Climate Collaborative Builds a Rooted Community Around Carbon Farming

From the creation of the Cool Farm Tool to our work in climate-smart agriculture, much of the Food Lab’s focus has been on building resilience, reducing agricultural GHG emissions, improving soil and above ground carbon sequestration and improving farmer livelihoods. For many of the organizations we work with, reaching and measuring climate targets while making sure farmers and the company are profitable is hard work. Research and tools from the scientific community provide much needed guidance but in these uncharted waters companies benefit from pre-competitive collaboration.

One pre-competitive project tackling

From the creation of the Cool Farm Tool to our work in climate-smart agriculture, much of the Food Lab’s focus has been on building resilience, reducing agricultural GHG emissions, improving soil and above ground carbon sequestration and improving farmer livelihoods. For many of the organizations we work with, reaching and measuring climate targets while making sure farmers and the company are profitable is hard work. Research and tools from the scientific community provide much needed guidance but in these uncharted waters companies benefit from pre-competitive collaboration.

One pre-competitive project tackling climate change in the natural products industry is the Climate Collaborative. Since 2017 the Food Lab has supported Climate Collaborative as a fiscal sponsor, knowing that a climate change focused industry community could engage a larger audience to commit, act and make an impact toward climate change mitigation in a new and broader way. And in just two years, Climate Collaborative has done just that.

The Climate Collaborative was born from a belief, shared by natural products leaders, that their industry has great potential to lead the charge to reverse climate change by working together. As a community of businesses, the Climate Collaborative creates pathways to action, connects companies to resources an
d works together to create solutions to climate change. With nearly 400 companies now committed to climate action in just two years, Climate Collaborative has exceeded their targets made great strides in all of their nine focus areas.

In the past two years, the Food Lab has been particularly involved in Climate Collaborative’s agricultural commitments by providing support to their carbon farming initiative Rooted Community. The Rooted Community, is an interactive action group on carbon farming open to all companies that have made an agriculture commitment. The group meets monthly, and content addresses a range of topics relevant to carbon farming, including:

  • Measurement to quantify regenerative agriculture
  • Resilience in small-holder supply chains
  • Marketing claims and communications
  • Score cards and regenerative practices

The Rooted Community webpage is chock-full of resources, case studies and previous webinars that include conversations like “telling your regenerative story” or “the Operations, Advantages, and Challenges of Global Agroforestry Projects”. Companies who are interested in making a commitment and joining the Rooted Community should email Climate Collaborative to learn more.  And as we continue to support the work of Climate Collaborative and Rooted Community, we hope you reach out to engage in a community full of opportunity, collaboration and action!

Evolution of Anheuser-Busch InBev’s Nile Breweries Limited Smallholder Sourcing Program

Nile Breweries Limited (NBL), Anheuser-Busch InBev’s Ugandan subsidiary, launched its sorghum-based Eagle Lager in 2002. The sorghum-based beer is crafted from local grains predominantly grown by smallholder Ugandan farmers. The Eagle brand exhibited unprecedented success for the company in the Ugandan beer market and that success incentivized NBL to increase their investment in local sourcing and local producers. NBL has also supported the introduction of malting barley to Uganda and has built a professionalized local supply chain. To date, the company has provided farmers with training and access to inputs

Nile Breweries Limited (NBL), Anheuser-Busch InBev’s Ugandan subsidiary, launched its sorghum-based Eagle Lager in 2002. The sorghum-based beer is crafted from local grains predominantly grown by smallholder Ugandan farmers. The Eagle brand exhibited unprecedented success for the company in the Ugandan beer market and that success incentivized NBL to increase their investment in local sourcing and local producers. NBL has also supported the introduction of malting barley to Uganda and has built a professionalized local supply chain. To date, the company has provided farmers with training and access to inputs to enhance their farming and entrepreneurial skills as a part of Anheuser-Busch InBev’s global sustainability commitments to skill, connect and financially empower 100% of their direct farmers by 2025.

In 2016, the Sustainable Food Lab partnered with NBL to consider a methodology to assess the impact from this local sourcing and identify areas of improvement. As part of its Smallholder Performance Measurement Community of Practice, the Sustainable Food Lab and The International Institute for Tropical Agriculture (IITA) designed a survey methodology, with the field research done by IITA Uganda. This study assessed farmer livelihoods, access to agricultural services, adoption of agricultural conservation practices, trading relationships with NBL as well as crop loss in harvesting, storage, and post-harvest processing of sorghum and barley. IITA interviewed over 800 sorghum and barley farmers, 19 farmer associations and 30 company agents.

SURVEY RESULTS

Through this study, NBL found that their trade and support to producers improved farmer livelihoods. They also found that NBL sorghum and barley farmers had higher household income compared to non-NBL producers. The results on crop loss at various stages were different for barley than for sorghum, given that 97% of barley farmers sold their crop immediately after harvest, while 58% of sorghum farmers were storing their grain for longer periods of time before sale.

Analysis from on-farm data collection estimated that 9.4% of grain was lost during drying, threshing and cleaning. Farther up the supply chain, loss in storage and rejections were in some cases found to be quite high, in some storage facilities rejections were upwards of 75%. This was partly due to lack of sorting at farm level. The study found that there was a 34% gap between actual yield and the obtainable yield for sorghum farmers. This gap was attributed to low sorghum prices and limited farmer training. For barley farmers, a 40% gap was present between actual yields and the obtainable yield. This was due to the need for training specialization among farmers in different regions, such as the varying soil type from region to region which required different fertilization.

 

TAKING ACTION

The company took the results of this study and engaged multiple parts of the business to analyze leverage points for improvement. In mid 2016, they partnered with TechnoServe to develop the Initiative for Inclusive Agricultural Business Modelsto increase the social and commercial value of their local sourcing programs.

Helping farmers and aggregators professionalize and improving the communications and governance throughout the chains were seen to be critical investments. Improved supply chain management was needed to better deliver technical assistance, lower crop loss, and increased impact for farmers and the company.

The results of this initiative show the significant commercial and social value that efficient local smallholder sourcing plus an effective service delivery system can bring to buying companies and smallholder farmers. The topic of reducing loss and waste in the system was integrated into the farm level technical assistance provided by NBL’s agronomist and the upgrading work done by TechnoServe with NBL’s intermediary suppliers.

In 2017, the Food Lab, Nile Breweries Limited, and TechnoServe partnered again to study how climate change was affecting these supply chains. The study was not driven by increases in loss and rejection rates per se, however the NBL agronomy lead had seen effects on quality due to variable rains and weather. The results of this study, documented in the case study on Improving Grain Sector Climate-Smart Awareness and Decision-Making, include the different climate threats facing sorghum and barley farmers in different regions and the recommendations for the company to address these threats.

With a clear need to provide better services like agricultural training and inputs, NBL has continued to examine their supply chain for improvements. In addition to continuing the work to upgrade the capacity at both farm and aggregator level, they have recently invested in a project to bring weather stations to sourcing regions to improve weather forecasting for farmers and potentially develop a crop insurance product. Understanding that training can only increase yields to a certain level and that for some mechanization is needed for further increases, NBL has been piloting mechanization (push-planters and threshers) with barley farmers, which have shown yield increases of 40% in trials and can be used on other rotational crops.

To support the agronomic services provided to farmers, NBL has also implemented a blockchain purchasing platform with partner BanQu that creates a digital production and transaction history on a distributed ledger that brings greater transparency and security to the supply chain while creating an economic identity for farmers history that will improve access to financial services.

Reflecting on the work done to understand strengths and weaknesses in these two grain supply chains reveals that post-harvest crop loss is indeed an important issue. However, the most effective way for the company to address that was to design a program to deliver farm services more efficiently, be aware of regional specific climate risks, and provide continued commercial value to the company, which is critical to maintaining the resources for both sourcing and technical assistance. The more food loss and waste is linked to key commercial concerns and priorities, the more efficient and effective the loss reduction efforts will be.

A Call for Livestock Specialists – the missing link to unlocking soil health!

For the last three years, SFL has partnered with Practical Farmers of Iowa (PFI) on our Small Grains in the Corn Belt Initiative to promote small grain rotations. With funding from the Walton Family Foundation, McKnight Foundation and a USDA NRCS Conservation Innovation Grant, the initiative has been encouraging stakeholders to explore small grains and cover cropsas a tool to diversify cropping systems and improve soil health.

The Midwest is covered mostly in corn and soybean, warm season crops that grow during the summer months and leave the land uncovered during the shoulder

For the last three years, SFL has partnered with Practical Farmers of Iowa (PFI) on our Small Grains in the Corn Belt Initiative to promote small grain rotations. With funding from the Walton Family Foundation, McKnight Foundation and a USDA NRCS Conservation Innovation Grant, the initiative has been encouraging stakeholders to explore small grains and cover cropsas a tool to diversify cropping systems and improve soil health.

