Asia

Championing Sustainability Through Innovation

Shrinking freshwater availability and contaminated water supplies are pressing concerns in Asia. In response, we have taken a market-based approach based on public-private partnerships. Our clean water project expanded to Kolkata in eastern India and Bangladesh in 2019. We also adopted Fair Data – a unique solution beyond certification. The Trinitea and Indian Sugar Smallholder Sustainability Frameworks demonstrated how farm data can be converted into actionable intelligence for producers and others. On the sustainable palm oil front, we successfully supported a much-awaited Asian consensus between Indonesia, Malaysia and India.

Regional Commodity Programmes

  • Aquaculture

    We completed a national action plan for prawns in Bangladesh through in-depth consultation with national and international stakeholders. The project surpassed its targets for capacity enhancement, including sharing knowledge and innovations to mitigate challenges to the country’s black tiger prawn supply chain. We supported the government of Bangladesh to establish a quality certification scheme for the prawns, to help profile them on the international market.

  • Dairy

    In August, we inaugurated the dairy component of our Sustainable Agriculture, Food Security and Linkages (SaFaL) II programme in Bangladesh. Some 80% of the participants adopted at least ten good practices and technologies. More than 2,000 dairy farmers were locked-in to supply milk to the village super market (VSM). The average price paid by the VSM has been 43 taka (43 euro cents) per litre, eight taka higher than alternative market channels.

  • Fruit & Vegetables

    More than half of the fruit and vegetable growers in phase two of our ongoing Sustainable Agriculture, Food Security and Linkages (SaFaL) programme in Bangladesh adopted ten of the recommended practices. Of the 42,416 hectares of land in the programme in 2019, 72% is being cultivated using good agricultural practices. Yields improved by over 200% for some produce this year, thanks to more farmers adopting good practices.

  • Leather

    Our leather programme witnessed some major milestones. A multi-stakeholder platform was successfully launched under the auspices of the National Mission for Clean Ganga. The common goal is pollution prevention and efficient water use in the Kanpur-Unnao leather cluster. Successful pilots included reducing sulphides and other chemicals in the waste water stream, and zero waste discharge through electro-oxidation. The programme was presented to the Dutch King and Queen during their visit to India in November.

  • Palm Oil

    We established and strengthened a programme in Indonesia to provide Farmer Field School alumni with ongoing support on market interactions and sustainability certification. In 2019, the programme worked with 48 farmer groups, 20 of which are being prepared for certification from the Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil. At the landscape level, the programme addressed forest preservation, renewable energy, clean water supply, and green villages.

  • Soy

    Our Soy programme trained 380 lead farmers, 15 rural entrepreneurs, and ten extension service providers, with the objective of driving adoption of good agricultural practices among farmers. They in turn trained 25,167 farmers, 73% of whom adopted a set of three critical practices: improved seed, seed treatment, and spacing. Solidaridad also engaged leading national research institutions in India and local extension service providers to reach more farmers.

  • Sugarcane

    We trained 94,808 farmers in 2019, and brought 89,991 hectares of land under sustainable production. Over 6 million tonnes of sugarcane was produced sustainably, with yield increases of 15%. The adoption of water-efficient practices saved 300 billion litres of water, while 48,000 farmers mulched their fields instead of burning them, significantly reducing carbon emissions. Some 70 people qualified as agtech service providers, and they now serve nearly 11,000 farmers.

  • Tea

    We reached out to seven major small tea growers’ associations. With a joint membership of over 60,000 growers, these account for nearly 200 million kg of tea a year. We aimed to register half the growers for our TRINITEA sustainable framework, with the remainder to be done in 2020. In fact, we registered over 36,000, nearly all of whom were trained to comply with TRINITEA and to follow good agricultural practices.

  • Cotton

    In India, 5,500 farmers were included in the organic certification journey through the formation of 11 farmer producer organizations which were then connected to markets. As a result, the farmers saw a 30% reduction in input costs. The members who had been using conventional production methods adopted organic farming practices, thereby removing about 689 kg of chemicals per hectare in 2019.

Developments

Better regional cooperation

Asia experienced increased regional cooperation, especially in terms of trade, investment and tourism. The improvement of China’s relationships with India, Japan, and South Korea, as well as the reboot of the China-Japan-South Korea trilateral summit, indicated the growing recognition of the mutual benefits of cooperation. 

Given this favourable backdrop, Solidaridad Asia explored all opportunities to work jointly on sustainability programmes in tea, palm oil, soy, cotton and textiles. 

