Food Lab Supports Mars Petcare to Achieve Climate-Smart Wheat Supply Chain

Mars Petcare, with project support from the Food Lab, has become the first company to deliver a case study measuring carbon using the new Gold Standard protocols. The Gold Standard is designed to meet the global GHG reduction goals set forth in the Paris Agreement.

The Australian Petcare team with guidance from Elizabeth Reaves, our Senior Program Director for Agriculture and the Environment, has developed a Soil Health Initiative in the New South Wales region of Australia. The goal of the program is to enable farmers to reduce their GHG

Mars Petcare, with project support from the Food Lab, has become the first company to deliver a case study measuring carbon using the new Gold Standard protocols. The Gold Standard is designed to meet the global GHG reduction goals set forth in the Paris Agreement.

The Australian Petcare team with guidance from Elizabeth Reaves, our Senior Program Director for Agriculture and the Environment, has developed a Soil Health Initiative in the New South Wales region of Australia. The goal of the program is to enable farmers to reduce their GHG footprint by supporting extension and outreach, building a knowledge network between farmers, and supporting farmers with soil health testing.

The program uses the Cool Farm Tool to measure GHGs from farm management decisions and look for where the opportunities are for farmers to reduce inputs and invest in soil building and carbon sequestration practices. The program’s aim is to reach 200 farmers and 700,000 ha by 2022. Mars is in seeking collaborative partners in the region with wheat, canola, barley, corn, or feed sourcing footprints in the region to join in and be part of the first supply chain driven soil health initiative in Australia.

Read more here.

The Food Lab Joins Bold Effort to Turn Agriculture from a Major GHG Source into a Climate Change Solution

Last month, Daniella Malin, the Food Lab’s Agriculture & Climate Program Director, participated in a launch meeting of OpenTEAM in Denver, Colorado. The collaborative project seeks to harness vast amounts of open source data and software to drive soil health improvements across millions of acres of farmland and change the future of our planet.

OpenTEAM or Open Technology Ecosystem for Agricultural Management, is a farmer-driven, interoperable platform to provide farmers around the world with the best possible knowledge to improve soil health. The ecosystem includes remote sensing data (OPTIS), observation

Last month, Daniella Malin, the Food Lab’s Agriculture & Climate Program Director, participated in a launch meeting of OpenTEAM in Denver, Colorado. The collaborative project seeks to harness vast amounts of open source data and software to drive soil health improvements across millions of acres of farmland and change the future of our planet.

OpenTEAM or Open Technology Ecosystem for Agricultural Management, is a farmer-driven, interoperable platform to provide farmers around the world with the best possible knowledge to improve soil health. The ecosystem includes remote sensing data (OPTIS), observation tools like Quick Carbon, farmOS and Land PKS, adaptive farm management software, decision tools like cover crop species selection tools, economic calculators, grazing tools and agroecosystem models like the Cool Farm Tool, DNDC and COMET-Farm.

The vision of OpenTEAM is for information to flow among and between the ecosystem of agricultural management and decision support tools. As the data flows, it informs and is informed by the functions of each element, building knowledge throughout. Technology should assist rather than bog farmers down. Knowledge, informed by context specific research and available in real time should make unsustainable choices increasingly irrational.

The role of the Food Lab and the Cool Farm Tool (a tool co-created by the Food Lab) will be to connect the Cool Farm Tool to the other decision tools and data available. In doing so the team will inevitably also further advance agricultural data standardization to ensure that in the future, different data platforms can communicate with each other more easily.

The Denver meeting was a thrilling kick-off to the initiative. Picture a room in which every table was a white board surface and the tables moved and folded up to be vertical white boards; moveable glass walls created indoor/outdoor spaces and the opportunity for small group meetings. From this creative learning space, exciting conversations of shared needs across diverse groups of participants unfolded and an initial plan of how to share data and ground information in scientific data emerged. The participants were excited to be working towards OpenTEAM’s ambitious goal to address soil health.

OpenTEAM is led by Wolfe’s Neck Center, Stonyfield Organic and Foundation for Food & Agriculture Research and is supported by over seventeen other organizations.

