Regional Commodity Programmes
In Nicaragua, Solidaridad worked with BICU University to develop the first agroforestry cocoa diploma, giving priority participation to women and youth. We investigated cocoa varieties adapted to the area, and advanced capacity-building efforts around empowerment issues such as participation, leadership and gender. In Honduras, members of the national network of women in cocoa and chocolate learned to process and market cocoa products, leading to the launch of several women-led enterprises.
We achieved a key alliance with the Honduran government to develop and implement a national gender policy, including financial inclusion workshops for women. We also signed an agroforestry management agreement with the Honduran Forest Conservation Institute for the Lake Yojoa landscape. In Mexico, this was the fourth year of our Climate Smart Coffee Lab, with an increase from five to 24 quintals per hectare of fair trade coffee grown on renovated plots by an organic cooperative.
In Nicaragua, farmer field schools used a family-inclusive model to increase women’s participation in livestock production and farm management. Digital solutions integrated into Nicaragua’s projects provided access to real-time, tailored information to facilitate decision making and planning. Solidaridad’s integrated landscape management workshops in the country’s autonomous RACCS region resulted in the formation of a multi-stakeholder platform for deforestation-free livestock. Our Mesoamerican Palm Oil Alliance partners are also participating in this initiative.
The Mesoamerican Palm Oil Alliance (MAPA) facilitated significant sustainability achievements. This increased the commitment of stakeholders to improve productivity, reduce greenhouse gases, protect biodiversity, and stop deforestation. Led by the sector, the Zero Deforestation Declaration in Honduras had an amplifying effect across the region and commodities. MAPA was instrumental in the creation of RSPO national interpretation documents for the region. We harnessed RSPO remediation and compensation payments by palm oil companies in Guatemala with the expectation of leveraging other funds.
PanameriCaña is the region’s leading programme for sugar sustainability. Regionally, we began working with the largest holding groups in 2019, implemented the first gender and youth inclusive sugarcane productivity pilot, and convened an international conference on renewable energy. In Mexico alone, we achieved the first Bonsucro certification, began implementing the first smallholder productivity programme, and positioned Solidaridad as lead advisor to the main union as it modernizes its role.
A year of instability
High levels of drug and gang violence, corruption, and social and economic instability continued across Central America, Mexico and the Caribbean in 2019. There were public health and drought emergencies. The United States imposed a strict policy on Central American migration north, essentially moving “the Wall” from the Mexican-US border to the Mexican-Guatemalan border.
Other external developments that impacted our work in 2019 included:
historically low commodity prices for palm oil, sugar, and coffee
extreme drought that led to widespread water access crises and crop failure
decreased global donor interest in the region, in particular from Europe.
Strengthening government relationships
In response to these regional developments, Solidaridad Central America undertook multiple actions. We strengthened relationships with government actors, in particular in Honduras and Guatemala, which will be beneficiary countries for Mexican investment related to its regional migration policy.
We also worked diligently to position ourselves as a go-to partner in the design phase of large-scale initiatives which build on our regional commodity platforms and integrated landscape management approach.
In addition, we continually facilitated dialogue spaces to strengthen trust-based relationships and transparency, and engaged partners in the co-design of interventions to create a sense of ownership and amplify benefits for multi-stakeholders.
We also articulated our MESA - Accelerating Living Landscapes across Mesoamerica strategy. The strategy is resonating strongly with Central American and Mexican government authorities as a pathway to driving implementation and investment strategies linked to the “Wall of Prosperity” opportunities being developed across the region.
Managing power dynamics
The socio-political climate in the region continued to be one of continual challenges. Implementation required agility, trust-based relationships, and excellent communication and facilitations skills. We sought to balance interests and manage complex power dynamics.
The multi-stakeholder Zero Deforestation Declaration led by the palm oil sector was facilitated by Solidaridad in Honduras. The declaration rapidly moved into an unprecedented validation process, reaching new levels of transparency, dialogue, and policy development. Guatemala and Nicaragua began advancing on similar zero deforestation commitments.
Validating digital tools
Farm Diary and other digital tools for landscape performance measurement of factors such as biodiversity monitoring and weather forecasting were validated in the field. Multiple private sector companies and government stakeholders expressed their interest in adopting the tools through a fee-for-service model.
PanameriCaña’s fee-for-service model became the accepted norm for technical assistance provision to private sector actors. This model has great promise for adaptation to other sectors and areas of specialization, such as the development of gender-inclusive committees, policies, and development strategies with our private sector partners.
Facilitating regenerative economies
Thanks to MESA, Solidaridad Central America was increasingly the partner of choice for governments, private sector and corporate actors, multilateral organizations and local civil society organizations. This was particularly true for the articulation, co-design and implementation of our visionary, enduring, multi-beneficiary approaches to the transition to a circular and regenerative economy.
In 2019, 78,613 producers and workers implemented good practices, 79,035 producers and workers were trained in good practices, and 11,200 producers and workers increased their productivity, their income, or both. Regionally, 69 companies worked closely with Solidaridad to adopt sustainable practices, on 579,069 hectares.
Building new relationships
In 2019, Solidaridad Central America continued to build relationships with private and public sector partners, including Coca Cola, Barry Callebaut, Cargill, Louis Dreyfus, Syngenta, Olam, and ECOM. These are in addition to our long-term relationships with the Dutch Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Henkel, and Bayer.
Several impact investors, including Althelia, FMO - the Netherlands Development Finance Company, and Finance in Motion, signaled strong interest in the landscape investment portfolio we are developing.
