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Small holder onion farmers in Azerbaijan. Credit: Kieran Doherty/Oxfam

At a glance

Sunrise brings together the development aims of Oxfam with the sustainable sourcing efforts of Unilever. Find this page again at:


In July 2010 Oxfam and the international consumer goods company Unilever signed up to work together for five years on learning 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 collaborated on research to look at Unilever's and other companies' business models for engaging with smallholder farmers.

Our aim was 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 improved and taken to a greater scale. Both Oxfam and Unilever continue to share learning from the project to influence other companies to invest in business models that reduce poverty for some of the world's poorest farmers and their families.

As a collaboration Sunrise has also informed and had an impact on the way Unilever intends to meet its target of improving the livelihoods of at least 500,000 smallholders in its supply chains by 2020 and how Oxfam develops its approach to programmes such as on Gendered Enterprise and Market development. Read the Sunrise final report and watch a short film on the project, Sunrise: Bringing together sustainable sourcing and development.


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 in Azerbaijan starting in 2010 it became clear that our project there would not meet the commercial viability test for a supply in to Europe or achieve the scale and impact originally envisaged. A positive legacy of improved agricultural practices in farming communities and increased yields was however achieved. A case study and short film on the work in Azerbaijan is available here. 

During the first two years and working with IIED and Kent Business School, the Sunrise project also designed and developed a methodology and tool to measure fairness in trading relationships between actors along the supply chain. You can read more on this and also download the methodology and guide

Sunrise 2.0

From 2013 onwards Sunrise 2.0 has focused on learning from existing engagements with smallholders within, and external to, Unilever.  In particular, Sunrise has looked at three Unilever supply chains (tea, tomatoes and black soy bean) and has worked with IIED to engage with a range of other businesses on best practice in inclusive business models.

The collaboration with IIED focused particularly on what role a lead firm can play in shaping inclusive business practices among its suppliers. See the IIED issues paper "Success factors for lead firms to shape inclusive procurement" for more detail.

From the research and learning programme, Sunrise has written a guide for Unilever procurement on how to work with suppliers on improving the livelihoods of smallholder farmers, workers and their communities. This guide and an accompanying tool kit and training module will be rolled out by the end of 2015. The project has also written a guide for NGOs on how to better engage with lead firms and suppliers in the private sector on value chain development.

Scenes from the field

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What is Sunrise?

Sunrise brings together Oxfam's development aims with the sustainable sourcing efforts of Unilever.

Sunrise in Azerbaijan

An introduction to Sunrise through our work to improve the onion supply chain and help achieve better livelihoods for smallholder farmers in Azerbaijan.