Rainforest Alliance outlines high hopes for SL in years to come

With the need for responsible business practices in our agricultural industry at an all-time high, the Rainforest Alliance, an eminent international non-profit organisation (NGO) working across 70 countries in exactly this field, held a reception to bring together key organisations and individuals to speak about the work they do and explore opportunities to strengthen their sustainability footprint in Sri Lanka through partnerships and collaborations with Sri Lankan organisations and individuals.

Rainforest Alliance Consultant Jehan CanagaRetna

Expanding on the type of work they do, Rainforest Alliance Consultant Jehan CanagaRetna explained that the Rainforest Alliance is committed to creating a landscape-level intervention in the region to address critical sustainability challenges and that Sri Lanka is indeed a key priority country for the organisation, given the scale of impact it has generated in the tea sector. He added that the tea industry is currently facing huge scrutiny on an environmental and sustainable level, and that is vital for the tea industry to develop more sustainable practices for its stakeholders moving forward. This is something the Rainforest Alliance hopes to work closely with the tea industry on.

The Rainforest Alliance looks to create a more sustainable world by using social and market forces to protect nature and improve the lives of farmers and forest communities. By bringing farmers, forest communities, companies, and individuals together, it addresses some of the most pressing social and environmental challenges of today. The organisation changes the way the world produces, sources, and consumes, with a focus on cocoa, coffee, tea, bananas, forest products, and palm oil through its certification programme, supply chain services, landscape management, and advocacy.

In 2020, more than 6.8 million hectares of land and more than 2.3 million​ farmers were certified according to the Rainforest Alliance or UTZ standards, which are designed to improve economic, environmental, and social sustainability.

Rainforest Alliance Director for South Asia Dr. Madhuri Nanda

Speaking on some of the Rainforest Alliance’s core values, Rainforest Alliance Director for South Asia Dr. Madhuri Nanda explained that chief among the Rainforest Alliance’s values and methods of working is sustainable certification. The Rainforest Alliance works with accredited bodies who verify agricultural and business practices to ensure a responsible intersection between business, agriculture, forests, and the environment.

Another core value of the Rainforest Alliance is driving landscape-level intervention, identifying key issues that challenge an overall landscape, and working with different stakeholders, private and public, to drive change that preserve land, cultures, and biodiversity.

The Rainforest Alliance also works to transform supply chain practices, working with companies to see how they can support sustainability within supply chains and help companies more easily make the shift towards sustainability.

Since 2008, the Rainforest Alliance has created a positive environmental and social impact on 150,000 hectares of land and 200,000 metric tonnes (MT) of produce by bringing them under sustainable agriculture practices. About 65,000 small farmers are already part of the Rainforest Alliance certification system in the country. Jointly with the businesses, the Rainforest Alliance has been engaging with farmers to train them towards sustainable agricultural practices and address issues such as deforestation, watershed conservation, biodiversity conservation, and human-wildlife conflict (HEC).

The Sustainable Agriculture Standard promotes climate-smart and regenerative agriculture practices, alongside management of human rights issues in the plantations – for instance, child labour, forced labour, gender rights, and other rights-based issues.

Through the next few years, Dr. Nanda shared that the Rainforest Alliance, which has been working in Sri Lanka for over a decade, wants to build a bigger team locally and drive a bigger impact within the country.

“Our ongoing work in Sri Lanka needs to be consolidated and partnerships curated to work towards a common agenda for sustainable development for the country. Although the Rainforest Alliance-certified members and many in the plantation sector know about the value we bring in terms of sustainability, we feel the need to raise more awareness about our mandate for Sri Lanka and join forces with more like-minded organisations, as there is indeed strength in a collective approach when it comes to sustainability,” Dr. Nanda said in a statement released at the event.