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Unilever, Acumen and Clinton announce $10 million initiative to support farmers

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MUMBAI: Unilever, Acumen and the Clinton Giustra Enterprise Partnership, an initiative of the Clinton Foundation, have launched a landmark Clinton Global Initiative (CGI) Commitment to Action called the Enhanced Livelihoods Investment Initiative (ELII) to improve the livelihoods of as many as 3,00,000 smallholder farmers and their communities in Africa, South Asia, Latin America, and the Caribbean.

Former President Bill Clinton and Frank Giustra, co-founders of the Clinton Giustra Enterprise Partnership, Unilever CEO Paul Polman, Acumen founder and CEO Jacqueline Novogratz, announced the collaboration on a panel at the Clinton Global Initiative’s 2015 Winter Meeting in New York City. The ELII will be a three-year, minimum $10 million investment initiative to catalyze economic growth and alleviate poverty amongst low-income communities in the developing world, while creating more inclusive and sustainable value chains. One of the primary goals of the partnership, which leverages Acumen’s and the Clinton Giustra Enterprise Partnership’s market-based approaches to poverty alleviation, will be to create and scale-up privately-held enterprises which will support smallholder farmers and link them to Unilever’s global supply chains and distribution networks.

“I’m excited about this partnership between the Clinton Giustra Enterprise Partnership, Acumen, and Unilever, which will improve the lives of smallholder farmers by bringing them into global markets and distribution networks, empowering hundreds and thousands of people to expand their skills and lift themselves from poverty,” said Clinton. 

“We believe that in the long term, successful businesses can only be sustainable ones. Our vision is to decouple our growth from our environmental footprint and increase our positive social impact. We can only do this by working with others. This partnership has the potential to dramatically increase the scale of what we can do to support smallholder farmers, empower women across our supply chains and in turn help build sustainable, viable businesses that alleviate poverty. Ultimately, we see this as a new model for creating a vibrant ecosystem of enterprises across supply chains.” said Polman.

 According to the International Fund on Agricultural Development, 2.5 billion people are involved in smallholder agriculture globally, accounting for an estimated 500 million small farms producing 80 per cent of the food consumed in emerging markets, from Southern Asia to sub-Saharan Africa. In addition, the increasing trend in global demand for food in developed as well as emerging countries, driven in part by population growth, has created opportunities for the expansion of smallholder agriculture.

However, many of these smallholder farmers face challenges to accessing and adopting beneficial agricultural innovations that can help pull them out of poverty, as the companies providing them with those products and services face a number of challenges in reaching these customers and achieving profitability.

Leveraging the findings from a recent study titled Growing Prosperity: Developing Repeatable Models to Scale the Adoption of Agricultural Innovations, Unilever’s, Acumen’s and the Clinton Giustra Enterprise Partnership’s investments will help these companies overcome these challenges.

Novogratz said, “It is my hope that this partnership will set a new standard for how social enterprises and corporations must work together if we are to achieve a shared vision of creating more inclusive economies that bring dignity and positive change to those traditionally left behind by traditional aid and capital markets.”

Added Giustra, “This partnership builds on our years of experience and success creating and scaling enterprises globally that bring thousands of smallholder farmers and entrepreneurs into the supply chains and distribution networks of large multinational corporations, like Unilever. Under this model, entrepreneurs and farmers will gain access to capital and skills training – all essential tools needed to pull them out of poverty.”

All three organisations will engage their global teams across India, Africa, Latin America, and the Caribbean in a collaborative process to identify investments, provide capital and deliver technical expertise and capacity building to support enterprise development and impact measurement work.

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