Ongoing funding from Global Environment Facility
We pursued and received verbal confirmation of funding from the Global Environment Facility in Honduras for two different projects under its GEF-6 mechanism. These are to be launched in mid-2020. Solidaridad is already a key partner for GEF-7 strategy development and implementation, with opportunities for even more significant funding over the next few years.
Other funding successes include an extension of support from vegetable oils producer AAK for smallholder support in the palm oil sector in Mexico. We also won a tender in partnership with GFA Consulting for a project led by the German Agency for International Cooperation (GIZ) project and funded by the International Climate Initiative (IKI) in new markets (pineapple and banana in Dominican Republic and Costa Rica).
We are successfully implementing a fee-for-service model among sugar mills in Mexico, as well as facilitating and executing remediation and compensation funds with palm companies in Guatemala.
MESA – our flagship landscape strategy
Significant resources were invested in the development of MESA - Accelerating Living Landscapes across Mesoamerica. This regional sustainable landscape strategy aims to support the transition to a regenerative and circular economy across the region. MESA has already led to new opportunities in multiple high-priority landscapes, including:
the Forest Corridor and Lago Yojoa in Honduras
the mining triangle of Nicaragua
the southern coast and southern Peten regions of Guatemala
the Montes Azules area of Mexico
the banana and pineapple supply chains in Costa Rica and the Dominican Republic.
Innovative ways of supporting the SDGs
Solidaridad Central America is well-positioned in Honduras, Nicaragua and Guatemala as a preferred partner. We are known for our highly innovative approach to implementing actions in support of the UN Sustainable Development Goals and Nationally Determined Contributions, to strengthening supply chain resilience, and supporting civil society action.
In Honduras, Solidaridad has successfully built strategic partnerships with various ministries, signing memorandums of understanding with the Ministry of Environment, the President’s Office for Climate Change, and the Institute for Forest Conservation and Biodiversity.
Maintaining our presence in Nicaragua
Solidaridad Central America has three legal entities: Guatemala (regional head office), Honduras and Mexico. Due to the 2018 political upheaval in Nicaragua, it is unlikely that we will achieve legal status there in the near future. However, Solidaridad continued to implement projects effectively there in 2019 and we maintained our offices in Managua and in El Rama, in the autonomous RACCS region.
Solidaridad seeks distributed leadership and avoids over-reliance on one strong personality to build and strengthen relationships. Effective policies and procedures that have been thoroughly communicated and integrated amongst all staff are critical to maintaining a positive working environment and to ensure smooth operational transitions as our organization grows and evolves.
Aligned with global policies
Solidaridad Central America is fully aligned with Solidaridad Network’s vision and mission, actively contributes to our global strategy and development, and is in full compliance with major global policies and procedures. All staff members, consultants and interns receive and sign an acceptance letter for the code of good conduct, and staff also receive and sign letters for the whistleblower, anti-fraud and grievance policies annually.
In each office, posters related to our integrity procedures are prominently displayed, and information on the code of conduct and contact details are included on our websites. Procedures for handling grievances and complaints are outlined in each overview.
Addressing data collection challenges
The different types of intervention and mechanisms for projects implementation – such as direct implementation, fees for services, confidentiality agreements – as well as the variety of partners with whom we work in the region (smallholders, private sector, civil society organizations, government agencies, etc.), present challenges for data collection.
For that reason, data collection tools and methods vary with each project. They include collecting data from secondary sources and gathering granular data from the field through apps developed in-house by the ICT team. Multiple studies were conducted in 2019, including:
a smallholder baseline and socio-economic study for the Mesoamerican Palm Oil Alliance in Guatemala
a sugarcane producer base line in PanameriCaña México
biodiversity monitoring studies in Honduras, Nicaragua and Guatemala
cocoa sector analysis in Nicaragua
remediation and compensation studies in Guatemala.
COMMUNICATION AND CAMPAIGNING
Supporting our organizational culture and positioning
To strengthen our organizational culture and support human resource management, we organized a campaign to promote the values of Solidaridad, and to translate and disseminate all our internal policies. We developed a handbook to support the implementation of the data management system for regional content administration.
Content production intensified to increase visibility. We worked to fine-tune key messages and fact sheets, infographics, and facts and figures by programme, country and region. In addition, we created videos anchored in our theory of integrated landscape management, and new content was developed for the Mesoamerican Palm Oil Alliance and PanameriCaña websites.
To improve our organizational positioning, we produced external newsletters and shared these with our partners, along with the annual report and global articles of regional interest. We sought to strengthen our relationship with the press across the region.
Platforms for our ideas
We exceeded our annual targets for speaking slots at national and international events, and the number of stakeholder events organized in 2019. We presented our ideas on gender inclusion, ecosystem management and biodiversity, collective learning, carbon credits and clean energy, climate change, continuous improvement in productive systems and certifications, and sustainable landscapes.
Over 4,000 men and women in six countries listened and contributed to these ideas. They included producers, field technicians, students and academics, as well as representatives of private and social companies, civil society organizations, and national and regional governments.
FINANCE AND CONTROL
Our Financial Management team continued to strengthen its performance and professionalism on the quality and timeliness of reporting. Highlights in 2019 included:
the full implementation of Financial Force across Solidaridad Central America
the hiring of two full-time financial and administrative managers in Honduras and Mexico.
The official audited annual accounts for Latin America can be found below.
Please note: this is a combined statement for South America and Central America, so numbers in this document are a sum of the Central America and South America data.