As we become more aware of what we are putting in our bodies and the effect that is having on the planet, we need to support those leading the way. LE FRUIT is paving the way for a sustainable and healthy food and drink environment, supply chain and creating a pilot farm training future for farmers. We asked Sophie Boyadjian, Marketing & Export Director of LE FRUIT and Les Vergers Du Mekong to share a little more about their story.
GREEN IS THE NEW BLACK: Sophie, tell us a little bit about the bigger picture when we are talking about farming and farmers around the world.
SOPHIE BOYADJIAN: Around the world, over 75 percent of people living in poverty, depend on agriculture for their livelihoods. The vast majority of the world’s farmers – 1.5 billion people, according to the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) – are smallholder farmers (farms operating with less than two hectares of land), yet they are the largest group of people in the world living in poverty. But smallholders provide up to 80 percent of the food supply in Asia.
GITNB: So how does this relate back to the work that LE FRUIT does?
SB: LE FRUIT has always supported a sustainable agriculture since its early stages in 2000 in the Mekong Delta to secure a complete traceability avoiding phytosanitary products and to source only the best quality of fruits for its juices and jams, but also as the first line of defense against climate change and even poverty. Jean-Luc Voisin, who is the founder of LE FRUIT brand and Managing Director of Les Vergers Du Mekong and my father, felt that he has ‘a clear stake in ensuring a sustainable development’, which drove him to create his sustainable fruit supply chain programme.
GITNB: Unpack more about the threat of climate change in the Mekong Delta area and how this affect your strategy?
SB: The Mekong Delta is the rich orchard of Vietnam thanks to sufficient water, quality of land and sun all the year round. However, the agricultural land of the Mekong Delta is threatened by the climate change that brings more floods and consequently a steady growing salinization of the land. To safeguard fruit sourcing locally from the Mekong Delta the focus for fruit production and collection must move further in-land on the Vietnamese and the Cambodian side; knowing that in Cambodia, the fruit sector is underdeveloped.
GITNB: How did the sustainable pilot farm come about?
SB: At the end of 2016, Les Vergers De Mekong gathered the German Development Bank (KFW-DEG), ASSIST (an NGO focused on capacity building for social improvement and food safety) and France Volontaires (a platform for experienced profiles in the developing countries) to start the Le Fruit sustainable pilot farm on 5 hectares of unused land, near the Mekong River, in Cambodia. With the lead my father and the company’s fruit supply chain department, they started with land preparation, followed the traditional way of cultivation in the region and worked on a sustainable agriculture. Le Fruit sustainable farm is meant to grow top-of-the-range quality fruits to be used in Le Fruit juices and jams, but also to experiment new farming practices with better natural resources management. What’s more? It will become a training center for the local Cambodian farmers or future fruit growers interested in growing fruits.
GITNB: Being an organic farm, share with us about the environmental protections that have been put in place?
SB: At the organizational level, we work with official bodies to preserve natural eco-systems and introduce an environmental agriculture certification in Cambodia: GAP Cambodia (Good Agricultural Practices). What this means at the farm level is running the farm with Cambodian farmers following these practices, such as water and soil conservation, to face the current challenges such as water scarcity, the impacts of climate change and extreme weather events.
It has been a challenging first year for the exploitation of the sustainable farm, but thanks to the dedication of the farm team from villages around the farm, harvesting has started at the beginning of the year. The 2,000 pink guava trees are giving beautiful and rich guavas and soon we will taste the Victoria pineapples from the 100,000 plants. Mr Voisin is proud to share that ‘no pesticides, nor phytosanitary products whatsoever have been used on Le Fruit farm even after the floods and droughts’. The guavas and pineapples grown on Le Fruit farm will be the first fruits certified in the country; later the fruits from the growers trained on Le Fruit pilot farm.
GITNB: That must be so wonderful and rewarding to experience! What is next for the programme?
SB: The sustainable fruit supply programme is just at its beginning, we would like to involve more farmers and fruit growers, then create a collection center next to the farm to collect quality fruits with a complete traceability from fruit growers trained on sustainable crops and farming techniques on the pilot farm. We are also opening a second farm at the end of the year in Cambodia which will also be organic and serve to try new farming technics to be adapted to the regional climate and resources.
Learn more about the wonderful work that Le Fruit and Les Vergers Du Mekong do!
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