In this SDG Awards 2017 entry:
Voting Category: Small-to-Medium Organization
Marcatus QED is committed to help achieve the following SDGs:
- SDG 1: No Poverty
- SDG 2: Zero Hunger
- SDG 3: Good Health and Well-Being
- SDG 4: Quality Education
- SDG 5: Gender Equality
- SDG 8: Decent Work and Economic Growth
- SDG 13: Climate Action
- SDG 15: Life on Land
- SDG 17: Partnerships for the Goals
The Pickle; the slice that hugs your perfectly BBQ’d burger, the cornichon that pairs so well with the aged cheddar and figs, the banderilla that enhances your martini. These pickles not only make your food divinely balanced in flavor; they also help to empower women, improve the sustainability of farming practices and improve the livelihoods of smallholder farming family.
But first we need to start from the beginning. Marcatus QED (MQED) is a global agri-food solutions company working to help top and niche consumer brands develop sourcing programs, innovative products, and sustainable supply chains.
Sustainability has been an intrinsic part of our DNA since the beginning. Motivated by our CEO to develop a truly sustainable business working with sustainable supply chains, we have spent years developing and implementing solutions from the ground to the shelf, leaving our footprint from farmers’ to customers’ homes.
We don’t see sustainability as a corporate social responsibility silo or an add-on to our business. We have a full time dedicated team that works on our sustainability programs and we showcase the strong rationale behind why sustainability makes good business.
Using a market driven strategy, we approach sustainability from an economic, social and environmental point of view within our service offerings, including product development, global sourcing, co-packing, supply chain, food safety & quality, and responsible farming.
If we focus on the example of our pickling cucumber supply chain, we have made several innovations across the supply chain such as revolutionizing the way pickles are packed by developing our own recyclable bins resulting in less waste and a lower carbon footprint all the way to the development of our award winning Responsible Farming Programs to uplift our producers.
Understanding we are part of a business ecosystem, others’ wellbeing is interwoven into our work and success (SDG17.Partnerships for the Goals). We work to find win-win-win solutions to benefit everyone within the supply chain starting from the ground up.
With over 50,000 farmers in our supply chains, the large majority of farmers we work with are smallholder farming families who tend to have a diversity of factors working against the quick adoption of sustainable practices. Often smallholder farmers lack access to needed resources, capital to invest in sustainable technologies such as drip irrigation and limited access to the right information in their local language. To help break down these barriers and truly support farmers in their efforts to prosper in a sustainable way, MQED has developed several programs (SDG1.No Poverty; SDG8.Decent Work and Economic Growth). Our Responsible Farming Program (RF) encompasses multiple initiatives from innovative education systems for farming families and extension officers (SDG4.Quality Education) to supporting the adoption of sustainable agricultural practices (SDG2.No Hunger, SDG13.Climate Action,SDG15:Life on Land), to women’s empowerment (SDG5.Gender Equality) and even farming family health (SDG3.Good Health).
MQED’s most complex supply chain is based in India where we source 40,000 tonnes of gherkins from several producers. Collectively, these suppliers are working with approximately 18,000 smallholder farmer families, who are spread across 3000 remote villages(SDG1: No Poverty;SDG8:Decent Work and Economic Growth)
The adoption of sustainable practices can greatly increase the productivity of a farmer but set within the context, there are often various barriers that stand in the way for these entrepreneurs. Our program works to find solutions to overcome these barriers. For example, drip irrigation has been proven to increase yields, decrease labour and produce higher quality plants. However, it can be a risky new investment if not fully understood and requires an upfront capital investment. We work to educate about the best systems for the local context as well as means for farmers to secure funds to cover the upfront investment. We have helped 4550 farming families adopt drip irrigation.
Other initiatives have resulted in educating over 4000 farmers about scientific composting, planting of over 3000 fruit trees, equipping certain farmers with biogas units and growing bamboo as a renewable source of stakes which are essential to grow our gherkins(SDG4:Quality Education;SDG15:Life on Land).
Recognizing the complexity that is associated with our smallholder supply chains and the need for a revolutionized approach to getting all the needed information to smallholder farmers to ensure they can be successful, we recently designed the innovative Marcatus Mobile Education Platform® (MMEP). Recipient of the prestigious Guardian Sustainable Business Award, this program empowers a supply chain with the methodology and tools to quickly reach, energize and motivate thousands of rural smallholder farmers to quickly adopt sustainable practices. It uses training videos, starring local farmers to train the entire farming family & build capacity in the supply chain to produce them independently.
Teaching farmers about climate-smart techniques such as drip irrigation, integrated pest management and composting to increase nutrients and organic matter in their soil(SDG13:Climate Action), help secure farmers’ ability to grow crops to both feed their families and to generate income, as well as a nutrition & hygiene education program(SDG2:No Hunger;SDG3:Good Health;SDG4: Quality Education) for labourers and smallholder farmers in our supply chain.
