The SAI tools support farmers in assessing, measuring and implementing sustainable agricultural practices. All systems are voluntary and easy-to-use, even for smallholder farms. Ticks all boxes for on-farm water management.

Description

In 2002, Nestlé, Unilever and Danone formed the Sustainable Agriculture Initiative (SAI); a platform which now brings together over 70 companies sharing knowledge and best practices on sustainable agricultural practices. SAI develops tools and guidance to support sustainable sourcing and production of arable and vegetable crops, beef, coffee, dairy and fruit. SAI’s Farm Sustainability Assessment provides a questionnaire to assess farm sustainability, which can be used directly with farmers or as a benchmark tool for comparing proprietary codes/company charters and certification schemes. Check points are scaled as either essential, basic or advanced, and the tool includes an intuitive scoring mechanism with a visualized overview of the farm’s performance.

SAI also offers water-specific guidance in its documents entitled “Principles & Practices for Sustainable Water Management in Agriculture” and “Water Stewardship in Sustainable Agriculture”. The P&P document presents recommended practices of water management for economic, social and environmental sustainability. It covers a range of issues such as water conservation and management, ecosystem protection, soil management and pollution control on a more detailed level than does the FSA, which makes it a useful complement. It also features some principles and practices specific for coffee, dairy & livestock and vegetables & fruits. The water stewardship document provides a more general introduction to the catchment approach and stakeholder engagement within water management. Together, these resources make up a great package for sustainability efforts!

Farming

Essential level: Conservation of important ecosystems, e.g. wetlands and peat lands.

Basic level: The farmer should make an assessment of the suitability of the land for its current and planned use. This includes taking into account previous use, current characteristics of the land, impact on neighbouring activities and respecting the rights of communities regarding access to natural resources. A farm management plan should be outlined, that identifies risks and opportunities, and with concrete targets on e.g. water availability. A water use plan aims to minimize use and waste of irrigated water through e.g. rainwater harvesting, irrigation at night, irrigation system monitoring to minimize leakage etc.

Advanced level: The advanced water management plan includes an inventory of water resources and mitigating actions. It takes into account the timing and amount of irrigation in relation to crop requirements, the “added value” of irrigation and weather forecasts in order to avoid depletion of water resources beyond the recharge capacity of the watershed. Furthermore, cooperation with other water users to balance needs and diversification of sources are mentioned as possible measures.

Essential level: –

Basic level: The farmer should make an assessment of the suitability of the land for its current and planned use; including water pollution. A farm management plan should be outlined, that identifies risks and opportunities, and with concrete targets on e.g. soil and water pollution.

Advanced level: For farms with irrigation systems, water quality in terms of minerals, chemicals and/or microbiological composition should be assessed regularly and managed based on the results. A water management plan includes an inventory of water resources and mitigating actions.

Essential level: –

Basic level: A water use plan aims to minimize use and waste of irrigated water through e.g. rainwater harvesting, irrigation at night, irrigation system monitoring to minimize leakage etc.

Advanced level: The advanced water management plan includes an inventory of water resources and mitigating actions. It takes into account the timing and amount of irrigation in relation to crop requirements, the “added value” of irrigation and weather forecasts in order to avoid depletion of water resources beyond the recharge capacity of the watershed. Furthermore, cooperation with other water users to balance needs and diversification of sources are mentioned as possible measures. Optimized irrigation method in use where water is reused and recycled where possible. Irrigation records are maintained.

Essential level: –

Basic level: The farmer must choose fertilizer type (of high quality and from trustworthy sources), quantity and application method to increase nutrient efficiency and reduce negative environmental impact. The use of untreated sludge and sewage sludge should be prevented. There must be a harmless composition and application of organic manure and treated sludge, and records of applications. All fertilizers must be safely stored and a risk assessment of the storage should be performed and followed up. The farmer must make an informed choice of seed, planting and grafting material, taking into account fertilizer need etc. Non-target areas and crops should be protected from agrochemical applications. Fertilizer application equipment should be maintained and calibrated regularly. Equipment and containers should be stored and cleaned safely for the environment. Hazardous waste and agrochemical waste should be managed and disposed of in a way that minimizes risks to the environment.

Advanced level: The farmer should have a nutrient management plan including fertilizer application rate and interval. Optimum plant spacing in the field should be taken into account in order to optimize the use of and minimize leakage of fertilizers.

Essential level: Only officially permitted plant protection products (PPP) are used. The farmer should apply precautionary actions to protect environment from the application of PPP’s. Maximum authorized rates of PPP’s and label recommendations must be respected.

Basic level: The person to apply pesticides should receive training in Integrated Pest Management (IPM). The farmer must make an informed choice of seed, planting and grafting material, taking into account disease resistance etc. A safe handling and storage of PPP’s must be applied, keeping records of storage and application. Chemical PPP’s are applied only when necessary and non-chemical pesticides are used where possible. Non-target areas and crops should be protected from agrochemical applications. PPP application equipment should be maintained and calibrated regularly; equipment and containers stored and cleaned safely for the environment. Hazardous waste and agrochemical waste should be managed and disposed of in a way that minimizes risks to the environment.

