Tag Archives: sustainable agriculture

SAN analyzes exceptions for the restricted use of FAO/WHO HHP pesticides

SAN analyzes exceptions for the restricted use of FAO/WHO HHP pesticides

When The Sustainable Agriculture Network (SAN)  published its new 2017 Sustainable Agriculture Standard in September 2016, it was accompanied with a completely updated set of SAN prohibited pesticides containing 125 active ingredients classified as Highly Hazardous Pesticides by the FAO/WHO, additional to 25 obsolete substances. These SAN lists will be binding for audits that take place on or after July 1, 2017.


During a special round of public consultation in 2015/16, stakeholders in North and South explained the challenge to eliminate at least one eighth of these 150 active ingredients on the short run. As a consequence, in September 2016 SAN issued a procedure for exceptional pesticide use and invited stakeholders to send applications for exceptional use. This reception period of applications was closed by March 31, 2017.

From a total of 69 applications received over the last six months, 75% complied with the published SAN information requirements for the potential use of 15 active ingredients in 28 countries and 35 crops.

Some of the applications include Fungicide carbendazim for the flower sector in Colombia; Nematicide ethoprophos for the pineapple sector in Costa Rica; and Herbicide glufosinate ammonium for the banana sector in the Philippines.

The SAN pesticide expert group will analyze the requests during its May meeting in Costa Rica and decide about which active ingredients may be used under strict SAN risk mitigation requirements until June 2020.

SAN will publish an updated policy by June 15, 2017 that will reflect the results of the expert group decisions.

For more information, please contact s&p@san.ag

SAN technical community getting ready for the 2017 Standard

SAN technical community getting ready for the 2017 Standard

The in person training activities for the 2017 SAN Standard are progressing successfully with five regional workshops so far this year.

In January a workshop was held in Indonesia with a total of 24 trainers and auditors from the Rainforest Alliance and RA-Cert. The in person training will culminate with two more regional workshops: one in Colombia in April and the last one in Guatemala in May.

Watch in this video what the trainers told SAN about the new Standard and their work for sustainability:

Sustainable agriculture reaches the caatinga

Sustainable agriculture reaches the caatinga

For the first time a Brazilian venture farming of melon and watermelon achieves the social and environmental certification SAN/ Rainforest Alliance. From that harvest, Itaueira with sown in three northeastern states areas, can market their products with the seal that certifies the use of best practices in the field.

Altogether there are 3,800 hectares in the states of Piauí, Rio Grande do Norte and Ceara with the caatinga biome (dry forests in northern Brazil). This is the only typical Brazilian biome, with a unique biodiversity and also very threatened.


“The venture needs to show auditors what is being done to protect water sources, soil health, ecosystems sheltering, among other obligations. It is always a part of the certification process to take one step further. Therefore, the arrival of the certification to the caatinga has a value itself, “says Edson Teramoto, IMAFLORA‘s agronomist who participated in the audits in the company.

At the end of the cycle in all three areas from planting to harvest, the enterprise needed 1,600 workers, mostly harvesters. A significant number, taking into consideration the few opportunities the population has for income.

“Commitments with good social and environmental practices provides specific improvements, and when they win scale lead to very significant results for all parties”, recalls Edson.

To Itaueira, the certification confirms to the company management that these type of procedures  are indeed the best suited for the preservation of the environment and to assure the respect for the rights of workers. Furthermore, the good management practices are going beyond what the law requires in relation to the conservation of fauna, flora, soil, water, air, selective harvesting and recycling.

According to Itaueira’s Marketing Manager, Adriana Prado, certification will help the company achieve markets that already have environmental concerns and conscious consumers who know and respect the Rainforest Alliance CertifiedTM seal.

According to Ms. Prado, “the use of  the seal in all melon and watermelon packages,  will help spread the symbol of the certification and what it represents outside Brazil, as well as in the Brazilian market, where it is still little known”.

