We have already mentioned on several occasions how Danone, through the Danone Ecosystem Fund, works to develop its own ecosystem, i.e. to help strengthen the activity of its milk suppliers (here and here, for instance). The model is now being extended to fruit sourcing: a banana-sourcing project is now operating in Costa Rica, and another one in Ukraine, with strawberries. As seen in the video below, the village of Losiatyn has always been famous for the quality of its strawberries. So Danone Ukraine, in partnership with the Danone Ecosystem Fund and the NGO Heifer Ukraine (which helps relieve poverty by providing a range of services to rural families) decided to work more closely with Ukrainian farmers on its strawberry supply chain.
The project involves bringing together farmers into a cooperative where they can obtain seeds and sell their produce, and equipping them with modern technology to increase their productivity.
The aim is to support 500 households in the community, by empowering them and giving them the opportunity to increase their income.
The project was launched in June 2012, and the first harvests already show positive results. In 2012, 90 rural families used the services of the cooperative, and 58 people obtained official seasonal employment (and thus unemployment benefits during the off-season period). This makes a real change to a community afflicted by unemployment, where many people have to go abroad to seek work. The project enables more and more of them to stay with their families. « We can see our kids growing up; when we are abroad, we do not have that privilege », says a woman who participates in the cooperative.
Positive impacts for Danone and the community
According to Jean-Christophe Laugée, Social innovation and Ecosystem Director at Danone, this goes hand in hand with positive impacts for Danone too: the project secures high-quality sourcing and gives more value to products in consumers’ eyes, since
they are entirely produced in Ukraine, with Ukrainian milk and Ukrainian strawberries.
It is estimated that eventually, 60% of Danone’s strawberry requirements will be covered by this first project – and more are likely to blossom in other parts of Ukraine in the next few years. For the Danone Ecosystem Fund, the issue is also to ensure that the model is successful, so that it can be duplicated in other countries with other fruit.
Viktor Teres, from Heifer Ukraine, takes satisfaction from the fact that the new technologies used make it possible to reduce water consumption and the use of chemicals and pesticides. He also notes how people have learned to work together. “This project is an example of an important international cooperation. It has brought leading experts together.” We will see how this fruitful cooperation can inspire others to build similar initiatives.
(Photo from Heifer’s blog)