Reducing our Footprint
Silva sources raw materials from over 20 countries worldwide. Through that process we impact thousands of smallholders and our purchases are often the main income for these farmers. We realize we have an important role to play in aiding these smallholders with a sustainable approach to agriculture. Silva is involved, therefore, in several initiatives promoting the use of sustainable methods in agriculture. Not only is this a trend driven by major players in the food industry, but it is also a way for us to ensure that the farming we rely on continues to be economically viable—while at the same time protecting our farms, smallholders and the environment.
Through our “boots-on-the-ground” approach we are helping our raw material vendors and the smallholders that supply these vendors. Our global quality team is involved in several projects around the world implementing good agricultural practices as well as integrated pest management programs suitable for the local environment. Through the use of “model farms” we attempt to educate the local farmer base on suitable practices that protect them, their crops and the environment at the same time.(Right: Roger Clarke, International Quality Director, holds an on-site workshop.)
In 2013, we’ve launched an initiative in Gansu, China, using slow release nitrogen fertilizer reducing the emission of greenhouse gases. Through those efforts, we have also achieved a 5% increase in the yield on our fields. At the same farm, we are also dedicating land to ensure the protection of the local habitat. Protecting the natural habitat allows us to reduce our use of chemical methods to combat plant pests and diseases.
This year we are also engaged in a project in Jiangsu province, China, to reduce the amount of water used for irrigation. Alongside our raw material vendor, we are developing an irrigation scheme that is projected to reduce the amount of irrigation water needed by 20%. Through recording precipitation, using weather forecasts, preventing water run-off from our fields and improving the timing of when the land is irrigated, we can obtain a significant reduction in the use of irrigation water. This not only protects the water source but also prevents excess run-off of valuable crop nutrients into neighboring waterways and protects downstream eco-systems.
In a region-wide effort in China we are working with smallholders on the safe use of crop protection chemicals. By using Croplife International’s guidelines, we have developed training material in Chinese. Along with our partners, we are using this material to educate farmers on the need of proper precautions when handling CPCs. We are also assisting in the construction of proper chemical stores and the use and maintenance of personal protective equipment. (Left: Rodrigo Nunez, Silva-China Manager, demonstrates the protective clothing.)
As an industry leader, it is our responsibility to promote safe and sustainable farming. In protecting our smallholders and the land they farm, we can ensure the future stability and supply of the cash crops we use for raw material while ensuring the financial viability of our supply chain. We will continue to engage in projects where we see opportunities to reduce our footprint and use best practices—which always leads to improved yields. Over time we believe our efforts will allow us to produce more from less while still maintaining our commitment to high quality products.