Netherlands and Argentina with participants from COFCO, Yihai-Kerry (Wilmar), Sinograin, Jiusan Group and Hopefull Group, accounting for over 60% of China’s annual soy trade volume. The intention of this was to facilitate cross-regional dialogue and build consensus on the deforestation and sustainability issues in the soy supply chain with the South American and Chinese soy stakeholders.

Developments

In global terms, soy occupies a relevant position in terms of the amount of agricultural land allocated for this crop (16%). With a current total of more than 120 million MHa, soy produces more protein per hectare than any other crop. Moreover, soy has expanded more than any other global crop in recent decades, threatening forests such as the Amazon, Cerrado, Gran Chaco and other important biomes. South America is considered to be the world’s soy farm, with a major share of global exports coming from Brazil, Argentina and Paraguay. On the other hand, there is significant potential to increase production in countries such as China, India, Mozambique and Indonesia. A yield increase in these countries could help to reduce the rate of expansion in South America.

Soy production is expected to increase rapidly as economic development leads to higher consumption of animal proteins, especially in emerging economies where incomes are rising and the middle class is growing.

The soy value chain comprises millions of farmers and thousands of value chain actors, including traders, brokers, buyers, financial institutions, processors, retailers, technicians, CSOs and consumers. One major challenge is the lack of coordination and alignment within the value chain, as the various actors have divergent interests. The rapid growth of the soy business has led to the emergence of progressively larger farming units which are technologically advanced and more competitive in the commodity markets.

Solidaridad has supported soy producers in increasing efficiency and productivity, which with adequate controls and monitoring could mitigate the pressure for expansion into new areas. The effectiveness of these programmes and projects is partly due to Solidaridad’s capacity to identify and build partnerships with key producer organizations. By allowing access to a broad range of soy producers backed up by strong institutional support, Solidaridad has established the necessary trust to engage with farmers. Solidaridad is now seeking to empower the soy industry’s transition towards more sustainable and inclusive supply chains. Solidaridad experts want to see soy production take place in harmony with producers, communities and the environment.

Partnerships

Among the most influential donors for Solidaridad soy programmes were DGIS, for both the AfC and PfC Programmes, the Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation, for the Collaboration for Forests and Agriculture (CFA) initiative, and Green Energy Foundation (GEF). Additionally, Solidaridad is working with companies including COFCO International, ADM, Cargill and Vippy Industries. Its partnerships with CSOs cover producer organizations in the different regions and strategic alliances with Paulson Institute, TNC and WWF in China.

Multi-Stakeholder Platforms (MSPs) have been established in Bolivia, Argentina and Indonesia to discuss key issues in soy production, including deforestation and management of natural resources, advocacy for marginalized groups and influencing government policies. Solidaridad is focusing on improving CSOs’ capacity to participate in MSPs. Through MSPs in the different countries, Solidaridad is able to help public and private decision-makers influence policy and improve enforcement by providing knowledge, advice and practical tools.

As a member of the Sustainable Soy Trade Platform (SSTP), Solidaridad has played a leading role in the development of Chinese Soy Sourcing Guidelines. In 2017, the Chinese soy delegation travelled to the Netherlands and Argentina to study best practices in responsible procurement and consumption. In Argentina, Solidaridad was able to convene the main soy stakeholders from Brazil, Paraguay, Bolivia and Argentina to tackle sustainability challenges with the Chinese soy delegation.

Challenges

Soy is a very diverse value chain with extreme differences between regions. In general, the major issues continue to be producing more with less, reducing deforestation (legal and illegal), the use of agrochemicals and low productivity in some regions. To address these challenges, Solidaridad is working on two levels. First, policy influencing and sustainable landscape management ensure legal frameworks protecting ecosystems are effective and efficient without compromising future generations’ natural resources. Secondly, Solidaridad is intervening at producer level to increase productivity and improve yields through the adoption of good agricultural practices.

Solidaridad believes more structural transformations are needed at the sector level that go beyond standardization and certification mechanisms, which are currently the main tools for improving sustainability performance. The organization is moving away from the traditional approach with its strong emphasis on supporting producers. Solidaridad is using its knowledge and experience to create new mechanisms to expand its collaborations with governments, producers’ associations and business platforms, and have a more significant impact on key issues relating to sustainability throughout the value chain.

Regarding this shift in strategy, the Global Soy Team has successfully identified structural challenges within the supply chain, promoted dialogue on sustainability and examined major challenges of the sector. In the coming years, Solidaridad will focus on improving speed and scale of achievements in its five innovation areas: climate, landscape, gender, impact investment and Digital 3S.

Alex Ehrenhaus

International Programme Coordinator, Soy