To learn more about OpenTEAM, watch this video:

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“Asetina Yiedie Akonhoma” Food Lab Teams Up with Kuapa Kokoo and Guittard Chocolate on Living Income

In 2018, the Food Lab (in our role with the Living Income Community of Practice) supported the Ghana cocoa sector to establish a sector wide living income benchmark and publicize the accompanying KIT income gap analysis. Following this work, the Food Lab has worked closely with Steering Committee member, Kuapa Kokoo Ltd, to develop an initiative for development of living income strategies at the farmer group level. With funding from the Open Society Foundations, the Food Lab is working with Kuapa Kokoo Farmers Union (KKFU), Kuapa Kokoo Ltd and Guittard

In 2018, the Food Lab (in our role with the Living Income Community of Practice) supported the Ghana cocoa sector to establish a sector wide living income benchmark and publicize the accompanying KIT income gap analysis. Following this work, the Food Lab has worked closely with Steering Committee member, Kuapa Kokoo Ltd, to develop an initiative for development of living income strategies at the farmer group level. With funding from the Open Society Foundations, the Food Lab is working with Kuapa Kokoo Farmers Union (KKFU), Kuapa Kokoo Ltd and Guittard Chocolate Company to identify pathways to income improvement through the combined mechanisms of improved cocoa quality and yield, Fairtrade purchasing and income diversification. This project is known by farmers and union staff as “Asetina Yiedie Akonhoma”, which means ‘living income’ in the Ashanti local language, Twi.

The collaboration focuses on one of KKFU’s societies of 1,120 farmers and since the pilot kick-off, the project has completed a household baseline survey and developed an investment plan for increased farmer income through three women’s led diversification opportunities: the production of yam, rice and micro-enterprises. The latter, women’s led micro-enterprises, are led by KKFU’s gender program. Conducting focus groups, the KKFU Gender Program prioritized women-led businesses that needed strengthening or start-up funds, and are aligned with the Gender Program which seeks to promote social, economic and political empowerment of women members. In Phase I, five women’s led businesses are receiving seed capital and training to test business viability.

In addition to diversification projects, the society leaders are developing a plan with their members on priorities for investment in cocoa productivity (beginning in 2020 following the peak harvest). This plan will address farmers’ priorities to increase their cocoa yields including better access to inputs, training and addressing soil health. The Guittard team is also analyzing bean quality and partnering with members to focus on cocoa flavor and quality attributes driven by farming practices.

To better understand the gap between the actual income of Kuapa Kokoo farmers and a living income, project partners are using a simple farm economic model. The Food Lab staff is working with Kuapa Kokoo to model potential income gains from a combination of secondary-income streams, diversified crops and focused investments in cocoa quality and production. Strategizing potential income in 2 and 5 years, project partners are hopeful that a multi-pronged approach to Living Income will provide lasting results for farmer livelihoods.

Throughout the next year partners will provide women farmers and community members support through agronomic assistance and business coaching. With the women’s group businesses starting operations now, preliminary results will be available in Q1 2020, while yam, rice and cocoa production results will occur throughout 2020. This effort is intended to produce insights on a farmer-led strategy on living income and lessons on effective income diversification as one component to a pathway to living income. All findings from this project will be shared through the Living Income Community of Practice.

Parenting and System Leadership: A Common Path to Mastery

By Hal Hamilton

Since I became a live-next-door grandfather, it has occurred to me that the path to personal mastery, common to both parenting and system leadership, is revealing. I notice the following approaches by both parents and leaders:

Make demands. Figure out shared self-interest. Facilitate long-term shifts.

Each of these three approaches is necessary, depending upon the moment. As one moves along the progression from one to the next, more awareness is required: awareness of oneself and awareness of others. Increased awareness then becomes a reinforcing feedback loop, embedded

By Hal Hamilton

Since I became a live-next-door grandfather, it has occurred to me that the path to personal mastery, common to both parenting and system leadership, is revealing. I notice the following approaches by both parents and leaders:

  1. Make demands.
  2. Figure out shared self-interest.
  3. Facilitate long-term shifts.

Each of these three approaches is necessary, depending upon the moment. As one moves along the progression from one to the next, more awareness is required: awareness of oneself and awareness of others. Increased awareness then becomes a reinforcing feedback loop, embedded in brain function.

