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Africa: Olam certified for water stewardship in Tanzania

Olam International has become the first agri-business globally to achieve the Alliance for Water Stewardship (AWS) Standard certification for its Aviv Coffee Plantation in Southern Tanzania, thereby conforming to the AWS International Water Stewardship Standard.

In doing so, it is helping to build the collaborative partnerships and tackle the challenges needed to ensure water security for the 300,000 people living in the surrounding Ruvuma River Basin.

With 1,025 hectares of Arabica coffee in the Songea Rural District, Aviv also becomes the first business in Africa to achieve the Standard which guides, recognizes and verifies responsible water use by private sector users.

Under its continuous improvement methodology Olam has achieved the Core level, with ambitions to progress to Gold and Platinum.

“The Ruvuma River is the lifeblood of the whole region, so in developing the plantation we take care to ensure that our irrigation needs do not impact adversely on its eco-system and the other water users, such as local communities and the local hydro-electric plant,” said Jeremy Dufour, Olam’s environmental and social manager, plantations and farming, South & East Africa.

“But with climate change an increasing threat, we must ensure that our usage in years to come does not upset the balance.”

“The Standard brought three major benefits: for communities beyond our boundaries, the best practice guidance helped us to convene the different river users to address shared challenges and scenario plan, particularly for extreme events such as droughts.”

Applying the AWS Standard beyond Tanzania

The highlands of southern Tanzania and California’s Central Valley could not be more different, but Olam’s Spices and Vegetable Ingredients team is the first US food producer to pilot the Standard at their onion drying plant in Firebaugh, California with WWF and Ecolab.

The team is now exploring rolling out the AWS Standard across other processing facilities and applying learnings to the water stewardship work they already do with its large-scale onion and tomato farmer suppliers.

“California is into its 5th year of drought and, in 2015, according to the World Economic Forum, water crises became the primary risk to the global economy in terms of impact,” said Chris Brown, head of environment for Olam.

“With around 1.2 billion people – almost one-fifth of the world’s population – living in areas of water scarcity, and 500 million people approaching this situation, the social risks are also vast.”

“We are pleased that we have already met our 2020 target to reduce water use by 10% per ton of product in our farms and plantations (publicly reported under the UN CEO Water Mandate) but we recognize we have further to go across our processing.”