A bright future for farmers in India: an ambassador’s experience

As a global ambassador to the Unilever Foundation, I had the opportunity to experience first hand how we are helping improve the nutrition and hygiene practices of smallholder farmers in India, and how this is creating a bright future for the communities in Unilever´s own and extended supply chain.

Seeds of Prosperity

Elizabeth Nasimiyu

Elizabeth Nasimiyu

Unilever Foundation Ambassador

Elizabeth joined Unilever two years ago with a degree in commerce. She has had various roles in accounts in East and Southern Africa and currently works in accounts payable for East Africa.

‘Seeds of Prosperity’ is a programme established by Unilever Global Partnerships and GAIN (the Global Alliance for Improved Nutrition) which aims to improve the dietary diversity of smallholder farmers and also improve their hygiene behaviours through our Lifebuoy handwashing programme.

Here’s what I learnt during my trip…

Farmers don’t necessarily know about good nutrition

Unilever Foundation Ambassador

Before I made the trip, I didn’t quite understand why nutrition could be such a big concern, especially for smallholder farmers. You would think that, since farmers know how to grow crops, they should be able to feed their families. But this is often not the case. 

Because farmers are focused on earning a living, they sell all their good crops, leaving them with a monotonous diet of rice and sauce with hardly any vegetables and fruit. Farmers often lack knowledge about good nutrition and nutritious food is not readily available. This leads to much higher malnutrition rates in rural areas. What’s more, many of their children are stunted, meaning they are unable to develop to their full potential. 

The new programme will help provide farmers and their families with the means to improve their nutrition and hygiene practices – an important step towards a brighter future.

Kindness is a universal language

Unilever Foundation Ambassador

Though most of the farmers didn’t speak English, they would all invite us in for tea as we passed by their homes. For people who have so little, their generosity was incredible. It proves that language can never really be a barrier, because everyone understands kindness.

There is always something to learn

Unilever Foundation Ambassador

All the farmers we met were keen to learn and to participate in the new programme. They were eager to understand how to improve the health of their family. This is only the first step but it showed how much they wanted to improve the lives of their families, especially their children.

I now realise the importance of good nutrition

Before my trip, I never cared too much about what I ate. I often skipped breakfast and on most days, dinner would just be watermelon. I certainly never took much notice of a diverse diet.

But this experience has completely changed my thinking. Seeing what bad nutrition can do to your health and wellbeing has challenged me to take better care of myself. Good nutrition is an important element to a productive life. So now I try to eat well at every meal and I always count my food groups.

We can help create a bright future for millions

Our suppliers are essential to deliver these programmes. Marcatus QED – a strategic gherkin supplier to Unilever – has been pioneering this programme with Unilever and GAIN in India. It is their people on the ground who are educating these farmers on what a nutritious diet looks like. They also provide them with the means to grow their own kitchen gardens, which will provide them with more diverse and healthy food. This will help them live a wholesome and productive life, and go on to nurture the next generation of happy, healthy farmers. 

This type of partnership is another step in helping us reach our Unilever Sustainable Living Plan targets of improving health and wellbeing, and enhancing the livelihoods of smallholders and thus secure future supply which is essential to our business. 

I’m very excited to have witnessed first hand the impact Unilever is having in India and I’m looking forward to seeing the programme being scaled up to the thousands of tea farmers in my home country, Kenya. I challenge my colleagues to join this great initiative, and become advocates of better nutrition and health for smallholder farmers and their families.

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