Rainforest Alliance looks back on 2020 in annual report

Rainforest Alliance

International non-profit Rainforest Alliance has released its 2020 report which looks at its achievements and projects across the cocoa, coffee, tea, and banana sectors throughout the year, its responses to COVID-19, and its new certification program.

According to the report, the alliance worked with roughly 2.3 million certified farmers through the Rainforest Alliance and UTZ certification programs.

The report also found that across 2020, approximately 5000 company partners and 120 non-government organisations and civil society organisations worked alongside the Rainforest Alliance.

“Reflecting back on 2020, it is only fitting to begin with a message of hope. Yes, there’s no denying that it was a deeply painful year—one of separation, loss, and tremendous financial hardship for people all around the world,” says the Rainforest Alliance.

“But as the stories that follow will show, 2020 was also a year of untold generosity, human kindness, accelerated innovation, and far-reaching collaboration. These are the qualities and conviction we need to take on the daunting global challenges before us, from pandemics to rural poverty and the climate crisis.”

In 2020, The Rainforest Alliance operated in 70 countries through either active projects or its certification programs. It has certified 16.8 million acres of farmland, covering 8.6 million acres of land with integrated landscape management programs.

The report found that 320 million cups of coffee, the equivalent of 30 Olympic-size swimming pools, were brought from the Rainforest Alliance.

Within the Rainforest Alliance, as of 30 December 2020, the organisation states that it had 301 women and 229 men hired with senior management, which in total consists of 42 per cent women and 58 per cent men. Most Rainforest Alliance staff were located in Europe, Latin America, and the United States.

During COVID-19, the organisation says it launched an emergency fundraiser in April, raising and distributing US$80,000 to farmers and forest communities who had been affected.

The organisation’s Relief Grants went towards distributing thermometers, protective gear, and sanitation kits, training on COVID-19 health measures, providing food for struggling families, seed capital to help restart smallholder and forest activities, and to continue farmer’s agriculture training remotely.

Rainforest Alliance says that to continue its farmers agricultural training program with restrictions, reaching even the most remote areas, the organisation started recording audio trainings that could be broadcast over the radio and address the public system.

“For our most vulnerable partners, these broadcasts have been vital — providing practical guidance on how to implement sustainable growing practices that can boost yields and improve their incomes,” says the Rainforest Alliance.

Within the coffee sector, 2020 also saw the Rainforest Alliance joining partnerships with food and agri-business Olam International and Toks restaurant chain to create the Alliance for Sustainable Landscape and Markets in Mexico.

According to the report, this alliance has helped 2150 coffee farmers introduce climate-smart agriculture practices. This includes making farmers crops more resilient to changing weather conditions, increasing food security, and improving the livelihoods of rural communities.

The 2020 Rainforest Alliance report also recognised some of its “Community Heroes” or important partner communities. These include Guatemala’s Forest Guardians, who has maintained a near-zero deforestation rate for 20 years, or its partners in Kenya, including EnSo, who promotes briquettes made from waste materials and the Kenya Tea Development Agency who represents 630,000 farmers.

The year also saw the Rainforest Alliance introduce a new certification program, which since July 2021 has replaced the former Rainforest Alliance and UTZ programs. This new program was built upon two years of consultation with farmers, government, researchers, and more.

Its new principles include improved data management, continuous improvement, shared responsibility, and context adaptability.

The new program seeks to build climate resilience and cultivate rural prosperity through introducing new measures to help farmers improve their livelihoods and those of their workers to break the cycle of poverty.

It also covers protecting forests and biodiversity including geospatial analysis and risk-mapping to identify and prevent deforestation, increasing tree cover, and improving natural ecosystems.

Lastly, the program also focuses on advancing human rights, which the organisation says they have done through a more holistic approach to tackling human rights abuse, such as slavery and child labour.

“It’s been hugely energising to see how our alliance connects the rural communities who protect our forests and biodiversity with not only companies, governments, and local NGOs, but also with millions of passionate individuals around the world,” says Santiago Gowland, CEO of the Rainforest Alliance.

“2020 brought extraordinary challenges—yet these inspiring partnerships only became stronger. And I, for one, feel much more hopeful because of it.”

To read the full report, click here.

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