The Midwest is covered mostly in corn and soybean, warm season crops that grow during the summer months and leave the land uncovered during the shoulder seasons when soils are most vulnerable to rain and wind events.More diverse rotations with a cool season small grain crop (such as oats, wheat, rye, triticale) coupled with a cover crop can keep the land covered year round and results in macro level benefits such as improved soil health, reduced greenhouse gas emissions and improved water quality, while also improving timing of field work, reducing pest cycles and increasing weed control. These rotations are economically profitable over a 3-year rotation. Crops diversification is a key practice to increase farmer economic resiliency, resiliency to climatic events and it a practical strategy to help companies achieve their sustainable sourcing goals.

Small grains were once a common part of Midwest cropping systems but are now scarce in the Corn Belt. Markets have disappeared as animals have moved away from the farm and the feed system has become optimized for corn and soy. Farmers want to grow small grains and cite the lack of markets as the biggest barrier to bring small grains back into their rotation system. Feeding small grains to livestock and re-developing a feed market is critical to pulling this change on to the landscape. PFI’s recent blog post, shares the full range of benefits of small grains as a feed source, one particular benefit being increased nutrients. Seen as key partners to promoting the use of small grains in feed and livestock rations, livestock specialists and nutritionist can help influence the adoption of small grains and help stakeholders understand their associated benefits.

To learn more from these livestock specialists, we are convening a small but committed group of livestock and nutritionist researchers and practitioners for a Summit during PFI’s Annual Small Grains Conference, August 15-16 in Wisconsin.  Our goal is to help this community better understand the landscape benefits of extended rotations and how this can be a helpful strategy to meet company sustainability goals, explore the nutrition considerations for feeding more diverse rotations, and to jointly brainstorm the issues or barriers that we could design projects and research around as part of our continued community of practice.  For those interested in joining us or learning more, please contact Elizabeth Reaves.

Following our meeting in August, the Food Lab and PFI are co-hosting a small grains and livestock feed event with the University of Minnesota and Target to review GHG impacts from changing animal livestock feed rations to include small grains grown in rotation with corn and soybeans. This event will utilize the University of Minnesota’s FoodS3 Model. To learn more visit our events page.

For more information about our work in Small Grains view our website and for quarterly updates, join the Small Grains Newsletter.

Flying While Grounded

An Introduction to the Core Tools of System Leadership

By:  Hal Hamilton and LeAnne Grillo

System leadership is one output of the Food Lab and Impact Lab, and it borrows from many colleagues and approaches. After Donella Meadows wrote Limits to Growth from the work of a team, people began thinking of global challenges through the framework of feedback loops and the consequences of runaway use of resources. Peter Senge launched systems thinking into organizational design when he wrote The Fifth Discipline: The Art and Practice of the Learning Organization. Adam Kahane

An Introduction to the Core Tools of System Leadership

By:  Hal Hamilton and LeAnne Grillo

System leadership is one output of the Food Lab and Impact Lab, and it borrows from many colleagues and approaches. After Donella Meadows wrote Limits to Growth from the work of a team, people began thinking of global challenges through the framework of feedback loops and the consequences of runaway use of resources. Peter Senge launched systems thinking into organizational design when he wrote The Fifth Discipline: The Art and Practice of the Learning Organization. Adam Kahane of Reos Partners, along with many others, applied Otto Scharmer’s Theory U to solving complex challenges that needed diverse stakeholders to act. Adam helped found the Sustainable Food Lab, and both Peter and Otto have always been close partners.

Building on and using these tools and capacities, the Impact Lab helps its members develop system leadership skills while they work on their core business challenges.

Personal capabilities are foundational. YOU are the most important tool in your toolbox. Your interior condition influences the effectiveness of everything you do. It’s important to realize that you can’t change others; you can only change yourself, but as you change, your relationships with others also change, thereby shifting how others show up.

  1. Emotional intelligencecompliments what we usually think of as intelligence. Daniel Goleman (literally) wrote the book, and even the Harvard Business Review provides a guidebook. We know that balance and equanimity are important to all human relationships. We’ve all been told to “know thyself.” Here’s a very brief article, and you can google for much more.
  2. Learning to stay centeredis partly about managing emotions but has other dimensions also. Some of us have an explicitly spiritual center, but whether or not you think of yourself as spiritual, you will want to be both grounded and creative. Meditation, along with other practices like Tai Chi and Chi Gong can be powerful. Here’s a brief guide to meditation.
  3. Creative tension is a good way to frame the gap between current reality and your hopes. All of us are used to problem solving, which is habitual and useful for simple challenges. When we face longer-term or complex challenges, we direct more attention to trends and their causes, as well as holding a vision for what might be achieved. Creative tension is the energy between vision and a fully contextual understanding of what’s happening now. Here’s a 5 minute YouTube of Peter Senge explaining creative tension.

Strategic engagementis necessary, of course, because we can’t accomplish our goals by ourselves. We need our teams and organizations to be as effective as possible, and frequently we need to influence without authority, within our organizations and among partner organizations.

  1. The art of one-on-one conversationis perhaps the most important practice for any leader of anything. We learn to listen carefully and see the world through the eyes of the other. Here’s a good short guideline from the Presencing Institute.
  2. Four levels of listening is a framework for helping tune ourselves to highly productive planning, team improvement, and project design with people who don’t share all of our assumptions. Here’s a short YouTube from Otto Scharmer.
  3. The Ladder of Inference is a great tool for helping each of us, and members of our teams, notice the assumptions that shape our thoughts and behavior in ways we’re not always aware of. Here’s a brief article with some guidelines. This is an easy tool to teach, and it’s extremely useful for any team to practice.
  4. Finally, check-ins are great ways to begin any meeting, from teams to conferences. Before diving into the business of a meeting, encourage everyone to reflect and share, even if with just one other person. You’ll be surprised at how people show up with more attention. Here’s a guide.
  5. Learning Journeys are perhaps the most effective way to cultivate new insights. These are upgrades on field tours, carefully facilitated so each person has time for individual reflection, after which shared learning multiplies with the diversity of insights among participants. These also work to engage team members around a particular question or challenge and build a team’s ability to work together.

Impact delivery is the goal of all this. We want to make a difference in the world, and we have to perform at our jobs. Here are a couple of tools for understanding systems and root causes, and a couple of tools for collaboration, either internally or externally.

  1. Seeing the systemis necessary to address causes rather than symptoms. The Iceberg tool is an easily facilitated and very effective way for a group to look at the structures and mental models that undergird what they might want to affect. Here is a guideto using the Iceberg in a group.
  2. System mappingis one step beyond the Iceberg for a group to develop shared understanding of causation and potential leverage points. Here are some “Do’s and Don’ts” for using system thinking and system mapping.
  3. Collective impactis a good approach when multiple organizations are trying to achieve similar objectives. Do we all have to agree on everything? No. Frequently it’s much more effective to have a few common, measurable goals but let each organization play to its strengths. Here’s the foundational article for collective impact.
  4. Stretch collaborationis a further, somewhat more nuanced approach to collaborating with groups that do not share a lot of common assumptions or vision, but which you need in order to accomplish what you’re trying to accomplish. Here’s an introduction to the concept, and to the excellent book by Adam Kahane.

Conclusion: personal leadership and strategic engagement are core to delivering outcomes. We need both in order to be successful. It’s impossible to create sustainable change without doing the personal work that enables the leader to show up in a way that keeps others engaged.

A CORE THEORY OF SUCCESS

More on this success loop can be found here and information on our approach using System Leadership is available here.

An Exploration Between Canadian and US Dairy

Since the Food Lab’s beginning 15 years ago, learning journeys have been a core part of our DNA, always accompanying annual summits and sometimes other events too. This year, in lieu of a summit, the Food Lab opted to hold smaller events with more focused conversations. One such event took place in June, a learning journey to dairy farms on both sides of the US/Canada border.

This was a powerful Learning Journey: One person commented after visiting Canadian farms that “I have never before heard such optimism from farmers, a real joy

Since the Food Lab’s beginning 15 years ago, learning journeys have been a core part of our DNA, always accompanying annual summits and sometimes other events too. This year, in lieu of a summit, the Food Lab opted to hold smaller events with more focused conversations. One such event took place in June, a learning journey to dairy farms on both sides of the US/Canada border.

This was a powerful Learning Journey: One person commented after visiting Canadian farms that “I have never before heard such optimism from farmers, a real joy in farming.”

