|India Soy Forum|
“Small producers are more informed, better trained and better organized now by producing RTRS soy,” says Ashok Kumar of the India Soy Forum (ISF). “They produce more soy and get a higher income.”
In central India, six million farmers produce around nine million tonnes of soy. The India Soy Forum (ISF) network supports small producers to grow soy more sustainably, with seven NGOs and 11 producer companies (farmers’ organisations) involved.
Since 2009 a number of these NGOs and producer companies have joined RTRS. They saw certified soy as a market opportunity for small producers, Ashok says. Another incentive was to improve farm practices and systems, increasing productivity and income.
ISF helped conduct the first RTRS soy field trials in India. It now promotes responsible soy cultivation by providing information, training and technical support to producers, as well as raising awareness in the wider soy industry. This work is supported by RTRS and Solidaridad through the Soy Producer Support Initiative (SOYPSI) and, since 2009, by RTRS member FrieslandCampina. In April 2012 the first 4,300 tonnes of soy from smallholder was formally being RTRS certified.
To date, 30,000 producers in the state of Madhya Pradesh have been trained in better management practices, organizational issues and social aspects such as gender equality, minimum wages and avoiding child labour. Together, they farm about 45,000 hectares, producing around 60,000 tonnes of soy. Now more and more producers are looking to get involved.
“By following the RTRS standard, the producers follow better farm practices and thus improve the farm conditions – improved soil and water quality, for example,” says Ashok. Improved agricultural practices have been shown to increase yields by 20-30%. “Producers benefit directly from increased productivity and some premium from selling RTRS certificates.”
There are environmental benefits, too. “One area is related to agrochemicals,” says Ashok. “Producers following RTRS standards don’t use banned pesticides, safely dispose of pesticide containers, use masks and gloves when applying chemicals and so on.”
There are also fewer pesticides used as a result of integrated pest management (IPM) techniques – such as controlling pests by hand or with traps, or using beneficial insects. Similarly, integrated crop management (ICM) measures – such as adding compost and intercropping – improve soil health and productivity. “These have all started happening and in future better results can be achieved,” Ashok says.