When we scientifically tested the effectiveness of MMEP, we found that within only the first 3 months of using MMEP, the adoption of climate-smart practices sky rocketed and farmers increased their yields by over 20%, translating to a 24% increase in farmer income(SDG1: No Poverty).
This program specifically targets training the entire farming family. Due to cultural realities, traditionally 80% of the trainings for farmers had been only going to male heads of households. This program has shifted the dynamic to ensuing women, who do over 50% of the work on the farm are effectively reached. Through gender integration workshops we sensitize the industry regarding the important roles of women and ensure that women are showcased as leaders, teachers and decision makers on the farm. Now, men and women are equally represented at our training events(SDG5.Gender Equality).
Learn more by watching our videos HERE
Agriculture is not a stagnant industry; it requires continuous evolution and fresh solutions to existing problems and there is always room for improvement. Today, the lessons we’ve learned in identifying and overcoming cultural, geographic, language, and technical hurdles are our asset. The knowledge we’ve institutionalized like health and nutrition or women’s empowerment can connect us tomorrow to the millions of farmers across the globe in a win/win relationship that transcends yesterday’s barriers and sustains our development goals.
Embracing the fact that the whole is greater than the sum of its parts very well illustrates when advancing action towards the UN SDG. We are aware we can´t be experts in every subject matter, so we will continue developing partnerships. The network we’ve grown and sustainable practices we’ve pioneered with our partners have become a competitive advantage. We have partnered with dozens of organizations and look forward to solidifying more meaningful partners to take us through our next chapter.
We plan on continuing to improve the sustainability of our supply chains. We truly believe that as with soil, what you put into your supply chain determines its yield. More consistent, profitable and well-trained farmers will increase the efficiency and stability of the supply chain and these benefits will be experienced across the supply chain.
We will also continue to strengthen our climate smart action plans across our supply chains, finding new solutions to deal the ever-evolving challenges that will exist in the future.
Additionally, having seen the benefits from our Marcatus Mobile Education Platform – MMEP, we are working with other industries to implement our refined methodology and education system into other industries so that they too can utilize it to help uplift other smallholders around the world.
We also plan on continuing to support and celebrate women’s important roles in agriculture through our programs and curriculum. Last year, we also launched the Scholarship for Women in Agriculture where we support talented young women to further their studies and become leaders in agriculture.
Finally, over the next five years, we would like to further develop and evolve our sustainable development projects such as sustainably sourcing heritage crops and high value niche products, giving rural communities access to the global sustainable markets. We also plan on expanding our organics program and supporting farmers to adopt more climate smart practices to enhance their resilience to future challenges they will inevitably be facing. Moreover, we would like to expand the scope of our programs within our supply chains taking programs such as family health education from the farming communities into the factories.
The Sustainable Development Goals are not going to be achieved by one single organization on its own. At MQED, we view partnerships as crucial to our success. In fact, our mission is to create exceptional partnerships and valuable food solutions. We believe in partnerships that bridge knowledge gaps because they are built on trust. Our investment into understanding our partners’ challenges creates perspective, possibilities, and multiple returns.
We aim to build strong sustainable partnerships with our clients, suppliers and farmers. We are constantly collecting extensive data about farmers practices, adoption of new sustainable practices, etc. This regular feedback from the ground allows us to evaluate our own progress and identify what opportunities and challenges exist within our programs, so that we can continuously improve the effectiveness of our approach and better understand farmer and other stakeholder needs in the supply chain.
Furthermore, we have strategically partnered with international and local non-profits, universities, and private sector entities ranging from global corporations to small local businesses to improve the effectiveness of our sustainable interventions.
For instance, the Marcatus Mobile Education Platform (MMEP) was the first programme to receive funding from the Enhancing Livelihoods Fund, which was jointly set up by Unilever, Oxfam, the Ford Foundation. The fund supports innovative projects to improve agricultural practices and livelihoods of smallholder farming communities with a specific focus on empowering women.
This fund not only helped us launch and pilot our program but also helped connect us to Oxfam who helped us design our approach to empowering women farmers. We were also recently invited by Oxfam to speak at the Global Learning Forum for Women’s Economic Empowerment (WEE) about our MMEP program and the role that the private sector can play in empowering women. Participating in this event also opened up the door to connect to and learn from other global organizations working towards the same common goals.
In partnership with the Global Alliance for Improved Nutrition (GAIN) and Unilever, we have implemented a health education program – Seeds of Prosperity – that works to educate and inspire farming families to eat balanced diets and improve hygiene practices. As well as having a moral responsibility, the program also helps to increase the resilience and secure future of the supply chain.
Thinking ahead to 2018, we will continue to partner with organizations where we see strategic added value and potential for win-win-win scenarios. Sharing core values towards development is key to achieving successful sustainable supply chains for everyone.
Finally, utilizing our position within the supply chain enables us to bring stakeholders together and catalyze the benefits of sustainability to extend throughout the supply chain. However, to have the most effective holistic development program, we will continue to utilize other parties’ specific expertise to complement our own and thus advance towards the Sustainable Development Goals together.