This exploration of differences across the border arose from a crisis in US dairy: financial hardship, suicides, and farmers ending their businesses. Cabot Cheese, part of Agri-Mark Cooperative, is a Food Lab member, and a year ago they had held a Dairy Crisis Meeting focusing on consistently low US milk prices, below the cost of production for the past four years. That’s where the idea of the learning journey originated. Working with Canadian farmers Jason Erskine and Nick Thurler, over 20 food and beverage professionals joined a 3-day exploration.  Many US farmers look to Canada as an example of how a country can use a controlled system to provide farmers with a living income. And in the larger Food Lab community, many commodities suffer from volatile pricing, often below the cost of production. For example, coffee, cocoa and vanilla farmers frequently face a gap between actual incomes and a living income.

Our time on the border began with presentations from our very own Don Seville, around the basics of the dairy industry in the US and moved to a presentation by Erskine and Thurler about the structure of the Canadian supply management system. The preceding day included field visits to 2-Canadian dairy farms, a Canadian processor and a U.S. farm.  Our gracious hosts at each location were able to share their careers as dairy farmers, what the future held for them and the benefits and drawbacks of the system they worked within.  The following day staff worked with participants to explore questions like: What are the strategies that are worth exploring that could reduce volatility and/or improve economic viability for farmers? What can be done as farmers? Buyers? Through changes to the market system? What signals would make doing the right thing for the farm or the supply chain also be doing the right thing for the overall system?

While our staff is still making sense of the experience, from our quick look into the dairy industry in Canada, it was clear that farmers felt financially stable, leading to better planning and investment in their farms and for young farm family members, a feeling of hopefulness for a future in farming.  We saw that the Canadian dairy system wasn’t static — farmers were investing in technology, animal welfare, productivity and becoming more efficient.  Consolidation and change was happening — but slowed through the supply management structure.

If you’re interested in learning more about our trip, contact us today and make sure to subscribe to our newsletter as we continue to explore financial sustainability for farmers.

Climate Smart Coffee Website Launched

The USAID Feed the Future Learning Community for Supply Chain Resilience is happy to share the launch of a new website aimed to provide coffee companies with the resources they need to combat climate change.

The Climate Smart Coffee website, launched in early May, was created to increase private sector engagement and funding in smallholder farmer resilience against climate change.  Designed to guide medium and large companies, who buy from and support smallholder coffee value chains, the website identifies relevant areas of engagement and investment in adaptation to climate change. Highlighting

The USAID Feed the Future Learning Community for Supply Chain Resilience is happy to share the launch of a new website aimed to provide coffee companies with the resources they need to combat climate change.

The Climate Smart Coffee website, launched in early May, was created to increase private sector engagement and funding in smallholder farmer resilience against climate change.  Designed to guide medium and large companies, who buy from and support smallholder coffee value chains, the website identifies relevant areas of engagement and investment in adaptation to climate change. Highlighting information from leading knowledge platforms like coffee&climate, Global Coffee Platform, Specialty Coffee Association, and Conservation International’s Sustainable Coffee Challenge, the Climate Smart Coffee website includes research work completed by the USAID Feed the Future Alliance for Resilient Coffee, CCAFS Mainstreaming Climate Smart Value Chains initiative and other key partners.

Climate Smart Coffee includes the “Basics” of climate-smart agriculture and information on “what role companies can play?” and “how different companies are acting on climate change?”.  The “Take Action” portion of the website allows users to follow a simple process laid out in the Introduction to Assessing Climate Resilience in Smallholder Supply Chains. Throughout the website coffee companies can follow links to tools and resources offered by leaders in the field. The website design and information is created to provide easy and accessible information to building resilience within any coffee supply chain.

shown above is the “take action” webpage

The Climate Smart Coffee website is a sister site to the forthcoming Climate Smart Cocoa website, created by CIAT and Rainforest Alliance/Utz and designed for cocoa companies.  The Climate Smart Coffee website was created by CIAT and the Sustainable Food Lab.  Led by the International Center for Tropical Agriculture (CIAT), the CGIAR Research Program on Climate Change, Agriculture and Food Security (CCAFS) is a collaboration among all 15 CGIAR Research Centers, including IITA.  With help from the Rainforest Alliance, Root Capital and the Sustainable Food Lab, the consortium provides the evidence-based science behind the Climate Smart Coffee website.

To learn more about the Climate Smart Coffee website, please visit: https://climatesmartcoffee.csa.guide

Practical Tools Needed for Implementation of Climate Smart Cocoa

The cocoa industry has taken bold steps to preventing deforestation in the Cocoa & Forests Initiative (CFI), a public private collaboration between 33 cocoa and chocolate companies (85% of the industry), the governments of Cote d’Ivoire and Ghana, and led by the World Cocoa Foundation and the Sustainable Trade Initiative (IDH). This effort is based on the pillars of preventing deforestation, which include protection and renovation of forests, sustainable and climate smart cocoa production and social inclusion and protection. The industry was able to leverage their prior collaboration on Climate Smart

The cocoa industry has taken bold steps to preventing deforestation in the Cocoa & Forests Initiative (CFI), a public private collaboration between 33 cocoa and chocolate companies (85% of the industry), the governments of Cote d’Ivoire and Ghana, and led by the World Cocoa Foundation and the Sustainable Trade Initiative (IDH). This effort is based on the pillars of preventing deforestation, which include protection and renovation of forests, sustainable and climate smart cocoa production and social inclusion and protection. The industry was able to leverage their prior collaboration on Climate Smart Cocoa as an input to the second pillar of CFI. The Sustainable Food Lab has documented the private sector engagement in Climate Smart Cocoa in the case study Climate-Smart Awareness and Decision-Making in the Cocoa Sector.

The Climate Change, Agriculture, and Food Security Program (CCAFS), a global research program of the CGIAR research network, leads several consortia focused on climate smart cocoa and coffee including the Feed the Future Learning Community for Supply Chain Resilience and the Mainstreaming Climate Smart Value Chains.  CCAFS partnered with WCF, Rainforest Alliance, Root Capital, and the Sustainable Food Lab, to develop the following decision-making tools in Ghana that were needed for companies to target investments in climate smart cocoa: (1) climate suitability maps, (2) geographically specific recommendations of climate-smart practices and (3) tree registration guide for tree ownership.

Climate suitability maps, created by CIAT with industry and public data and with the support of the Cocoa Research Institute of Ghana (CRIG), IITA and Rainforest Alliance, help decision makers to visualize in granular detail the vulnerability of different cocoa growing zones. Drawing on CRIG’s expertise, these maps characterized zones as Cope (lowest vulnerability – minor adaptation necessary), Adjust (moderate vulnerability – significant adaptation necessary), and Transform (high vulnerability – need to transition to other crops).  As an important complement to this work, CIAT also completed research on the “cost of inaction,” i.e., the projected economic costs of not helping farmers to adapt to climate change – and found a staggering cost by the 2050s of $410 million per year or 1% of Ghana’s GDP, a tremendous potential loss for Ghanaian smallholder
farmers and the country’s cocoa sector.

The second tool, a Climate Smart Cocoa Manual, was developed through field research done by Rainforest Alliance (RA) and IITA.  RA and WCF then adapted the scientific findings to an accessible guide of geographically specific recommendations of climate smart practices. Finally the consortium supported the development of a tree registration guide for digital tree tenure with Meridia, AgroEco and the Ghana Forestry Commission, the tenets of which are being duplicated at scale in CFI.

The case study also includes how Touton, Ecom and The Hershey Company leveraged the decision-support tools produced and how companies linked climate-smart practices to other key industry initiatives like the Cocoa and Forests Initiative and Cocoa Action.

You can learn more about the Food Lab’s involvement in climate smart agriculture here. To read the full case study click here and to learn more about the World Cocoa Foundation and its members visit their website.

Cool Farm Tool Grows in Coffee

One of the Sustainable Food Lab’s flagship project, the Cool Farm Tool, is reaching new fields and farms.  Enabling millions of growers around the world to make more informed on-farm decisions that reduce their environmental impact, the Cool Farm Tool has been used by Food Lab and Cool Farm Alliance members with farmers in over 118 countries since its creation in 2008.  The Cool Farm Tool helps farmers quickly and easily track greenhouse gas emissions, water usage, biodiversity and in the near future food & loss waste.

Since its inception

One of the Sustainable Food Lab’s flagship project, the Cool Farm Tool, is reaching new fields and farms.  Enabling millions of growers around the world to make more informed on-farm decisions that reduce their environmental impact, the Cool Farm Tool has been used by Food Lab and Cool Farm Alliance members with farmers in over 118 countries since its creation in 2008.  The Cool Farm Tool helps farmers quickly and easily track greenhouse gas emissions, water usage, biodiversity and in the near future food & loss waste.

