Innovating the coconut sugar supply chain

In line with our Unilever Sustainable Living Plan, this programme not only enhances livelihoods of smallholder farmers through delivering training in sustainable agricultural practices, but also helps to develop the coconut sugar processing business by shortening the supply chain. At the same time is empowers women through providing skills development and job opportunities within the value chain.

Enhancing livelihoods of local farmers

Coconut sugar is a new territory for the local farming community in Kotawaringin Timur, Indonesia. Many rice and copra farmers have an interest in producing coconut sugar to diversify their income, therefore, enhancing production and enriching communities through greater job opportunities.

However, farmers currently lack the know-how to make it work or the finances to purchase the necessary equipment.

As coconut sugar production requires specialised skills, Unilever and the Ford Foundation have provided funding to help set up a farmer field school through the Puter Foundation. Together we are developing a comprehensive training programme to be taught over 10 days. When adequate scale will be reached, the farmers will also be supported in forming a co-operative that will provide an important link to international market access as well as provide its members with a start-up loan which reduces set up costs for farmers.

The goal is to empower the farmers through increased knowledge and improved skills for sustainable production enabling engagement in the full end-to-end process of coconut sugar.

Through a shorter supply chain, in which farmers will have the skills to engage directly with exporters, we expect them to capture a higher value for their product.

By 2020, we have a target of 335 farmers to be sustainably producing coconut sugar to be sold on local markets or directly to Unilever.

This pioneering project might be replicated to other remote rural areas across Indonesia.

Strengthening women in the value chains

Women play an important role in the coconut sugar supply chain and therefore, ensuring they have access to training is vital for progress. Training sessions held at the farmer field school will be replicated in the communities to ensure that all women are able to access dedicated training, even if they are unable to attend the field school sessions.

Women will also be trained in management skills and will be supported to take on positions of responsibility within the newly formed co-operative. Other job opportunities may present themselves in the supply chain such as, training a trainer.