Building Resilience in our Smallholder Communities
Agriculture challenge holding statement
In the long list of potential impacts from climate change, the risk to agriculture stands out as one of the most important. And smallholder farmers are one of the most vulnerable groups. More than half of the Earth’s arable land – roughly 600 million hectares – is located in Africa. Up to 80% of Diageo’s raw material requirements for brewing operations across Africa come from smallholder farmers who farm an area of up to 4 hectares. Additionally, 54 percent of Africa's working force relies on the agricultural sector for livelihoods, income, and employment. African smallholders also contribute up to 70 percent of the food supply – so threats to agriculture can undermine the possibility of moving out of poverty, food security, and sustainable development.
Diageo Sustainable Solutions is launching three agriculture-focused challenges aimed at finding solutions to further support these critical backbones of our supply chain – our smallholder farmers. These challenges are open to world-class innovators to work with us to strengthen our agriculture value chain through targeted approaches to soil moisture, soil biodiversity and soil carbon. These challenges will contribute to us achieving our Society 2030: Spirit of Progress which is our ESG action plan. As part of Society 2030, we are pioneering grain-to-glass sustainability. We have long been committed to preserving the natural resources on which we all depend and are committed to making our agricultural value chains economically, socially and environmentally sustainable. Through these challenges we will continue to preserve water for life, accelerate to a low carbon world and become sustainable by design - doing business the right way from grain to glass.
Our smallholders are located in the following regions: Cameroon, Ghana, India, Kenya, Mexico, Nigeria, Tanzania, Turkey, the Seychelles, South Africa and Uganda. We will pilot in a sub-Saharan Africa country, such as Kenya or Ghana.
The three agriculture challenges in this round are focused on:
The issues of food security and climate change are particularly severe for Africa as much of the continent is drylands with predominantly rain-fed farming systems. This is made even more difficult to manage with predictions of a 20% reduction in southern Africa rainfall by 2100 and 10% for other dry regions including Mexico. Inconsistent rainfall and poor soil moisture retention are some of the main challenges affecting smallholder farmers and can impact their ability to hit expected yields. This is further worsened by lack of timely soil moisture data. Soil water holding capacity needs to improve to maximise productivity which will enable sustained growth in both farmers’ communities and our brands.
Carbon is the chemical backbone of life on earth: it helps give soil its water-retention capacity, structure, and fertility. Soils with a high carbon content tend to be healthier, more resilient to weather-related crop failure and provide better yields through improved nutrient uptake. To accelerate to a low carbon world and become sustainable by design, building economic, environmental and social resilience within smallholder communities, we need to support better soil health through adequate measuring, modelling, interpretation and monitoring of changes to soils at a biological, chemical and physical level.
Diageo is on a vital journey to better measure and manage our global impact on the natural environment. As a global leader in beverage alcohol, we have a dependency on agricultural and, to a lesser extent, forest commodities, we recognise that our activities have the potential to contribute to impacts on nature and biodiversity. We endeavour to measure and report our impact, mitigate the risks and work towards a positive environmental contribution. We are actively engaged in the Science Based Targets for Nature initiative and seek to apply the emerging standard to our supply chain to better understand and manage our nature-related impacts, dependencies, and risks. We need technical solutions to support us in measuring, reporting, and verifying our biodiversity impacts across smallholder value chains.