2019 was a year of acceleration for Solidaridad, as confirmed by our overall impact. The number of farmers and workers we trained to adopt good practices grew from 520,000 in 2018, to 700,000. It was all the more important in a year marked by low commodity prices and drought in many regions.
I am especially proud that we brought almost 2 million hectares of land under more sustainable management practices in 2019: a small victory for nature and increased biodiversity.
We brought almost 2 million hectares of land under more sustainable management practices this year”
Our 2019 milestones
Other milestones this year included:
Facilitating the investment of 3.15 million dollars in Kayonza, a tea grower-owned packing facility in Uganda, just one of the projects in our impact investing portfolio
developing digital tools enabling smallholder farmers in Africa and Asia to improve their productivity and income
advising governments in Europe, Asia, Africa and the Americas on mandatory standards to impact farmers’ lives beyond voluntary certification schemes
co-developing the Zero Deforestation Declaration in Honduras
helping 10,000 youth in Ghana to achieve good livelihoods in the cocoa industry rather than migrate to cities
Our reach has expanded, and so has our staff. We went from 718 employees in 2018, to 915 by the end of 2019. As a growing organization, HR, learning and internal communication became increasingly important in 2019.
We upgraded our internal systems. These now collect high-quality data about our work using standardized indicators across the network. Clearer insights into results worldwide, mean programmes can be planned more efficiently. We’ve also rolled out one system of financial accounting for the whole organization to enable better monitoring and reporting, again at a network level.
Our financial highlights
Speaking of finance: Our Network continues to grow. The operational budget reached a record €66,2 million in 2019, a growth of 19% in relation to 2018. In one decade of Network existence, the organization grew from a bare 18 million turnover, to where we are now.
Writing this summary in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic, last year feels like a long time ago. But despite the fact that the world as we know it has gone for now, 2019 was a remarkable year for Solidaridad.
We celebrated our 50th anniversary at our offices around the world. Pictured here is the Solidaridad Europe team
An anniversary year
Highlights of the year were the anniversaries we celebrated. Not just our 50th birthday – we began before the year even started, with the tenth anniversary of Solidaridad Asia in New Delhi in November 2018, followed in January with our 20 years in West Africa.
In May, we gathered old and new friends for our official 50th birthday party in the Netherlands. And the autumn saw us celebrating a decade of Solidaridad in Brazil as well as the 30th anniversary of Fairtrade in Mexico.
It is my ambition in this new role to connect continuity with innovation”
Change of the guard
Energy and inspiration characterized all these events, though the Fairtrade commemorations had a poignant flavour. It reunited the founders of Fairtrade – Nico Roozen and Father Frans van der Hof – for the first time in decades. Nico, who led Solidaridad for 33 years, was there in his new capacity as honorary president.
My own highlight this year was succeeding Nico as executive director. I am only the third person to lead Solidaridad, just as it enters its sixth decade. I believe I am well placed to do so, having worked for this incredible organization for 25 years, setting up our network of regional offices across five continents. It is my ambition in my new role to connect continuity with innovation.
Nico Roozen hands over the executive directorship to me, Jeroen Douglas
A look ahead
While we reflected on our rich history in 2019, then, the year was far more focused on looking forward. We began developing our vision for 2021 to 2025, writing our new five-year strategy.
Extending beyond the fairtrade agenda to craft policy change, we will strive to achieve lasting benefits for the communities around farmers and workers, financially and environmentally. We will be leveraging our five decades of experience and expertise. And bringing together stakeholders from across the value chain.
I hope you will continue to support us in that ambition. Global solidarity will be much needed in the times to come.
Planning the next step in our journey