A typical smallholder mango farmer in India earns between just $4 and $16 per day. One of the reasons is that they have trouble accessing stable, profitable markets for her crops. Meanwhile, international corporations like The
But how can companies provide stable markets to smallholder farmers while also helping these farmers to adopt sustainable agricultural practices? With support from the Ford Foundation, The
Challenges for Sustainable Sourcing From Smallholders
However, several complications exist when working with smallholder fruit farmers. First, the supply chain is fragmented, with limited farmer participation in cooperatives and other formal structures that would make it easier to promote the principles. Second, the supply chain lacks traceability and transparency. Finally, the existence of numerous sales channels, such as the fresh fruit market, means that processors have limited influence over farmers.
Promoting Sustainability Among Smallholder Mango Farmers
To address this challenge, TechnoServe,
First, the partners designed a farmer field school curriculum focused on the safe and optimal application of crop protection, efficient water management, sustainable soil management, crop maintenance, harvest and post-harvest handling practices, and proper record-keeping. They also designed an approach to improve traceability by formalizing existing, informal aggregation roles in the supply chain. Finally, to track the performance of this approach, a random sampling of farmers in the sourcing geography would be used to track the adoption of sustainable practices.
Sustainability in Vulnerable Settings
Companies must be aware of the numerous risks—including financial and climate-related factors—that smallholder farmers face. As a result, priority should be placed on promoting practices that reduce farmer vulnerabilities. It may not be effective to promote a full suite of sustainability practices with smallholder farmers, at least not all at once. Additionally, efforts to promote sustainable practices cannot be carried out in isolation: they must be coupled with initiatives to reduce external risk factors—such as climate change and demand volatility—that threaten farmer livelihoods.
By approaching smallholder sourcing in this way, companies can comply with their sustainability guidelines while also creating stable market opportunities for farmers who would not otherwise have them. The full case study is available here.
Ben Jordan is director of supplier sustainability at The
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