Since its inception the Cool Farm Tool has been used to track sustainability metrics in livestock and arable crop farming.  As climate change continues to threaten farmers worldwide, the Cool Farm Alliance introduced a new module for emissions from perennial crops in 2017.  The new module is being tested by companies and farmers in the stone fruit, coffee and cocoa industries.

Among the companies using the Cool Farm Tool for perennials, is Coop Coffees– a cooperative of 23 small and medium-scale roasters across Canada and the USA.  Sourcing fair trade and organic green coffee directly from small-scale farmer cooperatives in 13 coffee-producing countries in Latin America, Africa and Indonesia, Coop Coffees prides itself on long term relationships focused around sustainability, fairness, and transparency.

In February, Daniella Malin, Senior Program Director of Agriculture & Climate and Deputy General Manager of the Cool Farm Alliance, visited Guatemala for a learning workshop with Coop Coffees and a number of its suppliers.  Looking to further its Carbon, Climate and Coffee initiative, Coop Coffees will be piloting the Cool Farm Tool with smallholder coffee farmers in Peru, Guatemala, Honduras and Mexico.  Using the Cool Farm Tool will allow Coop Coffees to track total carbon draw-down in organic coffee farms, an important part of their “carbon premium”, a “Carbon Tax” of .03/lb on green coffee added to all coffees sold to roasters. This “carbon tax” is paid directly to exemplary suppliers to compensate for the environmental services they provide. The model created by Coop Coffees creates a simple, financing mechanism to help offset the collective carbon footprint of Coop Coffees and provide the financial support for climate adaptation. Funds are invested within the supply chain to support “carbon farming” and best organic agricultural practices (enhanced composting, pruning and other soil building practices, reforestation, etc.) and farmer-to-farmer learning opportunities.

To learn more about Coop Coffees and their project with the Cool Farm Tool visit their website.

Photo Credit: Nick Beadleston

Webinar: Lessons Learned: Two Years of Small Grains in the Corn Belt

As part of our Small Grains in the Corn Belt initiative, Practical Farmers of Iowa (PFI) and the Food Lab are asking the questions: Can farmers be profitable when adding a small grain and cover crop to their corn and soy rotation?  What additional sustainability value can be captured by the supply chain? Is it measurable and can the tools used to measure give results that are both useful feedback for farmers and lead to more informed action and investment by the supply chain as they verify impact?

Around 20

As part of our Small Grains in the Corn Belt initiative, Practical Farmers of Iowa (PFI) and the Food Lab are asking the questions: Can farmers be profitable when adding a small grain and cover crop to their corn and soy rotation?  What additional sustainability value can be captured by the supply chain? Is it measurable and can the tools used to measure give results that are both useful feedback for farmers and lead to more informed action and investment by the supply chain as they verify impact?

Around 20 partners joined SFL and PFI during a webinar on April 4, 2019 to dig in to what we’ve learned over the last three years of working with and collecting data from farmers. The focus of the webinar was to review the methods used to answer the above questions, discuss the results and key takeaways.

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Data was collected from farmers that participated in the PFI cost share program to plant a small grain plus legume cover crop in 2017 with a corn crop the following year. This data populated enterprise budgets to explore farm profitability, as well as three tools to explore environmental outcomes: Resource Stewardship Evaluation Tool (RSET), Fieldprint® Calculator and Cool Farm Tool. The survey also captured management changes, including changes in inputs to the corn year.

Key learnings include the following:

  • Farmers are profitable when they reduce inputs and have multiple market options. Total profit and loss for an oat/corn rotation came out favorable over a soy/corn rotation. Improved profitability comes from reducing fertilizer and herbicides as well as having additional markets to sell grain. It is important to have a systems lens and look at profit over the rotation instead of profit in each year.
  • Farmers can significantly reduce emissions in a three-crop system without sacrificing yield. Sustainability gains can be measured…and importantly coached. Half of the farmers in the 2017 cohort reduced greenhouse emissions with minimal coaching, though the “best performers” were experienced in three crop rotation that both reduced inputs and maintained or increased yields. Those farmers new to extended rotations took one of two routes: they either did not reduce fertilizer inputs, or reduced inputs but a positive yield response was not (yet) realized. GHG improvements came from reduced fertilizer inputs and in the case of the Cool Farm Tool, soil carbon sequestration.
  • Measurement alone cannot drive change. The real and perceived risks to farmers of making changes are high. Farmers need support to make sense of their data relative to their neighbors and to have a trusted advisor of which to ask questions. Supply chain companies can help farmers address these real or perceived risks, for example offer risk share for short term yield impacts or innovate in the supply chain to address the lack of market options to the farmer. Importantly, data input has high resource costs associated with it. Without a technical expert to identify potential issues with the scores or interpret meaning for farmer, the data may do little to help the farmer, change behavior, and realize positive outcomes.

We recognize that market demand is necessary to pull a more diverse rotation on to the landscape and that to do that we need to line up the business case for the entire supply chain. We hope that this research and webinar sheds light on two important components of the business case: farmer profitability and measurable environmental impacts. Environmental data collection tools can be useful in serving the purpose of providing the verification that companies need to track change. However, we all must explore what is needed to make sense of that data to not only inform company strategies, but also provide good coaching back to farmers on how to turn the tool outputs into actionable information.

Watch the webinar or view the slides! Learn more about our Small Grains in the Corn Belt Initiative.

Questions? Contact Elizabeth Reaves at [email protected].

Food Lab Member AB InBev tackles Climate-Smart Awareness in Uganda’s Grain Sector

As part of the USAID Learning Community for Supply Chain Resilience, the Sustainable Food Lab worked with the beverage company AB InBev and its Uganda subsidiary Nile Breweries to explore ways to increase the resilience of small-scale grain farmers to the effects of climate change. The case study on Improving Grain Sector Climate-Smart Awareness and Decision-Making documents the process and results of that study.

Seeking to improve their supply chains of sorghum and barley through local sourcing and sustainability commitments, Nile Breweries Limited leveraged the Guide to Assessing Climate Resilience in

As part of the USAID Learning Community for Supply Chain Resilience, the Sustainable Food Lab worked with the beverage company AB InBev and its Uganda subsidiary Nile Breweries to explore ways to increase the resilience of small-scale grain farmers to the effects of climate change. The case study on Improving Grain Sector Climate-Smart Awareness and Decision-Making documents the process and results of that study.

Seeking to improve their supply chains of sorghum and barley through local sourcing and sustainability commitments, Nile Breweries Limited leveraged the Guide to Assessing Climate Resilience in Smallholder Supply Chains to further understand their climate risks and the possible interventions available to build resilience to climate change.

Working with on the ground partner TechnoServe, in collaboration with IITA and the National Agricultural Research Organization (NARO), and by harnessing CIAT’s climate suitability maps, the pilot provided AB InBev with tools that showed financial implications of inaction and illustrated steps to take action against climate change.

As a learning partner in the USAID Supply Chain Resilience Learning Community, the Food Lab also highlights the challenge that private sector actors like AB InBev face when justifying the allocation of internal resources to combat climate change and the overall complexity of working with smallholder farmers. By creating lessons that were useful but simple, the Food Lab and TechnoServe were able to create a better understanding of the need for climate investments.  According to AB InBev Agro Manager, Theunis Coetzee, the value of the pilot was “mostly to confirm perceptions – having it quantified and written enables [me] to make the case for resources because it is better for swaying decision-makers”.  From this project, Nile Breweries Limited has proposed a number of projects to improve farmer resilience and continue to provide value throughout their supply chain.

To learn more about AB inBev and their sustainability efforts, visit their website.  And to explore TechnoServe’s projects worldwide visit technoserve.org.

Vanilla can be a Profitable and Climate-Smart Crop for Smallholder Farmers

Don Seville, Executive Director of the Food Lab, is a facilitator of the Sustainable Vanilla Initiative (SVI), an industry initiative, which aims to promote the long-term stable supply of high quality, natural vanilla, produced in a socially, environmentally and economically sustainable way, benefiting all partners along the value chain.

On a recent trip to Uganda, Don joined SVI members to rally for increased regulations and policies that seek to improve the sustainability of the vanilla sector.  Through meetings with over 35 individuals including exporters and representatives from the Minister of Agriculture, the

Don Seville, Executive Director of the Food Lab, is a facilitator of the Sustainable Vanilla Initiative (SVI), an industry initiative, which aims to promote the long-term stable supply of high quality, natural vanilla, produced in a socially, environmentally and economically sustainable way, benefiting all partners along the value chain.

