Helping young entrepreneurs

We want to help more young people benefit from our business. We provide training to enable them to work in the agricultural sector, as well as in our brands’ distribution channels.

Young farmers are vital to our future

The World Bank says that supporting smallholder farming is the most effective way of stimulating economic development and reducing poverty1. However, there is a global trend of people leaving the farming sector to move to cities and/or work in other industries. Research published by International Food and Agribusiness Management shows that the average age of farmers worldwide is now around 582.

Our approach

We have a business need to increase the participation of young entrepreneurs in our value chain. Supplies of agricultural raw materials for our business will be threatened if new farmers are not brought into the farming sector.

As we grow our business, we will also need more people to distribute our brands to customers and consumers. This will help to create jobs and combat high youth unemployment, as well as provide young people with an opportunity to share in the wealth that our operations generate. Through our Unilever Sustainable Living Plan we have set a target to train and enable young people to participate in the agricultural business sector and in the distribution channels of our brands to market.

So far, we have focused our efforts largely through our supply chain, procurement and customer development teams. To amplify our impact, in 2015 we initiated a more holistic approach to how the Unilever Foundation can support enhanced livelihoods in our supply chain. Through the Foundation, we are focusing on the themes of nutrition, women and finance, as well as looking to encourage young agricultural entrepreneurs and sustainable agriculture. This more holistic approach enables us to develop globally repeatable programmes which can be adapted to local conditions and crops.

The first partnerships illustrating our new thinking are our Enhanced Livelihoods Investment Initiative (ELII); our Nutrition Intervention Programme with the Global Alliance for Improved Nutrition (GAIN); and our new partnership with Oxfam and the Ford Foundation – the Enhancing Livelihoods Fund – which is designed to support supplier match-funded projects and interventions (programmes) to improve the livelihoods of smallholders, workers and their communities.

Catalysing growth in low-income communities

In February 2015, we launched a new partnership with Acumen and the Clinton Giustra Enterprise Partnership (an initiative of the Clinton Foundation). Together, we aim to improve the livelihoods of as many as 60,000 smallholder farmers and their communities in Africa, South Asia, Latina America, and the Caribbean, impacting the lives of around 300,000 people.

Our Enhanced Livelihoods Investment Initiative (ELII) is a landmark Clinton Global Initiative Commitment to Action. It will invest a minimum of USD $10 million in market-based approaches to poverty alleviation. ELII’s aim is to catalyse economic growth and alleviate poverty amongst low-income communities in the developing world, whilst creating more inclusive and sustainable value chains.

Through the fund, we will invest in privately-held social enterprises. We will link them to Unilever’s value chain to demonstrate that such integration will result in faster profitability for the investee enterprises or farmer, whilst fostering the development of an ecosystem of viable businesses and more efficient supply chains.

As Acumen’s CEO and founder, Jacqueline Novogratz, says “It is my hope that this partnership will set a new standard for how social enterprises and corporations must work together if we are to achieve a shared vision of creating more inclusive economies that bring dignity and positive change to those traditionally left behind by traditional aid and capital markets.”

Our first ELII investment was in BURN, which produces cooking stoves that reduce harmful exposure to cooking smoke. This also helps smallholder farmers save time and money on fuel collection and purchases. Women and children in the extended tea supply chain in Kenya and Tanzania will be the principal beneficiaries.

Better lives for 1 million people: Unilever & Solidaridad

In September 2014 we announced a strategic partnership with Solidaridad which aims to improve the lives of 1 million people in our extended supply chain. A key focus of our partnership will be on developing young entrepreneurs whilst supporting smallholder farmers to manage their farms better.

Solidaridad is an international organisation with more than 45 years’ experience in sustainable economic development. Our partnership builds on our long track record of working together on projects that are supporting over 65,000 smallholder farmers and workers in India, Mexico and Colombia.

The programme is due to run until the end of 2017 in Africa, Latin America and Asia. We are exploring new ways to encourage smallholders to grow a variety of crops more sustainably, including tea, cocoa, sugar, palm oil, fruit, vegetables, soy and dairy. We are providing training, new finance models and seed funding, and we share responsibility to raise a mix of public and private grants, credit and investments to finance the smallholder farmer initiatives.

In 2015, we ran a pilot programme – Financial and Social Literacy for Youth in Cocoa – in Ghana to develop, test and validate tools that can help rejuvenate and professionalise the cocoa sector.The project aimed to address the future of cocoa production due to ageing farmers and an urgent need to support young people to get into cocoa production.

The project will assist over 300 Ghanaian youths (aged between 18-25 years) to help make a career in cocoa production and/or support services by teaching a range of topics, including financial, social, leadership, entrepreneurial and cocoa agricultural skills, as well as providing tools and a support network. The pilot will be extended to other parts of the region.

By encouraging our suppliers to improve from mandatory requirements to good and ultimately best practice, this partnership exemplifies how we are bringing our Responsible Sourcing Policy (PDF | 5MB) to life for our suppliers. Our project aims in the long-term to be self-sustaining, helping improve the livelihoods of 350,000 smallholder farmers and 650,000 workers.

“This partnership helps drive real change across our value chain,” says Dhaval Buch, our Chief Procurement Officer. “We are branching into new areas, which is why it is so important to have the experience and knowledge of an NGO like Solidaridad. This programme will also analyse and address gender issues in each project, as well as provide access to training on agriculture and improving land use management. These are all contributors to our company- wide commitment to enhance livelihoods across our value chain.”

Financial & social literacy for young cocoa growers

We believe that when young people have access to technical farming skills, as well as enterprise development and social skills, they can succeed as professional farmers.

In 2015, we began the first project under our strategic Solidaridad partnership, working with Solidaridad and Source Trust in Ghana. Financial and Social Literacy for Youth in Cocoa will develop, test and validate a programme to train young people in cocoa-growing communities. The curriculum will incorporate good agricultural practices, entrepreneurial and life skills.

Our pilot involves 300 youths aged 18-25 from the Ashanti region. Using the modules we have developed, we are providing training to the group for a period of 12 months. When fully validated, we will integrate the new curriculum into various cocoa development initiatives for broader use in developing entrepreneurial young farmers.

Our ultimate aim is to create more opportunities for economic and social empowerment for young people in cocoa growing communities, whilst contributing to the government’s vision of developing professional young cocoa farmers.

Once the results of this pilot are evaluated, in 2016 we will look at how to scale up this project.

Empowering women and young people in Nigeria

In 2014, we launched our Gbemiga Project in south-west Nigeria. Through this programme we provide training on business skills and product knowledge, empowering women and young people in rural areas to earn an income and contribute financially to the home by selling our brands to consumers’ homes and to small stores. By September 2015, 1,000 women were participating in the Gbemiga Project, enabling our business to reach over 70,000 households and 10,000 stores weekly. We aim to scale up the project to 10,000 women.

While we have put a strong focus on women, Project Gbemiga is also helping to tackle youth unemployment and by 2015 we had employed 61 young people as sales representatives.

1 Source:

2 International Food and Agribusiness Management:

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