2017 SAN Standard: Raising the Bar on Sustainability Standards

2017 SAN Standard: Raising the Bar on Sustainability Standards

The Sustainable Agriculture Network (SAN) and the Rainforest Alliance announced today a newly revised certification standard, which encompasses existing best practices and recent innovations in sustainable agriculture.  Built around the guiding principles of effective farm planning and management, protection of biodiversity and natural resources, and improved livelihoods, the 2017 SAN Standard is designed to enable more producers to embark and then continually progress on their journey toward sustainable farming.

The 2017 SAN Standard aims to support farmers in advancing sustainable livelihoods, improving farm productivity, and becoming more resilient to climate change. Changes of note include the following:

  • Climate-smart agricultural practices are built into the standard to help farmers address climate change risks. By emphasizing soil conservation, water-use efficiency and the conservation and restoration of natural ecosystems, farmers can reduce negative effects of extreme or erratic weather, especially irregular rainfall, changing temperatures, and related increased pest and disease attacks. These same practices also help reduce greenhouse gas emissions from agriculture.


  • A key goal of the 2017 SAN Standard is to reduce forest conversion for agriculture, the leading cause of deforestation, especially in the tropics. Forest protection is mandatory for Rainforest Alliance CertifiedTM The standard prohibits conversion of natural ecosystems after 2014, protecting both primary and secondary forests, as well as ecosystems such as wetlands and natural grasslands. Further, no destruction of ecosystems designated as “High Conservation Value” may have taken place after November 2005.
  • One important innovation in the 2017 SAN Standard is its “Continuous Improvement Framework.” This framework defines three performance levels and requires time-bound investments and improvements related to water quality, waste management, soil conservation, working conditions, living wages, and other key elements of sustainability.
  • Stricter requirements related to human rights issues cover worker housing, sanitation, and safety, as well as rigorous gender and child labor protections. The 2017 SAN Standard also includes mandatory requirements for farms to have effective ways for employees to make complaints and file grievances.


  • The 2017 SAN Standard includes a substantially more rigorous framework for integrated pest management and the safe use of pesticides. The SAN lists for pesticide management prohibits the use of 150 substances in alignment with the World Health Organization (WHO) and the Food & Agriculture Organization of United Nations (FAO) parameters. The document also includes 170 additional substances which are permitted only under rigorous controls that help reduce negative impacts on human health, aquatic life, and wildlife, including pollinators. These 170 substances can be applied only under strict safety measures, such as restricting aerial fumigation in order to avoid contamination of natural ecosystems and to protect workers and bystanders, according to several conditions within the standard.


The Rainforest Alliance helped convene the Sustainable Agriculture Network in 1998.  During its joint   history the SAN and the Rainforest Alliance have certified more than one million small, medium, and large farms and farming cooperatives. Today about 3.5 million hectares (8.6 million acres) of farmland, growing 100 crops across 42 countries, are certified.

“I have always believed that if we want to protect the world’s forests, we must strengthen our commitment to work with the world’s farmers,” said Nigel Sizer, the Rainforest Alliance’s recently appointed president. “The 2017 SAN Standard honors that commitment. This standard aims to further our work in climate-smart agriculture and advances our mission to keep forests standing and communities thriving.”

The 2017 SAN Standard results from an extensive revision process involving multiple stakeholders such as farmers, NGOs, companies, scientific and technical experts; a series of open public consultations; and field-testing in key regions. The new standard was developed according to the Code of Good Practice for Setting Social and Environmental Standards of the ISEAL Alliance, the global association for sustainability standards whose mission is to strengthen sustainability standards for the benefit of people and the environment.

Andre de Freitas, executive director of SAN said, “One of the most exciting aspects of the 2017 SAN Standard is that it combines a very high level and ambitious standard covering human rights, environmental, and production issues with a scaled implementation approach designed to make it more accessible to the many farmers in the world who are still in the early steps in their journey towards sustainability.”