On a recent trip to Uganda, Don joined SVI members to rally for increased regulations and policies that seek to improve the sustainability of the vanilla sector.  Through meetings with over 35 individuals including exporters and representatives from the Minister of Agriculture, the Prime Minister’s Office, the Army, the Ministry of Trade, SVI hopes to make vanilla a profitable and climate-smart crop for smallholder farmers.  The Food Lab looks forward to continued conversations with the Ugandan Government, Exporters association and Sustainable Vanilla Initiative to drive this vision forward.

Learn more about SVI and Don’s recent trip in this news segment, produced by NTV Uganda:

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SVI is co hosted by IDH, the Sustainable Trade InitiativeTo learn more about the Food Lab’s involvement in SVI visit our webpage.

U.S. Organic Grains Report

In collaboration with the Organic Trade Association, the Organic Grain Collaboration has co-authored a new report, titled “U.S. Organic Grain – How to Keep It Growing“. The report includes information on organic grain production, market trends and the barriers to expanding domestic organic grain production as well as industry solutions to overcome these barriers. A press release and download of the full report is available on the Organic Trade Association’s website.

“This insightful and useful report is an example of what happens when organic companies work together to help empower

In collaboration with the Organic Trade Association, the Organic Grain Collaboration has co-authored a new report, titled “U.S. Organic Grain – How to Keep It Growing“. The report includes information on organic grain production, market trends and the barriers to expanding domestic organic grain production as well as industry solutions to overcome these barriers. A press release and download of the full report is available on the Organic Trade Association’s website.

“This insightful and useful report is an example of what happens when organic companies work together to help empower other organic stakeholders,” said Laura Batcha, CEO and Executive Director of the Organic Trade Association. “For organic to keep advancing, everyone in the organic supply chain has to collaborate, and this new information provides a roadmap to ensure and improve the future of organic grain production in the U.S.”

The Organic Grain Collaboration is a pre-competitive industry effort stewarded by the Sustainable Food Lab in collaboration with organic food companies from across the supply chain. Elizabeth Reaves, Senior Program Director, contributes to the report and notes that, “Organic grain crops are a financially viable choice for American farmers, and the industry is mobilized to reduce the barriers and increase the number of organic grain producers while supporting sustainable growth and farm viability.”

Finding a Catalyst for Change in Agriculture- PODCAST

Elizabeth Reaves, our Senior Program Director of Agriculture and Environment, is featured in Our Farms, Our Future podcast produced by SARE exploring a catalyst for change in agriculture.

Listen to Episode 021: “Finding a Catalyst for Change in Agriculturehere or download from iTunes or Stitcher.

Elizabeth Reaves, our Senior Program Director of Agriculture and Environment, is featured in Our Farms, Our Future podcast produced by SARE exploring a catalyst for change in agriculture.

Listen to Episode 021: “Finding a Catalyst for Change in Agriculturehere or download from iTunes or Stitcher.

The Climate-Smart Agriculture Papers

The Sustainable Food Lab is happy to announce the publication of The Climate-Smart Agriculture Papers, Investigating the Business of a Productive, Resilient and Low Emission Future.  This book is a collection of research focusing on climate-smart agriculture and includes authors from over 30 institutions.  The material covers conversations around climate impacts, climate-smart varieties, farm management, supply and value chain risk reduction and scaling of climate risks reduction strategies.

Chapter 19, One Size Does Not Fit All: Private-Sector Perspectives on Climate Change, Agriculture and Adaptation, was co written by SFL’s Kealy Sloan and

The Sustainable Food Lab is happy to announce the publication of The Climate-Smart Agriculture Papers, Investigating the Business of a Productive, Resilient and Low Emission Future.  This book is a collection of research focusing on climate-smart agriculture and includes authors from over 30 institutions.  The material covers conversations around climate impacts, climate-smart varieties, farm management, supply and value chain risk reduction and scaling of climate risks reduction strategies.

Chapter 19, One Size Does Not Fit All: Private-Sector Perspectives on Climate Change, Agriculture and Adaptation, was co written by SFL’s Kealy Sloan and Stephanie Daniels.  The chapter focuses on how private-sector actors from different parts of the supply chain view, understand, and engage with climate change and the promotion of climate-smart agriculture practices.  The chapter draws directly from 42 private sector interviews with firms working in coffee, cocoa and other commodity crops.  Findings indicate that:

“Many food and beverage companies already support action on climate change, at least in general terms. Most, however, say that they need more guidance on climate risks and CSA solutions, in order to deepen and scale their engagement”

The chapter recommends the following efforts to encourage private supply chain actors involvement in climate-smart agriculture : (i) offering granular, subnational-level climate-risk data that will allow companies to integrate CSA into their broader risk-management strategies; (ii) providing CSA information and resources that are tailored to companies’ specific position within the supply- chain; and (iii) emphasizing the business case for CSA to make CSA uptake viable for companies that are held accountable to revenue goals.

A full copy of The Climate-Smart Agriculture Papers can be downloaded here.

A Green New Deal for global agriculture could accomplish carbon neutrality

In a recent THE WEEK article Ryan Cooper argues that, “A Green New Deal for cars would be easier than you think.”

Electric cars and buses are now cost-competitive, and they are getting cheaper and better every month. Cooper says that “China has been building them like crazy.” Much of the technology and infrastructure already exists, but to get the job done fast, government needs to heavily subsidize electric vehicles and/or tax gas and diesel ones, just like Norway.

For agriculture a focus on soil carbon pulls planet-warming gases out

In a recent THE WEEK article Ryan Cooper argues that, “A Green New Deal for cars would be easier than you think.”

Electric cars and buses are now cost-competitive, and they are getting cheaper and better every month. Cooper says that “China has been building them like crazy.” Much of the technology and infrastructure already exists, but to get the job done fast, government needs to heavily subsidize electric vehicles and/or tax gas and diesel ones, just like Norway.

For agriculture a focus on soil carbon pulls planet-warming gases out of the atmosphere while also reducing the need for fertilizer and providing other ecological benefits. Farmers could implement a win-win set of measures, if they receive the incentives. Farmers and food companies could be heroes on climate.

This is a big deal. Only rapid societal reorganization will keep global temperatures within the 1.5 degrees Celsius threshold that is the conservative safety-conscious goal.

The agriculture system would need to focus on building soil organic matter as a centerpiece, along with energy efficiencies and preserving forests and grasslands. Farming would NOT need to shift to only small organic farms, and consumers would NOT need to quit eating meat. Farmers would only need to do what many already want to do. Iowa farmer Jeremy Gustafson reduced his GHG emissions to two-thirds of the state average by using an oats and legume cover crop between corn and soybeans, but he told a recent group of food company representatives that he couldn’t afford to take the risk on all his acreage. Just as with transportation, a widescale shift to soil-building practices will require public investment in transition costs and market pull for rotation crops.

Companies can play a role, beginning with ambitious goals for their own supply chains and partnering with one another and government to achieve those goals. Unfortunately, most companies focus ONLY on their own supply chains and ONLY on pushing practices for those specific crops. That’s not enough. Farmers don’t produce single crops; they produce multiple products, and shifts in farming systems require incentives for whole farming systems. Agriculture faces a leadership vacuum at the level of impacts of the whole system.

Think of the US Midwest Corn Belt, or the grain belts in Argentina, Ukraine or Australia. All of these systems are highly productive and efficient within the metrics of an old paradigm: production per cost of inputs with relatively predictable weather. To produce good yields into the future, farmers are now going to need soils that hold more moisture and fertility. Higher temperatures and volatile rainfall are unavoidable.

Fortunately, weather resilient farming is also ecologically beneficial. For example, when soils contain more organic matter from complex rotations, farmers need to apply less fertilizer, and water quality improves. Also, because high-organic-matter soil holds more water, less irrigation in dry regions leads to healthier aquifers and less energy needed for pumping water.

Who are the leaders to analyze and adjust the whole system? Even if some corporate VPs have carbon sequestration in scope of their jobs, they only focus on their own raw materials. Who focuses on the whole Corn Belt or all of the wheat/barley/canola rotation of New South Wales? Those systems desperately need soil building rotations. Period. Simple as that. We know the best varieties of cover crops, small grains and legumes. We know what sort of technical assistance and peer learning best support farmers. We know that farmers can’t bear the costs and risks alone. We don’t yet have leadership with enough influence to pull together the necessary market and public incentives for farmers to shift.

That’s the leadership charge. The clock is ticking. Companies and government are both needed.

Collaboration on climate change is not a new idea. France and Australia have made public commitments. Many companies have their own commitments. Key players at the World Economic Forum and the COP gatherings have developed coalitions.

