RSS in action across a landscape of small sugar planters in Philippines

Over the past two years Nestlé has been supporting a multi-stakeholder programme based on the SHARP Responsible Sourcing from Smallholders (RSS) framework in Negros Occidental, the Philippines’ largest sugar-producing region.

The aim is to support the many thousands of small-scale sugarcane planters in the region and to partner with industry to encourage sustainable production practices. Facilitated by Proforest and coordinated by the national Sugar Industry Foundation (SIFI), this programme has been co-developed with three independent sugar mills, each sourcing from a common pool of small sugar planters. Drawing on an RSS risk and needs assessment conducted in 2016, the programme partners agreed to tackle the long-standing problem of child labour, as well as health and safety, cane residue burning, farmer input access and knowhow, and increasing access to affordable finance and additional incomes.

The first action plan of activities was launched in February 2017 and the programme is now in its second year. During 2017, over 580 farmers attended seminars on productivity and sustainable farming practices, and over 200 have attended more modular training session so far in 2018. Group sessions and materials are raising awareness of health risks to sugarcane workers and farmers, with nearly 1,000 subsidized sets of Personal Protective Equipment being made available.  Hundreds of families have benefited from raised awareness on child labour through the network of 33 villagers trained as child rights advocates. One of the CRAs explains:

“The first time I facilitated a community tipon-tipon (gathering) in my co-operative, I felt nervous but confident because I was trained, and excited, because I am officially an active child rights advocate. After the tipon-tipon, I noticed a positive change within our co-op. Parents now try their best to send their children to school and no longer let them help out on the sugar cane farm.”

Anonymous sugarcane farmer, Negros Occidental

At the end of 2017 there was a review, followed by internal discussions and stakeholder consultations to develop a fresh action plan for 2018. To monitor progress and ensure that small planters help guide the programme, the partners have formed an RSS Working Group, which meets every other month, which includes five smallholder representatives.

The programme is beginning to have a wider impact in Negros by inspiring others to take action. A number of planters’ associations and extension officers have requested training, community events have become a catalyst for action on child labour at the village level, and farming cooperatives have begun to sell Personal Protective Equipment.

Proforest provides the technical support to assess the robustness of the plans and then verify effective implementation in the field. RSS has provided a vital framework for this work, made possible by Nestlé’s commitment and support and by the willingness of the mills to recognize a common interest in tackling systemic issues at a landscape scale. SIFI’s role as a skilled local coordinator, trusted by the actors in the local industry, has also been crucial.

Read more on the websites of Nestlé and SIFI.

Filed under: , ,