IDH - The Sustainable Trade Initiative and Rythu Sadhikara Samstha (RySS)
Across the world, food producers, buyers, sellers and consumers – stakeholders at every level of the food supply chain – are making commitments towards sustainability. These commitments are often geared towards reducing food waste or curbing negative environmental and social impacts often inherent in the production of high-demand commodities such as deforestation, water use and fair wages for labor. However, despite national and global commitments, it remains difficult, expensive and slow to ensure that, from production to sale, agricultural products consistently meet the sustainability requirements that various stakeholders are setting forth.
The Sustainable Sourcing at Scale Partnership will implement a Verified Sourcing Area (VSA) for commodity crops in India’s Andhra Pradesh state, where 60% of the 50 million inhabitants are engaged in agricultural and related work. Rather than verifying sustainability farm by farm, the model takes a regional approach, which reduces costs for sustainable agriculture and allows markets to buy large scale volumes with greater efficiency, transparency and traceability. This will position the VSA region in Andhra Pradesh to become a responsible source for commodities where the opportunity for local value-add exists: chilis, cashews, cotton, turmeric and coffee. The Partnership will incorporate IDH’s learnings from VSA pilot programs in Brazil, Indonesia and Vietnam and draw on the reach of Rythu Sadhikara Samstha, a nonprofit organization that reaches more than a half million farmers.
In the first two years, the partnership will create two sustainability clusters, each encompassing 10–12 villages and about 160 square kilometers. The program focuses on building farmer capacity through intensive engagement with community-level groups, women’s self-help groups, farmers and Natural Farming Fellows. This will help both farmers and villages produce chemical-free products, obtain fair prices and enhance the role of women farmers. Longer term, the partnership seeks to scale the VSA to cover as many as 365,000 hectares – equivalent to 3,650 square kilometers. RySS, through its Zero Budget Natural Farming initiative, aims to cover more than 5.5 million farmers in Andhra Pradesh by 2025, with an estimated budget of $3 billion that would need to be mobilized during this period.