In July 2010 Oxfam and the international consumer goods company Unilever signed up to work together over the next five years to learn how to do business with women and men smallholders in a way that improves their livelihoods and that informs Unilever's business model and Oxfam's development model.
Together we are collaborating on practical projects, the provision of strategic advice and on capturing and sharing the learning from this. This work brings together the development aims of Oxfam with the sustainable sourcing efforts of Unilever. This collaboration is known as Sunrise: symbolising an attempt to bring about a new approach in the way large companies like Unilever engage with marginalised smallholder farmers.
Sunrise aims to inform how sustainable smallholder-based supply chains that are both commercially viable and effective at reducing poverty for marginalised women and men smallholders can be established. The project also aims to share what it learns with aim of influencing other companies to invest in business models that reduce poverty for some of the world's poorest farmers and their families.
The impact of Sunrise will go beyond the direct beneficiaries of practical projects that we are working with and monitoring at country level. At the end of Sunrise we will carry out an impact study to look at what changes have been brought about at the market systems level such as the adoption of new technologies and job creation, as well as examining the extent to which changes to the business model can be replicated.
As a collaboration Sunrise will also inform and impact on the the way Unilever intends to meet its target of meaningfully involving 500,000 smallholders in its supply chains by 2020 and how Oxfam develops its approach to a new programme of work in twelve countries on Gendered Enterprise and Market development.
Unilever will provide expertise in agronomy, technical assistance and, above all, market access to ensure sustainable commercial outcomes.
Oxfam will provide experience in gendered community and rural enterprise development, facilitating multi-stakeholder partnerships, improving smallholder services and the enabling environment including government engagement.
Progress to date
The initial focus of Sunrise was on setting up two pilot projects, one in Tanzania and one in Azerbaijan, to source dehydrated vegetables and to capture learning from these projects and the partnership at work.
In Tanzania, commercial viability proved to be a barrier to establishing practical projects. Producers there are better off supplying the local market. Oxfam has subsequently set up a local market development programme in the wake of Sunrise feasibility work.
After two years of trials work in Azerbaijan it has become clear that our project there will not meet the commercial viability test for a supply in to Europe or achieve the scale and impact originally envisaged. Work is now focussed on developing good agricultural practice guidelines for farmers and on processing capacity to meet a local and regional market demand, which may include supplying Unilever in Russia over the next few years. Unilever and Oxfam will continue to also work together on advocacy with the Azeri government to bring about change that can create the conditions
conducive for sustainable smallholder agriculture.
We are currently discussing further on the ground projects and areas where the provision of strategic advice would be mutually beneficial, for example on the measurement of social impact and indicators, the role of certification and advocacy priorities to improve smallholder inclusion.
Over the past two years Sunrise has established links with a number of learning organisiations as it seeks to develop a programme of learning, knowledge capture and dissemination. These include the Sustainable Food Lab, the Centre for Value Chain Research at Kent Business School and the Institute for International Environment and Development.