Agriculture is still marginal in these fora, although interest is growing. California and France have launched a Global Soil Heath Challenge, and the UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) has a Global Soil Partnership.

The moment is ripe for more cross-sector commitments to keep and build carbon in soil, trees and grasslands while supporting the viability of farming. This would be a Green New Deal for agriculture, operationalized in each key farming system around the world. We know how. We need courageous leadership to get it done.

-This reflection was written in collaboration by the SFL team.

Sustainable Food Lab

Sustainable Food LabInvesting in Youth in Coffee Growing CommunitiesLiving Income Community of Practice Wraps up 2018Open Source Soil Health Communications ToolkitLiving Income WebinarSmall Grains in the Corn Belt NewsletterCool Farm Water Tool Methodology is now PublishedNext Stop for Impact Lab Fellows: How Managed Markets Might Enable Farmers to make Sustainability InvestmentsBusiness Action on Supply Chain Food Loss & WasteThe Three Barriers to Business Sustainability – and how to get through themReport Release on Ghana Living Income Benchmark

https://sustainablefoodlab.org Accelerating progress toward a more sustainable food system Wed, 19 Dec 2018 13:37:43

Sustainable Food LabInvesting in Youth in Coffee Growing CommunitiesLiving Income Community of Practice Wraps up 2018Open Source Soil Health Communications ToolkitLiving Income WebinarSmall Grains in the Corn Belt NewsletterCool Farm Water Tool Methodology is now PublishedNext Stop for Impact Lab Fellows: How Managed Markets Might Enable Farmers to make Sustainability InvestmentsBusiness Action on Supply Chain Food Loss & WasteThe Three Barriers to Business Sustainability – and how to get through themReport Release on Ghana Living Income Benchmark

https://sustainablefoodlab.org Accelerating progress toward a more sustainable food system Wed, 19 Dec 2018 13:37:43 +0000 en-US hourly 1 https://wordpress.org/?v=4.9.9 https://sustainablefoodlab.org/investing-in-youth-in-coffee-growing-communities/ https://sustainablefoodlab.org/investing-in-youth-in-coffee-growing-communities/#respond Wed, 19 Dec 2018 13:37:43 +0000

https://sustainablefoodlab.org/?p=6008

In collaboration with partners Hanns R. Neumann Stiftung (HRNS) and Sustainable Agriculture, Food and Environment (SAFE), we are happy to share a new report, Investing in Youth in Coffee Growing Communities, a review of current programs and practices in Latin America.

“If coffee is to be sustained as a crop that delivers well-being to communities in the generations to come, it must offer a promising future for youth in coffee growing countries.”

Our research showed that across the coffee sector all actors understand the importance of engaging with young adults in producer communities and investing in their ability to act as key agents of change. However, there is a clear need to move coffee farming from an obligatory last resort, to an attractive option for young people.  In this study HRNS, SAFE and SFL, review a selection of initiatives that are working to engage youth in coffee communities in Latin America. The report draws out examples of good practices and proposes some opportunities for future collaboration across the sector to better understand the needs of young people and help shape coffee farming as a viable career and a driver of community welfare.

The report is available for download here and a full resolution report is available via email.

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https://sustainablefoodlab.org/investing-in-youth-in-coffee-growing-communities/feed/ 0 https://sustainablefoodlab.org/living-income-community-of-practice-wraps-up-2018/ https://sustainablefoodlab.org/living-income-community-of-practice-wraps-up-2018/#respond Tue, 11 Dec 2018 20:42:00 +0000

https://sustainablefoodlab.org/?p=6003

The Sustainable Food Lab, GIZ and the ISEAL Alliance founded and co-host the Living Income Community of Practice, which is dedicated to the vision of thriving, economically stable, rural communities linked to global food and agricultural supply chains. The goal of the community is to support activities focused on improving smallholder incomes towards living incomes, aiming to enable smallholder farmers to achieve a decent standard of living.  As a community, our hope is to provide useful methods and guidance on measuring and reporting existing and living incomes and help identify and discuss strategies to take action that can contribute to closing income gaps. 

 

Throughout the last year the Community of Practice has provided a number of new reports, tools and webinars.  As 2018, comes to a close we encourage you to review some of our new work on the Living Income Website or watch previous webinars.  This year we’ve held 6 webinars around topics like the role of sustainability, pricing, financial interventions and data collection.  Webinars from 2018 include commodities like cotton, cocoa, coffee, and flowers, spanning from research in countries like Indonesia, Cote d’Iviore and Colombia.  A full list of webinars from 2018 and previous years, can be viewed here.

 

If you’d like to learn more about living income feel free to contact Stephanie Daniels or we encourage you to take a look at the Living Income Website.

We’d like to thank our facilitating partners and members for a great 2018.  In February be on the lookout for a recap of our Living Income Community of Practice Annual Workshop.

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https://sustainablefoodlab.org/living-income-community-of-practice-wraps-up-2018/feed/ 0 https://sustainablefoodlab.org/open-source-soils-health-communications-toolkit/ https://sustainablefoodlab.org/open-source-soils-health-communications-toolkit/#comments Wed, 05 Dec 2018 13:10:55 +0000

https://sustainablefoodlab.org/?p=5951

In honor of World Soil Day, the Food Lab has created a soil health communications toolkit to help our partners talk to the business relevance of soil health. The toolkit includes:

  • An open source slide deck that connects the importance of soil health to business, identifies best practices and showcases private sector actions. The deck is usable by anyone to manipulate and adapt to fit your needs. Pull slides that are relevant to you and your audience, change colors to align with your brand, and share freely! Supporting information and statistics relevant to each slide are included in the notes sections for reference in discussions.
  • Supporting appendix slide deck with a bit more detail for those interested in digging in and a list of resources.
  • A compilation of soil health fact sheets from NRCS, FAO as well as infographics.
  • Short animated videos that simplify the critical role soil health plays in agriculture and outline best practice solutions. Watch animated videos: Leaky System and Sources & Sinks.

Have questions or feedback? We’d love to hear from you! Contact Carol Healy, [email protected]

#HealthySoilsMatter

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https://sustainablefoodlab.org/open-source-soils-health-communications-toolkit/feed/ 3 https://sustainablefoodlab.org/living-income-webinar/ https://sustainablefoodlab.org/living-income-webinar/#respond Mon, 03 Dec 2018 19:27:46 +0000

https://sustainablefoodlab.org/?p=5992

As a member of the Living Income Community of Practice, SFL is excited to announce that our last Living Income Webinar of the year is taking place this week. Don’t miss the webinar:

Pricing Mechanisms in the Cocoa Sector: Options to Reduce Price Volatility and Promote Farmer Value Capture

Taking place on Thursday, December 6th from 2 PM to 3 PM GMT.

About the Webinar:  Price volatility is a common challenge facing smallholder farmers in tropical commodities. Recent developments of a 40% drop in the price of cocoa in West Africa have highlighted how price volatility and extended periods of low prices can undermine the gains of supply chain programs. Jan Willem Molenaar will present findings from research done by Aidenvironment and Sustainable Food Lab on ‘Pricing mechanisms in the cocoa sector: options to reduce price volatility and promote farmer value capture’. He will share the models explored in the paper as well as the main conclusions and recommendations to move towards improved cross-sectoral price and supply management.  We will then focus in on one specific pricing mechanisms being used by Oikocredit and partners to train farmer organizations to manage price risk.  Hugo Villela from Oikocredit will share the pillars of their Price Risk Management  nitiative, and the learning on factors to enable farmer organizations to successfully implement PRM.

Register for the Webinar Here

If you missed one of the past webinars visit the Living Income Community of Practice website.

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https://sustainablefoodlab.org/living-income-webinar/feed/ 0 https://sustainablefoodlab.org/small-grains-in-the-corn-belt-newsletter/ https://sustainablefoodlab.org/small-grains-in-the-corn-belt-newsletter/#respond Mon, 19 Nov 2018 14:29:18 +0000

https://sustainablefoodlab.org/?p=5935

This month, Sustainable Food Lab launched a monthly Small Grains in the Corn Belt Initiative newsletter. In partnership with Practical Farmers of Iowa, the goal of this initiative is to establish the right conditions to make small grains work for farmers in the Midwest with the assumption that market demand is necessary to incentivize diversifying the current corn-soy rotation. The newsletters will share progress, highlight farmers impacted by the initiative, partner company involvement, and other relevant news. Check out the first issue here.
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https://sustainablefoodlab.org/small-grains-in-the-corn-belt-newsletter/feed/ 0 https://sustainablefoodlab.org/cool-farm-water-tool-continues-to-impress/ https://sustainablefoodlab.org/cool-farm-water-tool-continues-to-impress/#respond Wed, 07 Nov 2018 19:07:51 +0000

https://sustainablefoodlab.org/?p=5912

Daniella Malin, Senior Program Director of Agriculture & Climate at SFL and Deputy General Managerof the Cool Farm Tool is the co-author of a new article, Cool Farm Tool Water: A global on-line tool to assess water use in crop production.  Published in the Journal of Cleaner Productionthe article introduces the methodology for the popular online tool which is fully integrated with the greenhouse and biodiversity tools.

