Unilever relies on a network of thousands of smallholder farmers to supply many of the ingredients that make our brands so great. Their success is vital to ours – and we’re committed to helping them improve their yields and transform their livelihoods as part of our overall ambition of ensuring we are a successful business with a positive social impact.
In 2015 we developed the Enhancing Livelihoods Fund, in partnership with Oxfam and the Ford Foundation, to enable investment in innovative projects in our supply chain that improve agriculture practices and livelihoods of smallholder farming communities with a specific focus on empowering women.
Investing in innovation
“The Fund provides a mix of loans, guarantees, and grants intended to incentivise investment in new processes – ones which have a social impact, while improving agricultural practices and crop yields,” says Boris Rafalski, Procurement Director.
“We want to demonstrate that sustainability makes true business sense, by providing seed funding for innovative models that will deliver real social and economic benefits to smallholders, and will help us secure our supply chain for the future.”
The Enhancing Livelihoods Fund aims to support projects in Africa, South America, Asia and Eastern Europe. All projects must have a positive impact, either economic or social, on the lives of women.
“We want to demonstrate that sustainability makes true business sense, by providing seed funding for innovative models that will deliver real social and economic benefits to smallholders and will help us secure our supply chain for the future.”
The Fund in action: transforming vegetable farming in India
We buy vegetables for use in our brands, and many are grown by smallholders. In India, for example, while the quality of smallholder-grown vegetables is high, average yields are low, meaning that the supply chain is not secure.
“This is a perfect opportunity for the Enhancing Livelihoods Fund. By accelerating the adoption of good agricultural practices, using mobile technology to harness local expertise and dramatically improving training for smallholders, we can improve yields. The project ensures training is accessible for women farmers, and aims to improve the livelihoods of 20,000 smallholders and labourers, which will bring benefits to between 100,000 and 120,000 people altogether,” says Boris.
New ideas to boost growth
David Bright, Head of Economic Justice Programmes, Oxfam, says: “Investing in smallholder-based supply chains means small producers and workers have a chance to work themselves out of poverty. This fund fits within Oxfam's ongoing work to empower women and improve the livelihoods of small producers in agriculture. We will provide our development expertise to identify ways these business models can improve their social impact.”
“Projects like this aim to find new ways to strengthen our supply chain while making a positive impact,” concludes Boris. “That’s what the Fund is for, and we look forward to getting more applications.”
This video shows how we are working with our partner Marcatus QED to provide agricultural training to gherkin farmers in India.