The Sustainable Agriculture Network (SAN) was created in 1997 as a response to concerns raised by researchers and ecologists in the 1970s and 1980s, when the relationship between the predominant development model and the destruction of the world’s tropical forests became evident.
Beginning in 1984, a number of organizations such as Fundación Natura in Colombia, Rainforest Alliance, Interamerican Foundation of Tropical Research (Fundación Interamericana de Investigación Tropical – FIIT) in Guatemala, and Pronatura Sur in Mexico started work on creating the sustainable agricultural standards for banana and coffee crops.
SalvaNATURA in El Salvador, the Instituto para la Cooperación y el Desarrollo (ICADE) in Honduras, Conservación y Desarrollo (CyD) in Ecuador and the Institute for Agricultural and Forestry Management and Certification (Instituto para el Manejo y Certificación Forestal y Agrícola – IMAFLORA) in Brazil joined this effort and began to develop standards for the production of cacao and sugar.
With so many parallel efforts in different countries, in 1997 the directors of CyD, FIIT, Fundación Ambio, Fundación Natura Colombia, ICADE, IMAFLORA, Pronatura Sur, Rainforest Alliance and SalvaNATURA agreed to organize a formal network for coordinated work.
The decision of the SAN members to work together was based on the conviction that farm certification could be an effective tool for environmental protection and improving the lives of rural people.
Since then, SAN members have collaborated on the design, improvement and implementation of a standard that can be applied to an unlimited number and variety of crops and farms. The SAN story is one of cooperation between groups with common goals and the creation of links between the Northern and Southern hemispheres to protect nature and benefit agricultural communities in the tropics.
Building a sustainable market
In 1991, a certification seal called ECO-OK was used to distinguish banana plantations that complied with a series of sustainability standards, but in 2001 the SAN agreed to replace this seal with the Rainforest Alliance CertifiedTM seal and to begin international promotion of the certification system.
In 2003, several large and medium-size companies started selling certified coffee in North America, Europe and Asia. Kraft Foods – one of the world’s top coffee roasters – launched various Rainforest Alliance Certified coffee products in North America and Europe in 2005. That same year, Chiquita began selling certified bananas in supermarkets throughout Europe, and certified chocolates and orange juice also appeared on store shelves.
In 2006, the first farms were certified in Africa and Asia, global retail sales of Rainforest Alliance Certified coffee, bananas and chocolate exceeded US$1 billion, and there were more than 10,000 certified farms in 15 countries.
In 2009, SAN presented its Sustainable Cattle Production Standards and since then, certification has grown steadily and expanded to cover new crops such as flowers, pineapple and tea.
In order to meet the growing demand and challenges of increasingly regulated markets, SAN members decided to restructure the organization and turn farm auditing over to independent organizations, in order to concentrate on improving the sustainable agricultural standards and helping farmers adopt them.
SAN is currently working with certification bodies all over the world and the high demand for certified products enables us to envision a future of continuing growth.