Meeting the needs of rural communities
Thrive, our sustainable agriculture and farmer livelihoods programme, is based on an internationally recognised framework covering five focus areas, known as ‘Capitals’.
The five Capitals framework was first developed by the Department for International Development and then adopted by the Food and Agriculture Organisation of the United Nations. The framework is based on the premise that to be sustainable farming communities must be ‘in credit’ across five areas: financial, natural, physical, human and social. Strength in all five types of capital creates resilience and enables farmers and rural communities to prosper.
We first piloted this programme in 2014 and 2015 and worked with external experts on further developing and expanding it during 2016, including defining a total of 14 indicators to measure strength in each Capital (see below). These will help us to set benchmarks, measure improvements, prioritise our resources, and monitor progress and impact over time.
Our expert field technicians provide advice and support for all of our farmers, helping them to run successful and profitable farms. This includes helping farmers to optimise the profitability of their businesses, with tobacco grown alongside other crops in mixed agricultural landscapes.
We agree contracts with farmers at the beginning of each growing season, guaranteeing to buy their tobacco crop at a fair price. We also set out the free support and training they’ll receive from our Extension Services and options to access resources at lower costs, such as seeds, fertilisers and personal protective equipment. This helps to ensure farmers have a regular and secure income, protecting them from market fluctuations. The contract can also be used as security for credit or loans they need from banks, enabling them to invest in their farms.
In some countries, we go beyond this by establishing long-term partnerships and community projects focused on tackling rural poverty. For example, for over 10 years our business in Sri Lanka has had a programme working with poor rural families, teaching them agricultural skills, enhancing their knowledge and providing resources such as seeds, plants and poultry, as well as training in beekeeping, mushroom cultivation and goat-rearing. It has a focus on female empowerment and is designed to help the families become more self-sufficient and economically independent, while also maximising their land use and providing them with a more nutritional diet. Find out more in our Sri Lanka case study.
We provide training and capacity building through farmer clubs, field days, workshops and manuals for our farmers and their communities, covering issues such as child labour, the safe use of agrochemicals and occupational health issues, such as green tobacco sickness.
Some of our companies also run community projects focused on tackling child labour.
For example, in Brazil we support the Growing Up Right Institute, which was founded in 1998 as a partnership between the Interstate Tobacco Industry Union and associates, including Souza Cruz and has been recognised as an example of best practice by the ILO. Also in Brazil, our Novos Rurais programme, which is run by the Souza Cruz Institute, provides entrepreneurial training and opportunities for young people to receive financial support for setting up new agricultural businesses.
In Mexico, our company has been working for over 15 years with the Government on the Blossom programme, helping to build centres that support the children of indigenous migrant farmworkers through providing education, health checks, better nutrition and somewhere to play.
Read more about our work in this area in Human rights and child labour in tobacco growing.
This includes providing guidance and techniques on preserving soil and water health, such as crop rotation, mulching, green manure, irrigation, drainage and the reduced use of pesticides, as well as reducing water use through new techniques and technologies, such as drip irrigation.
We are also helping farmers to preserve forests through afforestation programmes, which aim to provide a sustainable source of wood to use as a fuel for curing tobacco. We also work to find locally available alternative fuels, such as the use of rice husk as a fuel in Sri Lanka or the use of bagasse briquettes in Kenya (supplied by BAT in partnership with a local sugar factory). We are also exploring ways to reduce wood fuel consumption by using innovative designs for curing barns. Read more in Preserving natural forests.
We have an ongoing commitment to eliminate the use of unsustainable sources of wood by our contracted farmers. Our monitoring of our contracted farmers’ wood use for curing has shown 99% was from sustainable sources for the last three years. We publish our full wood fuel data in our 2020 ESG Report (14.1 mb) .
Our biodiversity risk and opportunity assessment tool, which was developed by our former Biodiversity Partnership with three conservation NGOs, helps our companies identify, assess and address risks arising from their impacts and dependencies on biodiversity and ecosystems in and around their leaf-growing operations. All our tobacco leaf growing operations have completed assessments and initiatives are in place to address the issues identified. For more details, please see Managing biodiversity.
We provide our farmers with access to technology and invest in community projects to help ensure tobacco growing areas remain viable places to live and work.
For example, in Pakistan, our company has provided basic healthcare facilities for remote rural areas through mobile doctor units, which provide free healthcare to over 70,000 rural people each year. BAT Pakistan has also brought light to a remote village in the north west of the country, through a partnership with the Government of the province of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, to provide solar energy kits. So far, this has helped to improve the lives of over 6,000 people. Find out more in our video case study.
In Bangladesh, our company has brought solar power to 16 remote villages with no electricity since 2011. The company has also run a project to install community water filtration plants that purify water for around 170,000 people a day, providing much needed clean drinking water in 14 farming districts.
We are working to build farmer networks by helping them to share best practice and become more self-sufficient. The regular training, workshops and seminars we run help to facilitate networks among our farmers’ communities.
In some countries, we go beyond this by establishing formal farmer clubs or forums as part of wider community projects. For example, our company in Bangladesh has established over 50 farmer clubs in collaboration with the Government’s Department of Agricultural Extension. The clubs are led by committees made up of local community members and company representatives. They include a combination of classroom training and field work, in areas such as alternative fuels, pesticide management, irrigation techniques, green manuring and composting. The training provided covers other crops such as rice and vegetables, not just tobacco.
On the Indonesian island of Lombok, we worked with the NGO Fauna & Flora International, as part of the former Biodiversity Partnership, to try to build community action to address water scarcity issues. The project took a multi-stakeholder approach involving central, provincial and district government agencies, local NGOs, the University of Mataram and local communities, including our tobacco farmers. Activities included establishing community groups and networks, providing training on water management and alternative fuels, restoring watersheds by planting trees, and facilitating the development of a 15-year Integrated Watershed Management Plan for the Renggung area, signed by the Head of the Central Lombok District Government.