This week, Dr. Susan Mboya participated in the 6th AGCO Africa Summit focused on the theme of “Organizing Farmers of the Future”, where she spoke about Coca-Cola’s work to advance sustainable agriculture. The summit brought together more than 300 senior-level private sector, government and NGO representatives to discuss critical issues impacting Africa’s agricultural development.

Agriculture is a central economic driver for millions of African farmers and their families. For Coca-Cola, Africa is an important market that holds even greater potential for the sourcing of Coca-Cola’s ingredients and, doing so in a sustainable way. We know many challenges exist across the agricultural value chain in Africa – productivity, quality and supply chain efficiency – which limit our ability to access this growing potential, and we believe that partnership within the Coca-Cola system and our partners will allow us to overcome these challenges and create value together.

At Coca-Cola, we have globally committed to sustainably source our key agricultural ingredients. We have made good progress, to date, including on the African continent through a number of programs. Our purchasing power and longstanding relationships with suppliers and processors provide an opportunity to drive a positive change in practices, farmer livelihoods and sustainability outcomes at scale.

The challenge is great, but so is the opportunity. I was invigorated by the discussion at the AGCO Africa Summit on how we can collectively move forward.

Here are my three main takeaways:

Prominence of guiding frameworks, such as Sustainable Agriculture Guiding Principles (SAGP) to bring all parties around a common approach.

Coca-Cola is working to address the challenges of agricultural availability, quality and safety while also helping to improve livelihoods and the well-being of farming communities and workers. And, importantly, our SAGP outline expectations to our suppliers in meeting standards for human and workplace rights, environmental protection and responsible farming management. We are focused on sourcing our key agricultural ingredients from those farms complying with SAGP by 2020.

Collaboration is key.

I truly agree with our Chairman and CEO Muhtar Kent that “Today’s opportunities and challenges are too great to be addressed by any one institution or any one sector of society,” as he expressed during the 60th Annual Consumer Goods Forum summit in South Africa in 2016. This is true for all the pillars of our sustainability work.

To that end, our sustainable agriculture programs in Africa are built on a foundation of partnership, with a particular focus on partnerships that leverage the complementary strengths of the private sector, public sector and civil society organizations.

Examples of these programs in Africa include our Source Africa Initiative, Project Nurture and WRAPs (Yieldwise). In Kenya, through Project Nurture, Minute Maid Mango became the first Coca-Cola product in the country to use locally sourced purée from a processor certified to Coca-Cola standards: a local product produced with locally sourced ingredients resulting in cost-savings for our business.

These programs demonstrate our commitment to building sustainable agricultural supply chains in Africa through promoting sustainable agriculture; enhancing supplier capability and capacity; promoting supply chain efficiency; raising industry standards; and reinforcing the case or advocating for African sourcing.

AGCO Africa Summit

Credit: Max Lautenschläger

Ultimately, it’s about the people.

Through Coca-Cola’s work in agriculture, we have an opportunity to do not only what makes sense for our business, but for the (farming) communities where we operate and source from. Millions of farmers are part of the Coca-Cola supply chain, and together with our bottlers, suppliers and partners, we are working to build a sustainable and resilient agriculture system through innovation, introduction of new practices and sometimes the revival or expansion of traditional practices. Through Coca-Cola’s Sourcing Map, one can see not only where we are sourcing today but how we are working with our partners to make sustainable, lasting changes.

At Coca-Cola, we know our business is only as good as the communities we serve in Africa and all over the world. Sustainability comes when agricultural systems are ecologically and economically sustainable, providing a good living for future generations of farmers and in turn these farmers can provide healthy and nutritious food for future generations of Africans.

Dr. Susan Mboya is president of The Coca-Cola Africa Foundation and director of Women’s Economic Empowerment, Eurasia and Africa, The Coca-Cola Company.