When Martin Luther King and his many colleagues demanded integrated lunch counters and the right to vote, they initiated a transformative process. Over time, Dr. King had to figure out how to align with the electoral interests of the Kennedy and Johnson administrations, and he framed his vision in ways that inspired people everywhere. He used all three approaches.

Making Demands and Making Deals

With my own children in the early years, my instinctive responses were the first two: make demands or negotiate. Even now, when my grandson flings food across the table, I just want him to stop, although, in my better moments, I also want to support him to grow his range of responses when he is perturbed. Luckily, I’ve been able to learn from the patience and self-awareness of his parents and grandmother.

When business leaders set sustainability goals, their first instinct is to deliver results by telling suppliers what to do. One senior executive who helped found the Sustainable Food Lab called this “the power of the purchase order.” The assertion of market power can have big effects, but the downside is that although suppliers comply with such demands, they do so with the minimum possible effort. Collaboration with partners can generate more impressive long-term results than can compliance (just as with children).

Leaders of collaboration must knit diverse interests together with a value proposition for each player. The first stage of most such relationships is transactional and requires everyone to win something. Negotiators have to sense what might work for each party. With children, rewards for desirable behaviors can feel like bribes, but most parents prefer rewards over punishments.

Facilitating Shifts in Others Requires Shifts in Us

Parents want more than compliance, however. We want our children to be thoughtful of others, eventually sharing responsibility for the well-being of the whole family, and even the larger community. We know we can’t tell our children how to think or feel, but we can ask good questions and encourage them to be aware of their thoughts and feelings, over time becoming able to step back and cultivate their own inner guidance.

Once I was flattening several boxes for a journey to the recycling center. My then-five-year old grandson wanted one of the boxes for himself, and when I went on flattening them, he turned to me and remarked, “Grandad, you are pushing my button.” He was learning self-awareness as he imitated an adult phrase that he had heard about himself.

Recently I read a couple of books about how our brains can change: Begley (2007) recounts neuroscientists describing to the Dalai Lama how brain structure can evolve with experience and intention; and Kleiner et al (2019) sketch implications of this neural plasticity for management and leadership.[1] Both books argue that when we learn to focus attention and choose behaviors rather than following habitual gut reactions, our chosen habits can become embedded in our brains, in the functions and synapses among brain cells. This is intriguing to me, and hopeful.

As I evolved from my years as a young activist, I had to unlearn righteous indignation. A long time ago, when I helped create a complicated collaboration between tobacco and health interests in Kentucky, I used a guest editorial I wrote for a newspaper to harshly criticize the hypocrisy of our state’s senior senator—feeling totally justified because I had sat in his office and listened to him make a commitment that he then turned around and denied—but after my editorial was published, one of my wiser colleagues told me that I had just damaged a relationship with one of our most important long term allies. I had let my instinctual “lower brain” speak louder than my longer-term more systemic brain. I’m pleased to say that over the years I’ve trained my instinctual responses to be wiser than they used to be (although I’m still a beginner).

There are many pathways to greater awareness and more masterful choices. Over years of carefully facilitated Food Lab learning journeys, hundreds of people have realized their own unexamined assumptions by noticing how others see and hear differently. When we pause for reflection, we allow ourselves to see a question from new angles. For example, learning journeys have enabled corporate executives and farmer leaders to enter into a space of mutual curiosity about pathways out of poverty, and this mutual curiosity has helped propel projects in Latin America and Africa from which many thousands of small farmers have improved their livelihood, and from which major food companies have scaled their commitments.

In addition to learning journeys, extended experience in nature is another foundational move, enabling people to connect sensually and subconsciously to layers of being that our normally busy minds tend to ignore. The power of nature begins with children; Barbara Kiser wrote in Nature (2015) that, “A young child engaged in free play in a grove of trees or under a garden bush experiences a wealth of kinetic, aural, visual and tactile stimulation. These experiences foster a wide array of adaptive responses that provoke curiosity, observation, wonder, exploration, problem-solving and creativity.”[2] Adults benefit in the same ways.