Regime change in Sri Lanka

Following the regime change in Sri Lanka, there were concerns about the European Union’s position on the country and the space available for international NGOs to operate in it. Solidaridad Sri Lanka monitored the situation closely. So far, our programmes were not affected.

An unofficial trade war between India and Malaysia over the political situation in India led to Solidaridad’s partner, the Solvent Extractors Association of India, to stop importing palm oil from Malaysia. Solidaridad Asia explored ways of mitigating the current tension. Meanwhile, a significant increase in imports from Indonesia opened up new opportunities.

Achievements

Clean Ganga programme expanded 

Availability of water continued to be a pressing issue across Asia. Linked to climate change, freshwater availability is expected to decrease in countries in the southern hemisphere, including areas of China and India that depend heavily on irrigation. 

Waste water treatment is mediocre and often ineffective in these countries. Solidaridad Asia is one of the very few organizations that addresses water pollution and effluent discharge in a market-based approach using the public-private partnership model. In 2019, the Clean Ganga water programme expanded from Kanpur, India, to the tannery cluster around Kolkata in the east of the country. We also introduced it in Bangladesh. 

Going beyond certification through Fair Data

Through Trinitea and the Indian Sugar Smallholder Sustainability Framework (i3SF) programmes, Solidaridad Asia made significant progress beyond expensive and ineffective third-party driven certification schemes. Taking advantage of technological advances for the agriculture sector to increase the speed and scale of its field interventions, Trinitea and i3SF have three broad aims:

  • engage more producers
  • increase the frequency of interactions with farmers
  • provide farmers with personalized information on improving production systems and connecting them to markets. 

The programmes provide actionable data intelligence and tailored decision-making tools for the whole value chain.

Building an Asian consensus on sustainable palm oil

Solidaridad Asia signed a memorandum of understanding which for the first time recognised the Indonesian Sustainable Palm Oil and the Indian Palm Oil Sustainability frameworks as legitimate frameworks for palm oil production and trade between Indonesia and India. 

A second memorandum of understanding, to jointly promote the Indian and Malaysian frameworks, was signed by the Solvent Extractors’ Association of India, the Malaysian Palm Oil Board, and Solidaridad Asia in 2019. 

Achievements in minerals despite challenges

The CORE programme certifies mineral and salt extractors which adopt good practices. Most of the entities we worked with this year are small and face severe capacity limitations to implement CORE to the levels required for certification. 

Nevertheless, we were able to train and support many to adopt the necessary good practices. They began paying minimum wages, and improved health & safety and environmental conditions. This year saw a leap forward in the responsible extraction industry space at scale, including:

  • over 12 million tonnes of minerals and salt produced and traded responsibly (nearly 48% of Unilever’s total trade volume in India)

  • increased access to rest shelter, drinking water and personal protective equipment by miners. Access to the latter grew from under 20% at the start of the programme to over 70%

  • over 95% of the mines continued to comply with the CORE good practices after certification.

Annual expenditures in thousand euros

 

Personnel in full-time equivalents

 

Partnerships

Expanding clean leather programme

Dutch chemical multinational Stahl and Solidaridad opened a Centre of Excellence this year as part of our joint programme: ‘Pollution prevention and efficient water use in Kanpur-Unnao leather cluster’. Stahl has contributed around 1 million euros to the programme since it launched in 2017.

At the new facility, Stahl and Solidaridad are jointly conducting training sessions for leather workers in topics like eco-friendly practices, technology enhancement, improvement of business concepts, skills development. The partnership with Stahl extended to programmes in Kolkata and Bangladesh. 

Reaching 70,000 palm oil farmers in Malaysia

Our partnership with the Malaysian Palm Oil Board provided us with an entry into the country’s palm oil industry this year and enabled us to support more than 70,000 smallholder farmers. The board has emerged as a key partner in Malaysia, and shares our vision of making palm oil production and trade more sustainable.

Better livelihoods for tea growers in India...

Solidaridad Asia and the Indian Tea Association (ITA) co-developed the Trinitea sustainability programme and are partners in the Tea Asia programme. In 2019, we continued to support the association in several ways:

  • to improve the design and strategy of its sustainability cell 

  • to provide membership to the smallholder associations for the first time and take up their agenda with the government

  • to increase its focus on marketing high quality sustainable tea for producer members

  • to build the capacity of its regional offices with train-the-trainer programmes to provide support to its smallholder association members.

