Sugaronline Editorial - Facing the tough questions By Meghan Sapp

Published: 01/19/2018, 12:23:00 PM

#BonsucroWeek in Nicaragua took a hard look at the industry and found some good news while they were at it.

#BonsucroWeek in Nicaragua took a hard look at the industry and found some good news while they were at it.


Looking at oneself squarely in the mirror is not an easy thing to do, made more difficult by bright lights that forces one to see every blemish, wrinkle and sign of aging that makes the exercise even more uncomfortable. In many ways, embarking on the path of sustainability makes a farmer, a mill or a food processor do the same thing. And not just once, but regularly, and forever.

The good thing about sustainability, as opposed to aging, is that with the right measures the reflection in the mirror can look a whole lot better and in the end, much better than those who refuse to look in the mirror and ask the hard questions.

It’s that kind of hard look at the issues facing the industry at macro and micro level that Bonsucro dealt with during its annual #BonsucroWeek held this week in Managua, Nicaragua. Sugaronline’s assistant editor for Latin America went down to listen in on the discussions, to understand better from local players in Latin America how issues such as labour laws and the fight to eliminate child labour impact the industry in the region.

Social challenges are vital aspects to improving sustainability in the industry, but they run up against environmental challenges as well, such as when workers don’t have the required education and skills to keep up with a modernising industry. Mechanisation, for example, is a major trend throughout the region, one that began in earnest in Brazil but has picked up speed throughout Guatemala, Nicaragua, and elsewhere. But when topography gets in the way, goals must be compromised to take in physical realities but what does one do when 40% of workers are illiterate or didn’t complete primary education as is the case in Guatemala?

Sharing challenges and finding ways to solve them together is a key part of sustainability organisations like Bonsucro. By bringing together a community of practice to engage with new learning, share best practices and find solutions that make sense on the ground, the industry can make a real difference across the entire supply chain, including working with smallholder farmers. And the reward?

Well, if it’s up to the International Finance Corporation, sustainable mills will soon be able to access improved short-term financing to help improve cash flow, and those certified by Bonsucro will get the lowest interest rate available. Because sustainability isn’t just social and environmental, it’s absolutely economic as well.

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