One of my dear friends and colleagues, Ken Leinbach, who founded The Urban Ecology Center that connects urban children to nature, writes about one of his own discoveries this way: “I was already a smart and charismatic communicator. I cried as a guy, was sensitive, listened and led through vulnerability. I actually thought I was in touch with my feelings and took pride in this. The truth is, however, that I had no clue. I was just emotional, not in touch. You can’t know what you don’t know, and you have to learn it when it’s time to learn. My past decade or so has been about learning this new language [of body intelligence]. I still have a way to go, but I am in a completely different place than I was. I’m a very different person. I wasn’t a bad person then, just a different person. Today, my mind and my body intelligences are working together in a way that I never knew could be possible. It sounds so trite, but I think it’s what is meant by finding one’s self. It is so very lovely and enjoyable. It does not mean that everything is roses, as I still have mood swings, depressions, frustrations, reactions and the like, but by better understanding my body’s voice, and aligning it with a wiser mind process (thanks to new tools learned, better listening, etc.) I am so much closer to my real truth on a real time basis. The external result is that I am a much, much, much better leader.”

My own journey has also been about noticing how to notice and what to notice, slowing my busy and rather abstract mind, and opening to many sources of energy. Over the last 20 years I have slowly developed my own daily practice, starting with stream-of-consciousness journaling and now including both Tai Chi and meditation. I frankly wasn’t quite sure why I was doing this or what difference it made, but by now I have received enough feedback from family and colleagues that I know these practices have made a difference. I am learning to notice my own thoughts and feelings and those of others, without judgment but with curiosity, and it is this noticing, or awareness, that is at the center of wise choices as well as creativity.

I’ll add, somewhat parenthetically, that lots of experts and organizations talk about system change and system leadership without much attention to the personal, and I’ve come to think of awareness-based system change as a crucial upgrade. The same can be said of parenting with cultivated awareness and choice of one’s own reactions.

When Costco executive Sheri Flies organized a project in Guatemala with a farmer cooperative supplying produce, she learned that the coop president had lost his son in a way similar to how Sheri lost her brother. Alongside a formal meeting of business leaders and local farmers, she encouraged the coop president to invite them all to a mass in the local Catholic church, and then break bread together. One very senior business guy had not heard a mass in Spanish since his childhood. The emotional bond opened up a shared awareness of what everyone cared most deeply about, and that shared awareness enabled agreement on shifts in the supply chain to raise the livelihood of some of the poorest of the poor. Sheri’s individual awareness of connection, combined with process skills, led to a collective awareness of the realities of growing green beans in the Guatemala Highlands, which then allowed a transactional project to become a transformational project.

Cultivating awareness is lifelong, deeply personal, and intellectually rigorous. This path of personal mastery makes us better people, better parents, better leaders. Happier too.

We will continue to make demands and negotiate shared interests, when appropriate, and we will also be ever more capable of nurturing shifts from old habits of thought and action to new habits that draw from everyone’s very best.

[1] The Wise Advocate, by Kleiner, Schwartz, and Thomson, 2019; Train Your Mind, Change Your Brain, by Begley, 2007

[2] Nature volume 523, pages 286–289 (16 July 2015) https://www.nature.com/articles/523286a.

Lessons from Private Sector Engagement in the USAID Learning Community for Supply Chain Resilience

In 2016 the Food Lab joined an USAID Feed the Future program focusing on private sector engagement in climate-smart agriculture. The program became three linked initiatives (shown below), and to date, the many partners involved have made great strides toward engaging the private sector to act on climate smart agriculture in their supply chains.

You can learn more about all of the work completed in the Feed the Future program by visiting the Feed the Future Private Sector Engagement in CSA agrilinks webpage.

This month marks the end of the

In 2016 the Food Lab joined an USAID Feed the Future program focusing on private sector engagement in climate-smart agriculture. The program became three linked initiatives (shown below), and to date, the many partners involved have made great strides toward engaging the private sector to act on climate smart agriculture in their supply chains.

You can learn more about all of the work completed in the Feed the Future program by visiting the Feed the Future Private Sector Engagement in CSA agrilinks webpage.

This month marks the end of the USAID-funded Learning Community initiative, and with it, we’ve produced the Key Lessons from Private Sector Engagement. Building from four individual case studies, the document draws challenges and provides key factors for successful NGO/Company Collaboration.