Advanced level: Integrated Pest Management (IPM) is applied throughout. Side effects of pesticide application are minimized by using selective pesticides, targeted application and/or seed dressing. If red-listed PPP’s are used, there should be a plan for phasing them out.

Essential level: Conservation of primary forest, wetland, grassland, peatland or other native ecosystems.

Basic level: Avoiding crop disease cross contamination and cultivation of invasive species. Complying with all regulations if using GM species. The farmer must make an informed choice of seed and planting material, taking into account genetic diversity on the farm etc. The farmer takes measures to conserve and improve soil health, including soil biodiversity. Biodiversity should be assessed as well as priority actions to preserve biodiversity. If a farm is situated next to or in protected areas, the farmer must work with legal permits and ensure that the activities do not harm the ecosystem.

Advanced level: The farmer should take into account optimum plant spacing in the field and consider intercropping and companion planting to enhance biodiversity. Integrated Pest Management (IPM) is applied. The farmer should have a biodiversity plan to maintain or improve biodiversity. Habitat restoration should be practiced using preferably native species, and compensation for areas on the farm that have been prone to habitat/biodiversity loss. If farm activities are located next to or in protected areas (national parks, wildlife refuges, biological corridors or forestry reserves), it is recommended to maintain buffer zones with trees, bushes or other vegetation.

Essential level: –

Basic level: Waste and by products of harvesting and processing are reduced, reused and recycled. Optimal timing for crop deliveries should be discussed with customers.

Advanced level: –

Essential level: –

Basic level: The water use plan aims to minimize the use of irrigated water; water reuse not explicitly mentioned but a relevant measure.

Advanced level: An optimized irrigation method is used where water is reused and recycled where possible.

Essential level: –

Basic level: –

Advanced level: The advanced water management plan aims to optimize water usage, but focuses mainly on irrigation water.

Essential level: –

Basic level: Measures are taken to maximize energy use efficiency, including optimizing the use of energy-intensive inputs and minimizing the energy used for cropping by using no-till. Machinery and equipment are maintained to ensure proper and efficient functioning.

Advanced level: Air pollution sources should be identified and air quality monitored.

Essential level: All people on the farm must have access to safe drinking water and hygienic toilet and hand-washing facilities.

Basic level: –

Advanced level: Activities to promote the prevention of diseases are undertaken, and personal hygiene among workers encouraged.

Essential level: Conservation of primary forest, wetland, grassland, peat land or other native ecosystems.

Basic level: Selection of seed, planting and grafting varieties should take into account disease resistance, genetic diversity on the farm and adaptation to local climatic and geographic conditions. Crop rotation used where applicable.

Advanced level: The farmer should take into account optimum plant spacing in the field and consider intercropping and companion planting to stabilize and secure harvests. The advanced water management plan include an inventory of water resources and mitigating actions, such as diversification of water sources to ensure water access continuity across seasons. Additionally, the farmer should have a risk mitigation strategy in place to survive environmental shocks such as drought.

 

Essential level: The farmer must make sure that the water used for irrigation or treatment is in compliance with applicable regulations and legislation.

Basic level: Buffer zones should be maintained adjacent to water. There should be procedures and equipment available to deal with spills of PPP’s, fertilizers and fuels. Measures including regular quality checks are taken to avoid water and soil pollution from waste water; runoff of chemicals, mineral and organic substances is prevented.

Advanced level: The advanced water management plan aims to minimize waste water.

Essential: –

Basic: There should be measures in place to avoid soil erosion, e.g. following contours with operations for soil preparation, terracing, cover crops, minimized tillage, wind breaks, buffer zones adjacent to water. Additionally, measures to conserve and improve soil health include the use of organic manure and compost and soil humidity management (drainage maintenance practices in wet climate and rainwater harvesting or mulching in dry conditions).

Advanced: Habitat restoration practiced in degraded areas that have been prone to soil erosion.

Essential level: –

Basic level: Conservation and improvement of soil health should be ensured through minimium tillage, returning crop residues to the field, organic manure and compost application, cover crops, avoiding excessive use of agrochemicals and soil humidity management (drainage maintenance practices in wet climate and rainwater harvesting or mulching in dry conditions). Crop rotation is used where applicable.

Advanced level: Compaction by machines or livestock is avoided.

Essential level: –

Basic level: Crop rotation applied where relevant. Taking soil type into account when choosing seed and planting material.

Advanced level: Periodic soil sampling (of OM, N, P, K, pH and micro nutrients) to monitor changes in soil condition to be used as input in a nutrient management plan. The nutrient management plan should be updated annually and consist of an overview of nutritional needs of crops, soil types, application rates of fertilizers, nutrient input/output balance calculations etc. Habitat restoration practiced in degraded areas that have been prone to soil fertility loss.