Impact study: Major soy production increase for smallholders in India

25 September 2013

The success in the production of responsible soy in India through cooperation between FrieslandCampina and Solidaridad has resulted in 30,000 smallholders increasing the production of soy by 54 percent through good agricultural practices.

The Solidaridad project in India shows that higher yields can be achieved without harming the environment, to improve the livelihoods of farmers. The project was set up together with companies, FrieslandCampina en CONO Kaasmakers. An impact study by the independent Indian consultancy MART shows, that three years (2009-2012) of producer support to soy smallholders in the country has been highly effective.

The project followed production principles of the Round Table of Responsible Soy, RTRS. The main results are:

  • Yield increase of 54 percent
  • A decrease in the use of chemical fertilizer by 23 percent
  • Average income increase from 540 to 1,280 euros per year
  • Reduction of child labour from 53 percent to 17 percent, and
  • More farmers planting trees; from 33 percent to 81 percent (to tackle deforestation, due to increased soy acreage).


Programme coordinator for soy at Solidaridad, Gert van der Bijl, says the results of the project are better than expected. “We see that the production of soy can be done in a good way, with respect for the environment and that we really can help farmers and their families to improve their livelihoods.  We read many stories about the negative impact of soy production, but it is very reassuring that this study proves it can be done in a good way.”

International cooperation
The project is a result of major international cooperation between several partners in the supply chain. Local partners worked together with international non-profit organizations and business.
Frank van Ooijen, Corporate Director for Corporate Social Responsibility at FrieslandCampina, described the study outcome as “a great result” and says the international diary company has supported the project with great commitment. “FrieslandCampina has an active policy to support smallholders and bring the local diary industry to a higher level. We work together with civil society organizations like Solidaridad to make the soy supply chain more sustainable, and the results of this project show that the is successful.”
The project was started in 2009 as an initiative by the WWF, Dutch environmental organization Natuur en Milieu, CONO Kaasmakers, FrieslandCampina and Solidaridad.

Farmer training and field demonstrations
Solidaridad organized the soy producer support program in 17 districts of the main soy producing state in Madhya Pradesh in India. Together with local partners Solidaridad organized demonstrations and the training of farmers using lead farmers. The approach has been very successful in motivating farmers to adopt new farming practices and to know their rights and responsibilities.

The improvements led to the average yield increase of 54 percent in part due to better seed spacing, seed treatment and the use of bio-fertilizers. Farmers are elated about the outcomes of the project, which also resulted in equal wages for men and women.

Soy production in India
India is the fifth largest soy producer in the world and ranked fourth globally as exporter of soy (meal) in the world with 6-7 million small-scale soy farmers producing around 12-13 million tons of soy on 10-11 million hectares. Solidaridad and the implementing partners will expand the outreach of the soy program towards 75,000 farmers in 2015. Further engagement of soy value chain partners is one of the key issues in the new program.