Development Program of black soy bean farmers in Indonesia

Partnering the Gadjah Mada University in Indonesia has enabled Unilever to make a real difference to the lives of farmers of black soy bean: a vital ingredient in the country’s popular Bango soy sauce brand. A new variety of black soy bean, Mallika, came out of this partnership – robust enough to withstand tough growing conditions.

In Indonesia, we have worked with farmers to develop a high-quality sustainable supply of black soy bean for Bango, our market-leading sweet soy sauce brand. First sold in 1928, Bango has always been known for its distinctive taste, which is due to the high-quality black soy beans we use.

In 2000, we started working with Gadjah Mada University to engage local farmers – beginning with just 12. We provided technical assistance and financing to help them improve their productivity and boost their incomes from black soy beans (which are less commonly grown than yellow soy beans).

After much research, the Mallika black soy bean was developed in collaboration with Gadjah Mada. The plant is robust enough to stand a good chance of surviving droughts, flooding and pests, which results in a better yield. This improves the lives and livelihoods of the farmers who grow the beans as well as ensuring a reliable supply to Unilever, even in years when growing conditions are not particularly favourable.

The Mallika seed is distributed free of charge. As an extra boost, Unilever runs education programmes to give farmers planting advice, teaching them how to increase yields and improve quality and efficiency. These farmer schools also allow farmers to meet, share experiences and learn from each other. Unilever then buys back the harvest to use for Bango.

We are now teaching over 9,000 farmers – including 2,000 women.