The tool engages growers and stakeholders by identifying efficient water management practices.  As many of us know, the agricultural sector is water intensive and poses a danger to the world’s ground water resources. Evaluation of agricultural water consumption is crucial to managing overall water usage, and with the Cool Farm Tool, farmers and supply chains can assess their water demand, consumption and irrigation efficiency, using standard crop data and localized meteorological information.  Found online, the tool is a practical resource that can be accessed by farmers free of charge.

The full article can be found here

More information on the Water Tool can be found on Cool Farm Tool’s website found here

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https://sustainablefoodlab.org/cool-farm-water-tool-continues-to-impress/feed/ 0 https://sustainablefoodlab.org/next-stop-for-impact-lab-fellows-how-managed-markets-might-enable-farmers-to-make-sustainability-investments/ https://sustainablefoodlab.org/next-stop-for-impact-lab-fellows-how-managed-markets-might-enable-farmers-to-make-sustainability-investments/#respond Wed, 07 Nov 2018 18:44:42 +0000

https://sustainablefoodlab.org/?p=5907

The Impact Leadership Lab is a peer learning community of sustain ability and sourcing professionals in companies.

Their next adventure will be a June 2019 learning journey with dairy farm leaders in Quebec and the US, comparing these two very different market systems and results for farmer wellbeing as well as the abilities of farmers to invest in sustainability innovation.  We’ll be using dairy as a lens to analyze the keys to farmer engagement everywhere: from wheat and barley in Australia to cocoa and vanilla in different parts of Africa.

The group recently met at the Washington State farm where the Carnation brand originated. They each created clear Theories of Change for their work, and engagement strategy for internal and external stakeholders. After that gathering, here is what two people wrote:

The Impact Lab is just that, impactful. I am grateful for being in a pre-competitive environment with thought leaders who open your mind to new ways of approaching challenges.

—Tim Wahlquist, Global Sustainability Supply Chain Director, Costco

It is a worthwhile and enriching experience to invest in my leadership development by engaging with trusted practitioners who face many of the same challenges as I do. There is comfort in knowing that we encounter similar challenges, be they personal, organizational or systems-wide, and there is great opportunity and fulfillment in sound boarding these challenges with a collective and shared sense of purpose.

—Shauna Sadowski, Head of Sustainability, Natural & Organic Operating Unit at General Mills

Membership is open to others. If you’re interested, learn more here and contact Hal Hamilton

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https://sustainablefoodlab.org/next-stop-for-impact-lab-fellows-how-managed-markets-might-enable-farmers-to-make-sustainability-investments/feed/ 0 https://sustainablefoodlab.org/business-action-on-supply-chain-food-loss-waste/ https://sustainablefoodlab.org/business-action-on-supply-chain-food-loss-waste/#respond Wed, 07 Nov 2018 18:26:56 +0000

https://sustainablefoodlab.org/?p=5902

Global food companies have questions about food loss and waste; the Sustainable Food Lab and Wageningen University & Research want to help them get answers. Through a partnership with the Rockefeller Foundation, we are engaging a number of companies to learn more about the potential for increasing efficiencies in smallholder supply chains by reducing food loss and waste. With a small number of companies, we are conducting pilots to test an approach to measuring loss in smallholder chains in order to understand the most effective ways to reducing loss and waste.

We recently engaged more than 40 multinational food companies – the world’s leading input providers, traders, processors, CPG companies, and retailers – in conversations to understand how they think about food loss and waste (FLW). Our dialogue with global food companies suggests some key questions around supply chain FLW that need answers:

  • When is measurement of FLW necessary? What does a lean approach to FLW assessment look like?
  • How can FLW reduction contribute to commercial and sustainability goals?
  • What lessons are companies learning about reducing FLW, particularly in smallholder value chains?

Our global conversation showed that we need smarter ways to engage on this important topic. The pilots being done by the Food Lab and Wageningen are designed to test a measurement protocol practically with leading multi-national food and beverage companies.

 

ACTION RESEARCH

The Food Lab and Wageningen University & Research learning pilots will help companies address FLW, targeting the hotspots in the supply chain where the issue is most significant. Pilots under way are with a number of different companies from retail to aggregators to processors in Nigeria and Kenya.

HIGHLIGHT: Olam | Rice | Nigeria

Olam recently introduced “Waste” as a new Material Area for the company. Alongside optimizing natural resource utilization, especially as biomass by-products are available in large quantities, and, by engaging actively in reducing operational waste applying a waste hierarchy to recover and re-use whenever possible, Olam is committed to minimize crop and product losses to improve food availability and reduce emissions globally.

Olam recognizes that rice is a large emitter of methane, yet, it is a critical food staple. See this recent press release from the company outlining recommendations to improve the sustainability of rice worldwide.

Olam sees the reduction of FLW as an opportunity to correct supply chain inefficiencies and put resources such as water and agri inputs to good use or at least to the use they were intended for: production for consumption. They also see FLW reduction as an opportunity for smallholder farmers to increase their return on investment, with the ability to sell larger volumes. Applying a measurement protocol developed in the context of the pilot on rice with Olam in Nigeria will give an indication of the losses that are occurring in their rice value chain which will later inform the solutions. It will also help develop key ways to make this measurement protocol scalable and credible.

See these slides about the pilot from Olam’s recent presentation at the WBCSD’s Annual General Meeting.

Learnings gathered from the Olam pilot and others will be presented in 2019 to advance our global understanding of this complex issue and share some of the simple and practical steps that can be taken to address it.

WHAT WE’VE ALREADY LEARNED

Most major food companies are committed to reducing FLW. They are committed through fora like Champions 12.3, the Consumer Goods Forum or the Global Agribusiness Alliance and are making great strides in their own operations via public commitments to zero waste or very significant reductions.  Companies with smallholder farmers in their supply chains have less visibility over the losses that are  occurring in these chains and would like to know how to engage meaningfully.

Major food companies are also committed to sustainability. While the nature of their strategy depends on the company’s positioning in the value chain and their level of ambition, the cornerstones are environmental, social and economic. These cornerstones are an entry point into useful conversations about FLW and how addressing inefficiencies can help a company make progress towards broader sustainability goals.

Most major food companies are working hard to measure and report on their sustainability strategy.  Companies are tracking activities that relate to their strategic agenda, in accordance with industry-specific standards. Some are measuring their business footprint, while others focus on improving nutrition in their supply chain or boosting producer income.

When companies see FLW reductions contributing to publicly shared targets and commitments, such as the reduction in greenhouse gas emissions, it will make business-sense to act on FLW to achieve wider goals.

CONTACT:

Emily Shipman

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https://sustainablefoodlab.org/business-action-on-supply-chain-food-loss-waste/feed/ 0 https://sustainablefoodlab.org/the-3-barriers-to-business-sustainability/ https://sustainablefoodlab.org/the-3-barriers-to-business-sustainability/#respond Mon, 29 Oct 2018 14:44:09 +0000

https://sustainablefoodlab.org/?p=5889

Written by Hal Hamilton

Sustainability in the business world always begins with quick wins. We increase efficiency with energy, water and fertilizer, for example. Those innovations save money and so are able to scale naturally.  Then it gets harder.

Beyond the early steps we face three barriers:

  1. Organizational resistance
  2. Systemic resistance
  3. Internal resistance.

To get through them, we have to learn:

  1. Pragmatism with a dose of inspiration, in the face of organizational resistance;
  2. Purpose in the face of systemic resistance; and
  3. Presence in the face of our own internal resistance.

First, let’s review the barriers.

Organizational resistance. Big wins on sustainability require new organizational goals, but organizations always push back on realignment. We hear from colleagues and bosses: It’s not my job. It’s not our job. There’s not enough time or money. Sustainability is too slow, with few easy wins. Customers don’t want sustainability enough to pay for it. If we can’t source a commodity in one place anymore, we’ll find it somewhere else.

Systemic resistance. The larger system reinforces organizational resistance: Businesses must grow or die; growth is measured in dollars this year, this quarter. Growth in market share requires adding value or cutting costs, short-term.Although business leaders increasingly see climate change or chronic poverty as risks, and many do create piece-meal programs they can communicate publicly, almost no resources are devoted to strategies that would actually solve the problems.

