Rich heritage, modern practices
One of our strategic garlic supplier partners in China, Dongsheng Foods, is based in Shandong province, where the crop has been cultivated for almost 2,000 years. Skills, expertise and knowledge have been passed down through generations of farming families, or picked up and honed from neighbours.
For centuries, little changed in terms of techniques and approach. But in more recent years, the sector has witnessed significant advances in materials, technology and methods. And the newer cohort of farmers are keen to embrace these modern agricultural practices.
Ensuring healthy land
With the rapid development and increasingly widespread use of pesticides and fertilisers over the past 30-40 years, pollution of soil and water sources through bad practices has become a serious issue. Not only that, overuse of chemicals is an unnecessary expense.
Farmers recognise the negative impact this is having, and are committed to addressing the problem so they can become more efficient and productive themselves while, at the same time, ensuring they leave healthy land and a prosperous business to their descendants.
Improving yields, income and safety
Unilever and Dongsheng have developed a specialist training programme to help the farmers adopt sustainable practices in their daily operations. This includes an easy-to-follow manual, which covers everything from protecting soil and saving water, to keeping records and dealing with injuries.
It explains how, by using the correct method and dosage for pesticides and fertilisers, the farmers can decrease costs and improve yields, thus increasing their income.
Since keeping pesticides in the home is common, it also covers personal health and safety. Through the training, they learn the correct way to store and handle chemicals, and collect and dispose of the waste. This helps create a safe, clean environment in their homes, fields and villages.
Tao Wu, Dongsheng’s Agriculture Manager, says: “After training, the environment in and around the farm improves. There is no longer littering, and the farmers clearly know how to protect themselves while using materials like pesticides. And because they save costs, they also improve their incomes.”
To date, 862 smallholders have completed the training, 387 of whom are women.