Our first steps in building trustworthy relationships between farmers and food companies date back 15 years, to the start of our collaboration with the Belgian retailer Colruyt. The collaboration was focused on learning together and making supply chains of products in Colruyt’s stores fairer, more transparent, and more environmentally friendly. In the coming weeks, we will be looking back at the history of what - certainly at the time - started as an unusual partnership.
In 2005, after some small collaborations in Flores, Indonesia and Benin (2004-2006), our former director Jan Aertsen entered the boardroom of Colruyt Group. He made a confession there and said that we were stuck. For many years, Rikolto (then VECO) had been active in developing countries, training farmers and organising them into farmers' organisations to access markets collectively.
But the world was globalising at a rapid pace, with food markets leading the way. For small-scale farmers in developing countries, access to an increasingly demanding market in terms of quality and hygiene standards was more like a distant dream. And in their country’s markets, they had to compete with imported products that were usually cheaper and/or of higher quality.
"How do we take this to the next level?' was the question Rikolto was struggling with. "How do we ensure that farming families have access to these demanding markets on good terms?