Internal resistance: We face internal resistance too. We remind ourselves: I need to attend to my career first. I don’t want to be the bleeding heart among practical people whom I like and upon whom my career depends.

So, what does one do, in the face of these barriers?

Pragmatism, with a dose of inspiration, is the antidote to organizational resistance. Don’t get pegged as the bleeding heart. Similarly, don’t get pegged as the anti-bleeding-heart. Create clear theories of change with crisp rationale for what you’re doing, even while looking for the inspirational openings for your colleagues. Create pilots that can deliver both business value AND inspiration.

In one Sustainable Food Lab project with Mars Petcare, we’re working on the sustainability of wheat production in Australia. Soil health is at the heart of the project, initiated by a grain buyer who worried about future supply of grains in Asia as temperatures rise. Over time, one of the key players in the company found inspiration in the fact that “my company really cares about farmers.” When she faced resistance from a key supplier, who said that their job was to buy grain, not to work on soil quality, she thought for a moment and said very clearly that all partners in the supply chain needed to get behind the long-term well-being of farmers in the region. She had become convinced that farmers needed support to adapt to a changing climate, and this adaptation was good for her company too.

Purpose is the antidote to systemic resistance. The energy of business can generate harmful results when places or people are sacrificed to shareholder wealth, but this same energy can be harnessed to public purposes. There’s nothing intrinsically good or evil about a relentless drive to generate value in the marketplace. Problems arise when people leave their values at home when they go to work because they don’t see opportunities to advance if they think and act for goals that are broader than profit seeking. Our collective challenge is to align the power of business innovation with the purpose of sustaining the earth and community.

When Dolf van der Brink, then CEO of Heineken Mexico, created a workshop for his senior management team to articulate their individual purposes in life, creativity blossomed in the business. The leadership team for Tecate, a beer brand associated with machismo, decided to take on the issue of gender violence in Mexican culture. They courageously told their customers that if men were violent with the women in their lives, these men were not welcome as customers. One commercial was extremely powerful and went viral on social media. The issue of gender violence became a hot topic. In this case individual purpose fueled corporate purpose and created societal momentum to solve a major problem. Senior managers held their breath to see how the commercial would affect sales, and sales rose. Similarly, when Unilever assessed the business impacts of such initiatives, their “brands with purpose” outperformed other brands by thirty percent.

In Heineken Mexico, the CEO created an environment within which people were encouraged to live their purpose (while also growing their brands). Most companies don’t have such CEOs, and many people are hesitant to step into a vulnerable unknown.

Presence is the antidote to internal resistance: I was just talking about dairy farmer income with a sustainability leader in a major company, and she replied with a bit of a shrug: “That’s important for the world but not for business.”

She and everyone in businesses needs to be ruthlessly pragmatic and deliver value. And, to be human, we also need to live our purpose. Therein lies the conundrum: to be successful and to be human. My suggestion is to practice presence, by which I mean ever growing awareness of your own aspirations, the inner hopes of others around you, and therefore the subtle openings to act on behalf of “the world.” You don’t have to quit being pragmatic. Presence is not preaching or advocating. Presence enables each of us to notice the gaps within which purpose emerges. These gaps occur in conversation when we are curious. We notice what could happen if thoughts and feelings connect in new ways. If we are present to others, both where they are now, and how they might shift with some new information and inspiration, positive change can become embedded in organizational culture.

Our work is personal at its essence. One of my long-time colleagues has patiently brought sustainability into the corporate culture of Costco, building upon an historic social commitment to their own workers. More than a dozen years ago, she created a pilot for vegetables from small farmers in the Guatemala highlands, during which a senior executive remarked that he would be able to take home stories of his work that his children would be proud of. Even relatively small examples of success can sometimes spark a shift in goals, targets, and habits of thought. Pilots are sometimes ephemeral, of course. They can dissipate if key people never come to “own” their importance to the organization. Our job is to cultivate that ownership in others, and the pride that comes from serving purpose.

The journey is pioneering and difficult, with barriers from inside organizations, the larger system driven by short-term financial competition, and our own internal hesitations. The pathway through barriers to sustainability requires skills like those of a Jedi master: pragmatism, purpose and presence.

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The Living Income Community of Practice, of which the Food Lab is a founding partner, released a report on the Ghana Living Income Benchmark & Analysis of Income Gaps for Cocoa Growing Regions. The study outlines a roadmap to achieve living incomes for cocoa farmers through a credible, third party analysis. Follow these links to the Benchmark Study and the Gap Analysis by the KIT Royal Tropical Institute that compares benchmarks with actual farmer incomes.

If we were to do it alone as a company, it may not be seen as credible to external partners,” says Ywe Franken, Cargill cocoa sustainability expert. “It will help us track progress for the farmers we work with.”  

In July, Stephanie Daniels, Senior Program Director of Agriculture and Development, facilitated a workshop with the leaders of Ghana’s cocoa sector and global chocolate industry to present the initial findings and receive feedback before the report’s release.

The Living Income Community of Practice is an alliance of partners dedicated to the vision of thriving, economically stable, rural communities linked to global food and agricultural supply chains. The goal of this community is to support activities focused on improving smallholder incomes towards living incomes, aiming to enable smallholder farmers to achieve a decent standard of living.  This community is a result of a partnership between the the Food LabGIZ and the ISEAL Alliance.

The benchmark study was funded by Cargill, Fairtrade International, GIZ, Lindt Cocoa Foundation, Mars and Rainforest Alliance UTZ sector Partnerships Programme.

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Investing in Youth in Coffee Growing Communities

In collaboration with partners Hanns R. Neumann Stiftung (HRNS) and Sustainable Agriculture, Food and Environment (SAFE), we are happy to share a new report, Investing in Youth in Coffee Growing Communities, a review of current programs and practices in Latin America.

“If coffee is to be sustained as a crop that delivers well-being to communities in the generations to come, it must offer a promising future for youth in coffee growing countries.”

Our research showed that across the coffee sector all actors understand the importance of engaging with young adults in producer communities

In collaboration with partners Hanns R. Neumann Stiftung (HRNS) and Sustainable Agriculture, Food and Environment (SAFE), we are happy to share a new report, Investing in Youth in Coffee Growing Communities, a review of current programs and practices in Latin America.

“If coffee is to be sustained as a crop that delivers well-being to communities in the generations to come, it must offer a promising future for youth in coffee growing countries.”

Our research showed that across the coffee sector all actors understand the importance of engaging with young adults in producer communities and investing in their ability to act as key agents of change. However, there is a clear need to move coffee farming from an obligatory last resort, to an attractive option for young people.  In this study HRNS, SAFE and SFL, review a selection of initiatives that are working to engage youth in coffee communities in Latin America. The report draws out examples of good practices and proposes some opportunities for future collaboration across the sector to better understand the needs of young people and help shape coffee farming as a viable career and a driver of community welfare.

The report is available for download here and a full resolution report is available via email.

Living Income Community of Practice Wraps up 2018

The Sustainable Food Lab, GIZ and the ISEAL Alliance founded and co-host the Living Income Community of Practice, which is dedicated to the vision of thriving, economically stable, rural communities linked to global food and agricultural supply chains. The goal of the community is to support activities focused on improving smallholder incomes towards living incomes, aiming to enable smallholder farmers to achieve a decent standard of living.  As a community, our hope is to provide useful methods and guidance on measuring and reporting existing and living incomes and help identify

The Sustainable Food Lab, GIZ and the ISEAL Alliance founded and co-host the Living Income Community of Practice, which is dedicated to the vision of thriving, economically stable, rural communities linked to global food and agricultural supply chains. The goal of the community is to support activities focused on improving smallholder incomes towards living incomes, aiming to enable smallholder farmers to achieve a decent standard of living.  As a community, our hope is to provide useful methods and guidance on measuring and reporting existing and living incomes and help identify and discuss strategies to take action that can contribute to closing income gaps. 

 

Throughout the last year the Community of Practice has provided a number of new reports, tools and webinars.  As 2018, comes to a close we encourage you to review some of our new work on the Living Income Website or watch previous webinars.  This year we’ve held 6 webinars around topics like the role of sustainability, pricing, financial interventions and data collection.  Webinars from 2018 include commodities like cotton, cocoa, coffee, and flowers, spanning from research in countries like Indonesia, Cote d’Iviore and Colombia.  A full list of webinars from 2018 and previous years, can be viewed here.

 

If you’d like to learn more about living income feel free to contact Stephanie Daniels or we encourage you to take a look at the Living Income Website.

We’d like to thank our facilitating partners and members for a great 2018.  In February be on the lookout for a recap of our Living Income Community of Practice Annual Workshop.