At Fruit Logistica 2018, Bayer and Solidaridad signed a collaboration agreement to support Mexican sugarcane farmers in becoming more productive. At this year’s Fruit Logistica in Berlin, we used the opportunity to talk to Michaelyn Baur, Managing Director at Solidaridad, about the first year of the partnership.
Tell us about the beginning of the partnership between Bayer and Solidaridad.
Michaelyn Baur: “We signed our partnership agreement one year ago, without having yet fully defined where this project would take place. We knew it would be with smallholder sugarcane producers in Mexico, but the process of finding a mill and local companies who are willing to make this big leap forward is quite challenging and so, reflecting on that, it was also a leap of faith for Solidaridad and for Bayer to come into this partnership agreement. I think it worked very well because it was a lot of trust in our shared interests and in our shared goals of sustainability for sugarcane producers in Mexico, with the realization that we have a tremendous opportunity to scale up a successful model and really transform the entire sugar industry in Mexico.”
What was the biggest challenge so far?
Michaelyn Baur: “It took us about eight months to find the right partner, the right sugar mill, union representatives with whom we could work, and once we were able to nail that down, things went very, very quickly and we launched the project in September. It was a wonderful event, it generated a high degree of interest, not only within Bayer and Solidaridad but within Mexico and the sugar industry.”
What has working with Bayer been like?
Michaelyn Baur: “The last year with Bayer has been tremendously interesting, it was hard work to get this project off the ground, and that required a lot of trust and combined work from both organizations to develop a coordinated message. It’s been a positive experience for us; we do feel that this project can be a game changer for smallholder sugarcane producers in Mexico and elsewhere. Beyond Mexico, I know that together with Bayer my colleagues are already exploring ideas for expanding our collaboration into other geographies and programming areas.”
How important are partnerships and collaborations to advance responsible food production?
Michaelyn Baur: “Most organizations are working at very specific points in the value chain, so each of them does not have a full and comprehensive understanding of what the issues and challenges are along the entire value chain. Also, there are different areas of expertise – so we need to come together to learn from each other, to collaborate, to be more efficient with our own resources, but also to help accelerate the transition to sustainability and a sustainable economy globally.”
Why did you choose Bayer as a partner?
Michaelyn Baur: “We feel that Bayer has a commitment to sustainability, we can hear it in our conversations with people in the organization, and we can feel that the partnership with Bayer is going to result in more efficient use of their products, which will have multiple benefits. It will help increase yields, it will help increase the quality of the product, but it will also have an environmental impact in that there will be more precise use of products with favorable environmental profiles in the field. And, of course, it will help the farmers create a better life for their families.”
How are you going to communicate this collaboration – particularly to the general public?
Michaelyn Baur: “The project has only recently launched. There was a high degree of visibility in that launch, and we’re now bringing the results – or the advancement of the project – into the public sphere. We really want to be able first to demonstrate that the collaboration is functional, and not just between Solidaridad and Bayer, but with the sugar industry, with the farmer unions with whom we are working. Then we want to be able to measure the results in terms of the increase in yields and other impacts. So that’s going to be probably a year from now, that we’re really going to be able to report on that. In the meantime, we certainly are bringing into the public discourse our relationship with Bayer and working with others to appreciate the potential of the partnership.”
These articles might also be of interest:
“We need partners with a shared vision of sustainability”
Working together with Solidaridad in Mexico