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Fair production conditions for rice farmers thanks to blockchain

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Rice cake manufacturer SanoRice and Oxfam Novib are using blockchain technology. This app gives real-time confirmation of fair production conditions for Cambodian rice farmers. The information is transparent and accessible to everyone in the business chain. This guarantees a better income for farmers. Companies can give their customers more accurate information about responsible production practices.

Many Cambodians grow rice for their own consumption. Some farmers also grow rice for the domestic market or export. These farmers are almost invisible in the business chain. They are isolated, not organised and often do not earn enough to make a living. With support from the Fund for Responsible Business (FVO), SanoRice and Oxfam Novib aim for a liveable income for these farmers.

Sustainable production chain

“We first came to Cambodia 5 years ago to set up a production chain,” says Jan van den Bosch, R&D and Sustainability Manager at SanoRice. “We wanted to do this sustainably and responsibly. Transparency and traceability in the chain are very important to us as well.” SanoRice contacted Oxfam Novib for help in this area. Oxfam had designed a pilot to test ways to increase the visibility of the farmers within their chain. Van den Bosch: “We were happy to join that pilot. It allowed us to use data to confirm organic production practices and a higher income.” SanoRice and Oxfam Novib ran the pilot together with their chain partners, including rice exporter AmruRice and the consultancy firm Schuttelaars & Partners. For this pilot, Schuttelaars & Partners developed the blockchain app.

Digital handshake

The remarkable thing about blockchain is that it functions as a database. Yet, it distributes the stored data across several devices. In other words: data is not stored in a central location. This way we can share data, and compare and verify data with other data using a ‘digital handshake'.

The database is completely transparent. Apps give access to the database. Companies can check to make sure the rice farmers receive the agreed payment for their crops at any time. They can also check whether the farmers were able to sell all the rice they wanted to bring to market. Companies such as SanoRice can give their customers accurate information about responsible production practices.

“Transparency and traceability in the chain are very important to us”

Improving the farmer’s standard of living

According to Tijmen de Vries, consultant with Schuttelaars & Partners, the partnership with the Netherlands Enterprise Agency has resulted in a structured way to examine problems in the chain. Problems that impact people and the environment. De Vries: “Still, blockchain technology is not magic. This is why the project also involves efforts to strengthen the rice farmers’ cooperatives. The project trains them in farming techniques, such as crop rotation and water management. That specific combination is particularly effective in improving the farmers’ standard of living. Now and in the future.”

To be continued

For the Dutch government, a liveable income is an important social theme. The use of blockchain technology has resulted in a higher income for rice farmers. Following the success of the pilot in 2019, we expanded the project from 50 to 500 rice farmers. To support this expansion, SanoRice applied for funding from the FVO programme. The next step is to research the problems in the chain in greater detail.

Would you like to know more?

Are you a Dutch entrepreneur operating abroad? Would you like to learn more about FVO or the BlocRice pilot? Visit the Fund for Responsible Business webpage.


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