Engage with suppliers, especially those in agriculture
Engaging with our suppliers
When it comes to water stewardship, our greatest challenge is making changes across our supply chain.
Why it matters
Addressing water use in our supply chains poses our greatest water stewardship challenge – and gives us the best chance of making a positive difference. By sharing good agricultural practice with our suppliers in water-stressed locations, they can become more productive and resilient to climate change. We also invest in R&D projects and breeding programs to develop drought-resistant coffee trees, to supply cocoa and coffee farmers with millions of drought-resistant plantlets every year to ensure supplies don’t dry up.
With some of our agricultural supply chain located in water-stressed areas, we’re developing detailed action plans to tackle these issues, including training farmers, improving irrigation practices and creating drought-resistant plantlets.
What we are doing
As we make progress on this issue, we help water-stressed communities become more resilient.
Implement all action plans defined for improved water management in our upstream supply chain for coffee, sugar, dairy and cereals in high-priority locations.
Our result: 10 projects in water-stressed areas across 10 countries.
Improving water use throughout our dairy supply chain
We are working with our suppliers across all of our agricultural supply chains to ensure water is used effectively. We have a particular focus through our Agriservices network on dairy and coffee, as this is where we can make the most impact. Based on the principle of ‘do what matters, where it matters’, we have mapped our fresh milk-sourcing districts according to the water stress index, and are working on several initiatives to improve water efficiency in our dairy supply chain.
Developing water-saving techniques for dairy farmers
These initiatives include installing water meters in drought-affected regions of Morocco, Iran and Pakistan, and training farmers in these regions on how to use water effectively and to develop water-saving techniques for animal feed production.
In Brazil, we are supporting farmers to install water meters and together with Embrapa, the Brazilian Agricultural Research Corporation, we are working on projects to train farmers in good farming and manure management practices.
Additionally, we are addressing water pollution in China, training farmers on improved irrigation in Mexico and reducing water and energy consumption on dairy farms in South Africa.
A public–private partnership to investigate groundwater level declines in Vietnam
In Vietnam, we were part of a public–private partnership that aimed to understand the impact of widespread irrigation on coffee production during the dry season. Vietnam is the world’s second-largest coffee grower. As production continues to increase, the country has started to see groundwater level declines. In collaboration with the Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation and Vietnamese government agencies, our project was called ‘Vietnam to produce more coffee with less water – towards a reduction of the blue water footprint in coffee production’.
As part of the project, a deep hydrogeological study was conducted in Dak Lak province in 2015 to understand the risks and opportunities related to groundwater resources and their use. The good news is that the study didn’t observe any long-term declining groundwater level trends. The observed decline was caused by current irrigation practices creating excess irrigation water, which remains trapped in the soil during the dry season. As a result, it is no longer available for household or agriculture use. These water-scarce hotspots are concentrated in the higher altitudes of Dak Lak’s plateau.
These insights have helped us plan next steps for the region:
- Implement better irrigation practices in smallholder coffee farmers.
- Implement integrated water management practices within the coffee growers’ communities at catchment level.
- Monitor, at catchment level and in real time, the consequences of changing irrigation practices – and adjust field practices if necessary.
- Communicate the project’s achievements and roll out the key lessons of this project to other regions in Vietnam and Southeast Asia.
We have also contributed to training materials that will help farmers better manage irrigation on their farms. Additionally, we developed a smartphone app – WeGap –that offers farming tips based on weather forecasting and allows farmers to manage their crops with the help of updated, reliable data. Launched in December 2018, the app has already had more than 100 downloads.