The 2017 SAN Standard is now available at www.sanstandard2017.ag  and will come into force from July 1st 2017 onwards.

Colombian farms get hedgerows that feed on solar energy

Colombian farms get hedgerows that feed on solar energy

As part of the “REDD+ en el Corredor de Robles” project implementation, by Fundación Natura and funded by Ecopetrol, 122 farms got connectivity lines through hedgerows.

These hedgerows feed on solar energy and serve as a protective shield for trees.

cercas vivas

This project, implemented since 2014 in Duitama, Charala, Coromoro and Encimo municipalities, aims to reduce deforestation of forests located in the Robles corridor. Its conservation strategy incorporates restoration actions associated with livestock production systems in the region, and consolidated with an agreement between owners and Fundación Natura.

The comprehensive model includes protection of oak forests, isolation of water rounds and water sources, and also the division of paddocks with trees planted in lines of hedgerows, multipurpose woodland setting, fodder banks and pasture improvement.

These actions provide the basis to stimulate a sustainable model of conservation, which at the same time improves productivity conditions and adaptation to climate change.

Associated with these environmental and production benefits are the social ones: the project is providing to 20 of the 122 producers access to electricity to light their homes and charge their cell phones.

Statement in response to Oxfam-DE report “Sweet fruit, bitter truth.”

Statement in response to Oxfam-DE report “Sweet fruit, bitter truth.”

The Rainforest Alliance and Sustainable Agriculture Network (SAN) take the allegations contained in the Oxfam-DE report,Sweet fruit, bitter truth, very seriously. We share the objectives of Oxfam-DE in helping people to overcome poverty through their own efforts, supported by consumers making informed decisions when they shop.

Meeting the challenges of environmental protection, workers’ rights, and improved livelihoods are at the core of the missions of the Rainforest Alliance and the SAN.

Many of the points raised by the Oxfam-DE report would be in breach of the critical criteria set out in the latest version of the SAN Standard (adopted September 2015). Therefore, if the investigatory audits commissioned by SAN find evidence to support the claims in Oxfam’s report it would lead to the decertification of the farm or farms in question immediately.

The investigative audits we have done so far have not found supporting evidence, and we cannot corroborate Oxfam’s allegations. Our investigations are ongoing and we are determined to verify if indeed the allegations made by Oxfam-DE are accurate.

We invite Oxfam-DE to join us on the ground to visit the implicated farms, where we can confirm factually their status of performance against the SAN Standard. Should we find that the farms are in breach of the SAN Standard, necessary actions will be taken to improve the situation both at farm level and at the overall SAN/ Rainforest Alliance certification scheme level. We also invite Oxfam-DE to work with us to understand why Oxfam’s findings and the SAN / Rainforest Alliance investigations are resulting in different findings.

As our investigations have yet to find evidence in support of the claims made by Oxfam-DE, we cannot accept Oxfam’s communication about our work and the work of Rainforest Alliance Certified™ farms. It is also important to note the observations from Oxfam are based upon their assessment of compliance against the 2010 SAN Standard, version three, and not version four that has applied to all audits carried out since 1 December 2015.

“The Rainforest Alliance is fully committed to ensuring and improving worker welfare, rights and safety globally,” explained Nigel Sizer, President of the Rainforest Alliance. “We are committed to working as closely as possible with Oxfam-DE and others and will continue to play our part in creating the conditions and delivering solutions that will allow people and the planet to prosper together.”

Andre de Freitas, the Executive Director of the SAN commented, “SAN is fully committed to ensuring that the SAN standard and certification process is rigorously implemented around the world and is based upon the highest quality auditing. We welcome the participation and support of all stakeholders, including consumers, NGOs, governments, farmers, workers, and industry, in working with us to find solutions to serious problems and realize long-term, effective change.”


