Fund will support smallholder farmers in Africa, Asia and Latin America © MARCO LONGARI / AFP
Fund will support smallholder farmers in Africa, Asia and Latin America © MARCO LONGARI / AFP

€100m fund launched to boost sustainable farming

30 January 2020

A coalition of public and private organisations has launched the world’s biggest impact fund to support smallholder farms in improving sustainability practices.

Organisations including Unilever and the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation have created the IDH Farmfit Fund to help tackle poor agricultural practices and land management issues.

Starting with €100m the fund intends to raise up to €1bn in financial support to enable small farmers in Africa, Asia and Latin America to develop sustainable business models that achieve positive environmental, social, and governance impacts. 

Marc Engel, chief supply chain officer at Unilever, said: “Smallholders often face financial barriers which is why public-private partnerships such as the IDH Farmfit are essential. Integrating smallholders into the value chain is critical to sustainable land use and in protecting forests and biodiversity. There is a clear business case to enable farmers to invest in their farms, thereby increasing their yields and profitability.”

Joost Oorthuizen, executive director and chairman of the board at IDH, a company that brings organisations together in "action-driven coalitions", said: “We expect the Farmfit Fund to represent a new generation of financing. The fund will ensure significant financing at a reduced risk level. 

“Thus the fund will enable banks and financial institutions to make sound impact investments now – and help support sustainable smallholder farming while mitigating the impact of climate change.”

Separately, a report by industry group the Alliance to Save Our Antibiotics has revealed that three out of 10 UK supermarkets are continuing to misuse antibiotics within supply chains.

Aldi, Asda and Iceland were found to not restrict meat, dairy and egg suppliers from using antibiotics despite use in farming leading to antibiotic-resistant infections in humans.

Cóilín Nunan, scientific adviser at the Alliance, said: “We know that certain practices in intensive farming are linked with higher levels of stress and of antibiotic use, such as keeping large numbers of animals in cramped conditions indoors, weaning piglets when they are too young or using very fast-growing breeds of chickens. 

“If supermarkets are really committed to reducing farm antibiotic use, they should publish antibiotic data viewed by farming system, as this would help all farmers to learn from best practice.”

The report assessed Aldi, Asda, Co-op, Iceland, Lidl, M&S, Morrisons, Sainsbury's, Tesco and Waitrose.

Waitrose, Tesco and M&S had the best policies, according to the report, but M&S and Waitrose were the only supermarkets to ban suppliers from using colistin, a last-resort antibiotic used to treat “life-threatening multi-antibiotic resistant infections”. 

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