The Danone Ecosystem Fund aims to reinforce and develop the activities of partners connected with the group, by offering them sustainable solutions. As a rapidly developing country (it is now the world’s eighth-largest economy) Brazil is both an important market for Danone’s businesses and a society in need of innovative solutions to tackle various economic, social and environmental issues. The Danone Ecosystem Fund supports four projects covering farming, micro-distribution, recycling and caring services issues.
1. The Mandacurù project to help Nordeste farmers become more professional
Mandacurù was launched a year ago by Danone Brazil (Dairy), in partnership with NGO Care Brazil and the Ecosystem Fund. It tackles an issue specific to Brazil’s Nordeste region: milk scarcity. In fact, 80% of milk production is concentrated in the south of the country. Most farms are managed by small farmers and have low productivity. In 2004, in the Nordeste state of Cearà, the construction of a dam forced 1,200 families to move: 170 of them chose to join the Mandacurù agricultural settlement and 130 started producing milk. But few of them actually make a living out of it. In the meantime, Danone Brazil’s demand for milk to process is growing constantly and cannot always be met. The project was developed in 2013 to tackle this issue, aiming to professionalise milk production, secure the farms’ futures, develop and consolidate the milk supply chain and improve these families’ living conditions.
To reach these goals, a farm-school was created to provide the farmers with suitable training and tools to develop their technical skills and increase their productivity and income. A milk producers association also develops entrepreneurial spirit and fosters a community identity. Finally, the Mandacurù project empowers young people and women through other activities such as a community garden and a community bakery. The programme aims to directly engage 100 farmers, and reach over 5,000 people indirectly. It should allow the producers to significantly increase their margin on milk sold, from $250 to $1,950 per month!
2. The Kiteiras project to empower Nordeste women through a direct-to-consumer sales programme
In the Nordeste region again, Danone Brazil launched the Kiteiras project to address access to employment for women in underprivileged communities, in partnership with NGO Aliança Empreendedora and with the support of the Ecosystem Fund. The Nordeste is not developing as fast as the rest of the country, and underprivileged women are the first to be impacted. In parallel, Danone Brazil seeks to extend the project across the country. Kiteiras is a direct-to-consumer sales programme involving underprivileged women. On top of landing formal jobs as a micro-entrepreneurs, entitling them to social security, the women are trained in management, sales and administration and can access micro-credit loans. The Kiteiras project thus increases their income so they can provide for their families. “Before, my only income was the Bolsa Familia (a family allowance). Today, I make around 2,500 reals per month (820 euros) and, more importantly, I have become an independent woman,” says Ana Carla da Concessao, a Kiteiras saleslady. Another major innovation is the creation of a network of “Madrinhas” (godmothers in Portuguese), who are former Kiteiras saleswomen. They recruit, train and manage new independent sales forces. Their entrepreneurial spirit is thus strongly valued in the community.
‘I am grateful because this project makes me feel satisfied, acknowledged and valued. It has allowed me to blossom,’ says Gislen F. de Figueiredo, one of the Mandrinhas.
There are currently 320 “Kiteiras” selling Danone products; the goal for 2015 is 600.
3. The Novo Ciclo project to develop innovative cooperatives for the country’s waste pickers.
In 2011, in collaboration with Brazilian association INSEA and with the support of the Ecosystem Fund, Danone Brazil initiated Novo Ciclo, a project to tackle recycling issues in the Minas Gerais province. Every day, 125,000 tons of domestic waste is generated in Brazil, and a large part of it ends up in open landfills. In the south of Minas Gerais state, 15% of recycled waste is sorted by waste pickers who earn less than $500 per month working in very harsh conditions, with no social coverage. There are 37,000 of them in the state, and over 800,000 across Brazil. While their role is crucial for the country, they are poor and marginalised due to their living and working conditions. This hampers the development of the recycling industry: the sector is not professionalised, the production of recycled plastic is not organised and municipalities take little action in this field. Novo Ciclo was launched to remedy this situation and reuse recyclable materials from Bonafont and Danone Dairy while securing their recycled plastic supply chain. The project benefits from the expertise of INSEA, an institute specialising in recycling and social inclusion for waste pickers. It aims to develop a social model that favours entrepreneurship among the waste pickers, as well as organising and professionalising recycling cooperatives. In 2011, when it was first launched, the project’s goals were to engage local authorities, structure the collection chain and improve waste pickers’ working conditions and productivity. The initial goal of 67kg of waste collected per waste picker per day was largely exceeded, with pickers collecting an average of 87kg. As a result, their income increased by 98% (from $490 to $921). These good results have encouraged Novo Ciclo to scale up its ambitions and enter a second development phase: the idea now is to further public authority engagement. The government has shown an interest in the initiative because it improves the management of open landfills while affirming the value of the waste pickers’ work, thus supporting their reinsertion in society. ‘With the Novo Ciclo project we have come to realise that we are worth much more than we thought, that we were not just waste pickers, but citizens with rights and duties,’ said Antonio Aparecido Almeida, one of the programme’s waste pickers. To date, over 370 people have joined the cooperatives and improved their living conditions.
Novo Ciclo won two awards in 2014: it came in fourth in the “Benchmarking Brazil Award 2014” for sustainability initiatives in Brazil, and was placed second in the Natural Resources Protection and Preservation category of the Franco-Brazilian Chamber of Commerce’s LIF Prize.
4. The Care for the Caregivers project to support Brazilian caregivers through tailored
As its name suggests, “Care for the Caregivers” is focused on those who work with elderly people. They need support for two main reasons. Firstly, Brazil is now facing population growth stagnation, and as a result its population is ageing: elderly people (over 65 years old) currently represent 11% of the total population and the figure is set to rise to 15% by 2025.
Today, according to the World Health Organisation (WHO), 2.3 million seniors are disabled and need assistance in their everyday lives. Secondly, there is no official acknowledgment of the “caregiving” profession in Brazil: the task is often entrusted to people who are not trained to carry it out to the highest standards (housemaids or unemployed people with low levels of education and skills, for instance). The country lacks proper facilities to cater for seniors and those already working as caregivers are asking for support, training and information.
To tackle the issue, the Danone Ecosystem Fund supports the “Caring for the Caregivers” project, led by Danone Medical Nutrition brazilian subsidiary in partnership with NGO Observatorio da Longevidade Humana e Envelhecimento (OLHE). The goal is to “identify, select and train to employ as caregivers unemployed women or employees with low skill levels” and thus help them improve their working conditions and employability. The project aims to train 1,150 caregivers over the course of five years. It also helps professionals who are already in the market but need support to secure their careers. In addition to empowering the caregivers, the project contributes to the seniors’ well-being, by ensuring they are taken care of by people who are qualified for the job. The project also contributes to raising awareness on nutritional issues: caregivers are taught about older people’s specific nutritional needs and challenges, and how medical nutrition can efficiently support medical treatments.
Photos © Thomas Haley / Alice Vivian / T photography