In late April, Oxfam-DE shared with us a short summary of the findings from its report and SAN immediately put into operation its formal complaints process, commissioning investigatory audits of the farms we received information on. The investigation audits undertaken so far on two farms did not uncover any evidence that supports the findings made by Oxfam-DE (see below).

Oxfam-DE shared only a very limited summary of its findings and did not provide us access to the full report until a couple of days prior to publication. Nor were we contacted by Oxfam-DE during their work in Costa Rica and Ecuador. This limited our ability to investigate Oxfam’s findings as we normally would in response to similar complaints or studies.

The allegations contained in the Oxfam-DE report are based upon interviews with workers. In contrast, the SAN investigations are based upon a multi-pronged approach, one used by other certification initiatives in the ISEAL Alliance (a body committed maintaining the quality of certification programs) as well as many respected ISO auditing systems. This method applies both to claims by management to support compliance and claims the farm is not in compliance with the SAN standard. Both the Rainforest Alliance and SAN believe this is a more robust approach in ensuring auditing and investigations are effective in assessing the performance of farms against the SAN standard and in ensuring continuous improvement on farms (see below).

We have discussed over the past week our findings with Oxfam-DE and stressed our desire to confirm factually the performance of the Rainforest Alliance Certified farms that have been reviewed by their research and for which they have provided details. We will undertake further investigations in the coming weeks as more information is provided. We invite Oxfam-DE to file formal complaints about farms they believe are in violation of the SAN standard and that we have not already investigated. The process for filing a formal complaint is found here: http://san.ag/web/inquiries-and-complaints/.

One of the underlying principles of the SAN standard and the work of the Rainforest Alliance is to advance continuous improvement. As an example of this, we have worked over the past few years on reviewing our SAN/ RA certification scheme and we are about to launch a new and upgraded standard and certification process in September 2016 that will require a stronger compliance level from farmers and will further strengthen how certification audits are undertaken. Many of the problems faced on farms and by workers are systemic in nature. They cannot be solved quickly and cannot be solved by certification and certification standards alone. Bigger issues around workers’ and human rights – including national legislation, local enforcement and governance, and power imbalances in the supply chain – can be addressed only through determined cooperation between local, national, and international actors from civil society, the private sector, and government.

Details of the investigations audits undertaken on the two farms notified to the Rainforest Alliance and SAN in Costa Rica and Ecuador

The approach taken by the SAN investigations consisted of three elements:

  1. A review of the previous audit reports for the farms on which we received Oxfam DE summary of findings;
  2. On-site audit including:
    1. Group and individual interviews with workers that took place without management and supervisory staff present;
    2. Interviews with farm management, document review at the farm, observations of field practices and working conditions;
    3. Document reviews typically include payroll records, pay slips, identifications and legal status, social security subscriptions, et al;
    4. Pesticide applications documentation is reviewed and workers are interviewed regarding safety practices; this is cross referenced with physical checks on the pesticide stores and field observations;
    5. Health and safety risk analysis is reviewed; and
  3. Record checks with local government, or local offices of national government (e.g. the Labour Ministry) where appropriate.

The allegations contained in the Oxfam-DE report focus on pineapple production in Costa Rica and banana production in Ecuador. Investigations have been carried out in both countries by fully qualified auditors from SAN accredited certifiers.