“The partnerships laid out in the four case studies mark a success for company engagement with NGOs and research organizations. Pulling from NGO and company interviews, the case studies synthesize the characteristics of companies and NGOs who are best suited to collaborate, the value proposition of partnership and the enabling factors for success.”

You can read the key learnings including private sector examples of success here.  Individual case studies are also available here:

COFFEE SECTOR CLIMATE-SMART AWARENESS AND DECISION-MAKING

COCOA SECTOR CLIMATE-SMART AWARENESS AND DECISION-MAKING

GRAIN SECTOR CLIMATE-SMART AWARENESS AND DECISION-MAKING

HELPING COCOA FARMERS TO ACHIEVE A LIVING INCOME AND ADAPT TO CLIMATE CHANGE

Food Lab Member Ben & Jerry’s rolls out innovative program for living income and climate resilience

In a case study produced for the USAID Feed the Future Learning Community for Supply Chain Resilience, the Food Lab features member Ben & Jerry’s and their effort to increase cocoa farmer income while building resilience to climate change.

Helping Cocoa Farmers to Achieve a Living Income and Adapt to Climate Change follows the popular ice cream brand Ben & Jerry’s and their collaboration with Fairtrade International known as the Producer Development Initiative (PDI). PDI is a program in line with Ben & Jerry’s mission to create linked prosperity for everyone

In a case study produced for the USAID Feed the Future Learning Community for Supply Chain Resilience, the Food Lab features member Ben & Jerry’s and their effort to increase cocoa farmer income while building resilience to climate change.

Helping Cocoa Farmers to Achieve a Living Income and Adapt to Climate Change follows the popular ice cream brand Ben & Jerry’s and their collaboration with Fairtrade International known as the Producer Development Initiative (PDI). PDI is a program in line with Ben & Jerry’s mission to create linked prosperity for everyone connected to their business. In this pilot, Ben & Jerry’s worked with partners Barry Callebaut, Fairtrade International and the Sustainable Food Lab, to provide increased economic security to cocoa farmers in Cote d’Ivoire via farm renovation, technical assistance and cooperative strengthening.

The PDI was designed to be a step change for farmer impact and considered the effects of climate change on farmers’ livelihoods. Partners harnessed tools such as the climate exposure maps produced by CIAT under the Climate Change, Agriculture and Food Security (CCAFS) program to create services to increase production on existing farmland while adapting to the hazards of climate change and prevention of deforestation. In linking both income and climate resilience, the pilot was a first of its kind program, offering an innovative and high-reward path out of poverty for a trailblazing group of farmers who had the willingness and ability to renovate their tree stock.

The innovation of this program rests in the long-term financial commitment provided by Ben & Jerry’s. Understanding the high upfront investment required for farmers to renovate (approximately $2,000 usd/ha), Ben & Jerry’s provided farmers with 900 CFA (250 CFA above the Fairtrade minimum price at the time). The flexible premium supported by Ben & Jerry’s created relative stability for farmers taking on the risk of this important long-term investment. With a flexible premium in place and technical help from Barry Callebaut and Fairtrade International, farmers who decided to invest in renovation were offered financing, price support and training to do so.

The pilot program has had positive results since its start in 2016, but unfortunately hasn’t reached its full potential due to the government ban on replanting in 2018 from concern of oversupply. Before the ban took place, the project was able to help 55 farmers fully renovate 1 ha each. The renovations stand as the first large scale (relative to farm size) renovations for three cooperatives and many other farmers are watching closely with interest to renovate when the ban lifts.

In addition to the farmers who fully renovated, the pilot has also provided positive results in the form of:

  • 4,610 farmers trained in four cooperatives out of a total of 5,367
  • 645 farmers have started to create Farm Development Plans
  • 100 cooperative staff have received capacity building
  • 1 shade tree nursery has been established

This case has been documented as part of the USAID Learning Community for Supply Chain Resilience, led by the CGIAR Climate Change, Agriculture and Food Security global research program, which seeks to bridge the gap between science and industry through the development of recommendations for improved partnership with private sector actors. For more details on the pilot program, read the full case study here.

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.