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Growing Responsibly: The Official Olam Spices Sustainability Newsletter
Re-Generating the Living World
Spices Water Stewardship
Our water stewardship approach covers ﬁve main water outcomes for Olam’s sites, the community and the larger catchment area. Across our supply chains, we use the geospatial mapping tools created by the Water Research Institute to understand our current water risk in each spice geography. Any region deemed “high priority” based on water quantity, quality and regulatory risks, will implement a water stewardship plan.
We have already started identifying our highest priority watersheds where we have the largest opportunity for impact across Olam Spices. These include catchments in Egypt, California and Vietnam. Team members in each geography representing the farms and processing facilities have taken training to get started implementing it.
The ﬁrst step is to gather data on each site’s water use and catchment context to better understand our shared water challenges, water risks, impacts and opportunities. This will allow us to identify other water users in the area and work together to collectively improve water security for people, businesses, agriculture and nature.
Beneficial Bacteria in Brazil
Our pepper estate in Bahia, Brazil has made great strides in minimizing resources and chemical use over the past year. Starting at the beginning of 2020, our experts developed an on farm program to grow biological agents that could be applied to plants as a substitute for chemical inputs.
Some of the bacteria grown include Bacillus amyloliquefaciens, Streptomyces spp, Chromobacterium subtsugae, Saccharopoly-spora spinosa and other varieties. Between January ’20 and November ’20, the program has led to an 82.5% reduction in insecticide use and a 67% reduction in fungicide use. It has been so successful that we’ve already begun a similar process to replicate fungi on the farm for CY21.
Related to water management, our Brazil black pepper team is using technology to manage and reduce water and nutrient usage. The team makes calculated decisions on when to irrigate based on a tool called a tensiometer, which measures soil moisture. They take readings three times a day, which has led to a 70% reduction in the amount of water applied through irrigation. Additionally, between January ’20 and October ’20, similar technology used on the estate has reduced the usage of nitrogen and phosphorous fertilizers by 39%.
Prosperous Farmers and Farming Systems
Environmental Impact at the Source
In 2019, as part of our organization’s purpose to re-imagine global agriculture, we announced the launch of AtSource, Olam’s sustainability platform. In the two years since we have begun providing deeper insight into our sustainable agricultural supply with the platform, Olam Spices has veriﬁed 12 supply chains and counting. Currently, customers can track and monitor the following products’ social and environmental impact, which helps us drive change for farmers, communities and ecosystems:
US onion, US organic onion, US garlic, US organic garlic, US parsley, Egyptian onion, Egyptian organic Onion, Vietnam organic cassia, OCP pepper, Vietnam estate pepper, Cambodian pepper and Brazilian estate pepper
Our sustainability team is currently working with the AtSource team and our growers to onboard India chillis, US chilies and many of the spices in Vietnam onto AtSource. We are also working on several projects related to watershed, soil health and reforestation. If you’re interested in learning more, reach out to our Sustainability Manager, Claire Loudis.
Olam Clean Pepper
In 2017, we started the Olam Clean Pepper project with the purpose of enhancing farmer livelihoods, reducing impacts and improving the quality of black pepper we source in Vietnam.
Through the program, we provide comprehensive training to smallholder farmers to support them in producing a clean supply of traceable pepper that meets European Union (EU) Pesticide Maximum Residual Levels.
By taking the learnings from our own pepper estate in Pleiku, we have helped these smallholder farmers produce a fully sustainable and traceable supply of black pepper, while training them on ways to reduce their environmental footprint. So far, the growers have decreased:
- inputs by 62%
- labor costs by 38%
- water use by 8%
Farmers in the program receive this training at no cost and are not obligated to sell us their harvests. What began with 100 farmers has expanded to 459 farmers with 320 of them earning a Rain Forest Alliance (RFA) certification, which often offers an additional premium.
Chairs to the New Year
Employees at our US ag operations facility in Hanford, California ended 2020 by giving back to their community. Monetary donations, canned goods and non-perishables were collected for King’s Pantry, a local food bank. Each employee, seasonal and full-time, also took home a special Olam chair as a “thank you” for their hard work and dedication this year.
Education Initiatives in Egypt
In our interactions with farmers in Egypt, we learned there was a lack of information about COVID-19, how it is spread and the precautions that need to be taken to prevent it. To combat this, our staff organized education and awareness sessions to discuss the pandemic with our growers. The sessions were attended by over 60 smallholders in Southern Egypt.
As part of our commitment to our suppliers, with the aim of skill enhancement, we hosted a virtual training in November for our large format representatives. The series included Global GAP training by Acerta and covered safety, the Olam Supplier Code and labor laws, which were conducted by our experts in safety, health and sustainability, as well as HR and legal. The program was well appreciated by our growers and we received feedback that it was “a collaborative environment with great spirit.”