Costa Rica

  • In Costa Rica the audit team included an experienced auditor who is an occupational health and safety expert and labour lawyer. The investigation concluded that Oxfam-DE’s claims about worker safety, wages that are less than the minimum wage, and undocumented workers were unfounded. This was verified in the documentation at the Labour Ministry. All interviewed workers reported receiving all of their benefits and at least minimum wage, including upwards adjustment for piece rate workers if quotas cannot be made.
  • All migrant workers checked met all of the legal requirements for working in Costa Rica. Many indicated that the farm(s) helped them obtain their legal residency and/or work permits. Workers said that they signed work contracts and copies were found in the farm documentation.
  • There was no evidence of prohibited pesticide use either in application records or in storerooms. Interviews and application records indicated that safety measures are taken to avoid worker presence in the field (work programming, coloured flags on spray booms, and communication with supervisors via cell phone or radio if workers are seen in areas where applications are supposed to take place). Workers said that they received all of the necessary training and personal protective equipment and demonstrated knowledge of safety practices.
  • Workers also stated that nobody has prohibited them from joining any group or organization they want to.
  • The audit did find isolated incidences where the legal work week of 60 hours during peak periods had been exceeded. This was detected during the last annual audit as well as by the Labour Ministry inspection that took place earlier in 2016. The farms concerned are seeking solutions and the Labour Ministry will carry out a follow up verification.


  • The audit in Ecuador was carried out by an experienced auditor with support from a practicing lawyer. The audit team reviewed payroll documentation, including pay receipts signed by the workers, and interviewed field and packing plant workers.
  • The evidence compiled indicated that workers received at least the minimum wage, benefits required by Ecuadorian laws, and that working hours and overtime were within legally established limits. Workers have written employment contracts on file. The investigatory audit found no evidence of wage discrimination as reported by Oxfam-DE.
  • The farm has posted its policy on freedom of association in areas accessible to workers. Interviewed workers reported that they knew of their right to organize and join unions, and that they were not dissuaded from joining a union. There was no evidence that workers were dismissed for union or worker organization activities.
  • There was evidence of a legally formed and registered occupational health and safety committee, with worker participation. There are up-to-date records of medical exams for workers according to the risks that they are exposed to. A physician was employed by the farm until his departure in April; the farm is in the process of contracting another. Workers do not have to pay for medical services provided by the farm.
  • Weaknesses were found in the system used by the farm to alert workers about the aerial spraying of the plantation. This could result in work that is programmed to take place in some areas that might coincide with spraying. The farm has been informed of this issue and will work to improve the warning system.

How certified banana farms are doing it better

How certified banana farms are doing it better

Bananas are the world’s most popular fruit, and the basis of a US $7 billion global industry that employs hundreds of thousands of workers. In the 1980s and 1990s, banana production expanded significantly in several tropical regions, with tropical forests being cleared for large banana monocultures using heavy inputs of water, fertilizers and pesticides.


In tandem with increased public awareness of the unacceptable conditions on banana farms, the Rainforest Alliance created its first banana standard in 1990. By 1997, Chiquita had committed to certifying all its bananas to the Rainforest Alliance standard. By the end of 2014, 1,665 banana farms in 12 countries were Rainforest Alliance Certified, covering over 90,000 production hectares.

Only one peer-reviewed study has evaluated the effects of SAN/Rainforest Alliance certification on the adoption of more sustainable farm practices and effective management systems. On our first Impacts Report we summarize this study and present results from a new analysis of changes in certified banana farms’ practices over time, using information available from annual audit reports.

In Ecuador, researchers compared the performance of 10 Rainforest Alliance Certified banana farms and 14 similarly-sized non-certified farms relative to a set of 29 environmental and social best practices.

For all practices for which data were reported, the certified farms performed better than non-certified. These practices included:

— Creating buffer zones or vegetative barriers

— Treating banana processing wastewater before release

— Avoiding use of the herbicide paraquat

— Conducting analytic and diagnostic procedures before using agrochemicals

— Record-keeping on agrochemicals

— Training on pest management for farm workers

— Returning banana stalks to the field to enhance organic matter

— Disposing of plastic bags properly


reporte banano

To better understand the adoption of more sustainable practices by certified banana farms, we conducted a time-series analysis based on data contained in certification audit reports for 26 Rainforest Alliance Certified banana farms in Costa Rica, Guatemala, and Honduras. We identified all criteria for which auditors issued a non-conformity at the time of the first audit (in 2011 or later), and then tracked these non-conformities over all subsequent audits (up to 2014) to determine which had been eliminated by time of the most recent audit, on average 20 months later.

