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Supporting smallholders

With the impacts of variable rainfall, poor water retention ability of their soil, and often poor access to water infrastructure, smallholders are at the mercy of scarcity impacts.

Under the Environment Principle of the Olam Livelihood Charter, smallholders receive training on sustainable water management. In 2015, this reached about 120,000 cocoa, cotton, coffee, sugar, and rice farmers (250,000 hectares). Topics include maintaining a buffer zone (not planting nor spraying) near water ways and protected areas; avoiding water wastage; mulching and smart irrigation.

We also promoted drip irrigation for 7,000 farmers across chillies, coffee, and sugar in India and black pepper in Vietnam.

Under our social investment programmes (Nigeria cocoa and sesame; Tanzania, Zambia and Zimbabwe cotton, Cameroon and Indonesia coffee) we improved access to clean water for 15,000 farmers through the construction of:

  • 15 boreholes and wells
  • 1 aqueduct
  • 1 gravity water system
  • 5 water purification systems.

Showing impact over the long-term

India’s sweet tooth is well known – it’s the world’s largest consumer of sugar and the second largest producer after Brazil. Yet sugar is a relatively thirsty crop, so water saving became a key objective of this smallholder programme to improve smallholder productivity and resilience to feed our sugar mill.

Together with our partners, which also includes Hindustan Unilever, we supported about 17,400 farmers to adopt less water-intensive irrigation systems like drip irrigation, skip furrow and furrow irrigation.  They were also trained in how to trash-mulch which uses the old dried leaves of previous crops to supply carbon and nutrients, as well as helping the soil to retain moisture by improving soil physical and chemical property.

The water the farmers saved could then be used for intercropping and the growing of accompanying short duration crops to improve incomes.

Water saving results:

A process assurance audit through Grant Thornton confirmed the water savings for the farmers of around 11.5 billion litres from October 2013 to May 2014.

Another audit through E&Y confirmed water savings for the farmers of around 15.14 billion litres from June 2014 to March 2015.

This is a total of 26.64 billion litres of water saved in 18 months, which would fill approximately 10,600 Olympic swimming pools! A reduction of 20% while increasing productivity by 15%. Read more about the success of the ‘Madhu Shree’ smallholder sugar programme here.

A sugar farmer setting his irrigation pipe, India

Next section: Implementing Water, Sanitation and Hygiene (WASH)