ITA, the oldest association of tea producers in India, has emerged as a driver of corporate social responsibility for the industry, administering several projects and programmes that strive to make a difference to the lives of the people who live in and around the tea estates. Its membership constitutes 226 companies, covering 474 estates, producing around 400 million kg of tea a year and exporting 50 million kg, providing employment to more than 700,000 workers. 

...and in Indonesia and China

We supported the Indonesian Tea Marketing Association to help it become the country’s most important body for the promotion of sustainable tea. This included developing its governance mechanism and advocating with the government of Indonesia to provide it with due recognition. 

We also worked with the Chinese Tea Marketing Association to set up a secretariat for Indian, Indonesian and Chinese tea stakeholders. Teams from the Chinese association and from the provincial government of Kalimantan, Indonesia, took part in exposure visits in Southern India and were trained by Indian tea experts. 

Research and extension partnerships for Soy

As part of our Soy programme, we partnered with the Indian Institute of Soybean Research and the Central Institute of Agricultural Engineering to facilitate technical knowledge support as part of our ‘Lab to lands’ project. Local extension institutions collaborated in imparting technical know-hows to farmers, along with providing information on local extension and new technologies, practices and scientific advisories.

Castor programme renewed

The results of Pragati, our Castor programme, were so promising that our partners BASF, Arkema and Jayant Agro-Organics Limited (JAOL) signed phase two this year, extending the programme to 2022. Phase one saw a 50% increase in yields, accompanied by a 25% reduction in water consumption. It comprised over 1,000 farmers and ended in 2018. 

Organization

Strengthening the team

Solidaridad Asia hired 207 new staff members in 2019, mainly for the new China office following the merger of Solidaridad China, and South and South East Asia. We also strengthened the following areas: 

  • the NISCOP palm oil project in Indonesia and Malaysia
  • a new soy project
  • two cotton initiatives in India
  • expanded water project for the leather industry. 

We also have a new assistant manager for climate change and replaced colleagues who left us in 2019. In all, we now have a total of 425 colleagues associated with Solidaridad Asia.

All new staff were oriented on the organization in India through training and exposure visits to programmes. For individual existing staff members, we organized internal and external training for personal and professional growth. At group level, we held exposure visits to other countries in the region. 

COMMUNICATIONS AND CAMPAIGNING

Increased visibility

The Communications team of Solidaridad Asia used multiple means to increase the organization’s visibility amongst stakeholders, partners, and the general public. Our key focus was on: 

  • launches such as the Trinitea tea programme, the Good Farming - Good Food initiative, and a pilot project for fair wage management systems in China

  • field events like training sessions for women sugarcane farmers in Maharastra, and capacity building activities to protect farmers’ livelihoods and the environment around the Merapi and Merbabu volcanoes in Indonesia 

  • global and regional meetings, including a gender workshop in collaboration with the Dutch embassy, an organic cotton summit, the Asean Summit, and the Indonesia-India Business Forum etc.

Off- and online presence

The team created off- and online materials like videos for Trinitea, our sustainable castor initiative, and the enterprise farming and Village Super Market schemes. Brochures and booklets such as 'Transforming sugarcane farming - a compilation of case studies', continue to play an important role in sharing information with partners before, during, and after the events. 

Social media and mass media were used for building networking and visibility. We posted news, articles, stories and videos on our social media pages and the Solidaridad Network website. The posts aimed to cover a wide variety of events, activities, programme and commodity highlights. 

FINANCE AND CONTROL

From 2019, the books of accounts are maintained at the project offices along with the Jakarta office and the Jakarta books are updated weekly by the project offices. Until 2018, these books of accounts were kept at Solidaridad’s offices in Jakarta, Indonesia. Information from project offices were compiled and shared on a regular basis for updating the books of accounts. 

Banking operations are now also performed at project-office level. This improves efficiency in the operations and strengthens internal processes. 

Solidaridad Asia set up an office in Shanghai, China, in the form of Wholly Owned Foreign Enterprise and it started functioning in April. An office is also being set up in Japan.

The officially audited financial statements from Solidaridad Asia (SNAL) can be found here. 

PLEASE READ A MORE ELABORATE ANNUAL REPORT FROM OUR ASIA OPERATIONS HERE

 

Shatadru Chattopadhayay

Managing Director, Solidaridad Asia

1st Floor, A-5, Shankar Garden,
Main Najafgarh Road, Vikas Puri,
New Delhi – 110018, India