On average, certified banana farms were issued 10 non-conformities at their first audit, with non-conformity rates ranging from 1–25 percent for each of the 10 SAN principles. By their most recent audit, 82 percent of these non-conformities had been eliminated.


Key Outcomes and Broader Impacts

Only one peer-reviewed study has examined outcome-level results on Rainforest Alliance Certified banana farms. Researchers working in Ecuador examined Rainforest Alliance Certified banana farms and a sample of similar-sized non-certified banana farms, and found that yields on certified farms were 39.9 metric tons per hectare per year versus 32.7 metric tons per hectare per year on uncertified farms.

The authors attribute the relatively high yields on both certified and non-certified farms to the use of fertilizers and agrochemicals by farms in the sample. However, they noted that the certified farms used these inputs more efficiently as a result of good practices instituted through regular worker training events.

Is sustainability a good deal for farmers?

Is sustainability a good deal for farmers?

The latest issue of Imaflora’s “Sustentabilidade em Debate” brings together three studies that complement each other with the aim of answering the same question: can the adoption of good management practices for production, conservation of natural resources and working conditions be justified economically? In other words, is the adoption or pursuit of sustainability a good deal for farmers?

As a rule, industry leaders argue that sustainability can be achieved as long as someone foots the bill. This statement embeds the assumption that sustainability is a cost or a competitive disadvantage.

To test whether this perception is actually true, SEBRAE, Rabobank and Imaflora joined researchers from ESALQ-USP and from the University of Oxford. Based on robust methods, the three studies analyzed large databases that contain information from dozens of farmers covered by programs designed to stimulate sustainability in several regions of Brazil either through the provision of credit, technical assistance or certification.

“Sustentabilidade em Debate” presents, in advance and in a simplified and summary form, studies in final stages of postgraduate research that will later be published in detailed academic format.

The main conclusions and recommendations of the studies are the following ones:

— Farmers who adopt sustainability and management programs have improved economic performance outcomes. They are, therefore, more competitive.

— This is because these farmers achieve higher productivity, become more efficient and produce at a lower cost. The economic advantages enjoyed on the farms are independent from market benefits or special prices.


— A farmer with high socioenvironmental performance tends to have greater financial health and, therefore, would tend to be a customer with less risk and greater ability to pay for the financial sector.

A management system is critical for implementing sustainability practices and for improving productivity and the efficiency of production.

Management systems and sustainability practices can be adopted by small, medium and large farmers. Collective actions favor and increase the scale of adoption for small and medium ones.

— Credit can influence the adoption and support the implementation of good practices, management systems and sustainability practices in agriculture. A credit policy based on incentives and mechanisms for supporting changes driven by financial agents can induce a process of continuous improvements in the performance of farmers in terms of sustainability. The adoption of such a mechanism tends to be beneficial for farmers and banks.

Market instruments such as certification contribute to the implementation of management systems and sustainability practices. They can be implemented collectively, thus reducing costs for farmers.


There is a gap in terms of public policies designed to support the adoption of better management systems by farmers. Weak technical assistance and rural extension programs constitute a major barrier to sustainability.

— The experiences of Rabobank and of the Educampo program (SEBRAE) show the potential of credit and technical assistance to promote and support the implementation of sustainability practices on farms. However, the main public policies for agricultural production do not encourage or support the implementation of management systems and sustainability practices as a core component. Little by little, sustainability parameters are being incorporated into some policies, but still in a marginal way. The metrics of production and productivity that usually measure the sector’s success make all the challenges and complexities involved in promoting sustainable production invisible.

— Weak public technical assistance and rural extension (ATER) programs go hand in hand with the increasing role of the private sector as a source of innovation and technology transfer, which is not necessarily intended to improve management systems, sustainability practices and the efficiency of farmers.

You can read “Sustentabilidade em Debate” in our library.