The fourth annual report containing the results of the world’s first sustainable castor bean programme, established by Arkema, together with BASF, Jayant Agro-organics and Solidaridad, has now been published. The programme, called Pragati, was launched in May 2016 as an initiative to enable sustainable castor bean farming in India. The goal of Pragati is to enhance castor productivity and enable sustainable castor crop production in that country, where the bulk of the world supply is produced.
Castor beans play an important role in the chemical industry where castor oil and derivates are used as raw material in the production of, for example, plastics, coatings and paints, and pharmaceuticals. Arkema, for example, produces Rilsan PA11 resin is a high-performance polymer of 100% renewable origin, and Pbax Rnew, a renewably sourced family of thermoplastic elastomers, based on castor oil
The Pragati project was set up following a baseline survey of more than 1,000 castor farmers in Gujarat, India. The programme sought to stimulate the use of good agricultural practices to increase yield and farmer income and the efficient use of water resources, in addition to maintaining soil fertility. Emphasis was also placed on the adoption of good waste management practices, enabling better health and safety practices and respecting human rights.
Following the successful completion of the initial three-year Phase 1 of the programme, the founding members committed to a further three-year Phase 2, which commenced in late 2019. According to the recently released annual results, much was achieved in 2020.
The key outcomes were:
- SuCCESS (Sustainable Castor Caring for Environmental & Social Standards) code established - the first independently auditable code for castor supported by leading companies as well as civil society organisations.;
- More than 1,400 farmers in year 4 and over 4,500 farmers trained, audited, and certified;
- More than 8,700 hectares of castor farming in accordance with the SuCCESS sustainable castor crop framework, 3,600 hectares of which were newly farmed in the previous year;
- This represents associated production to date of more than 24,000 metric tons of certified sustainable castor seeds and 10,000 metric tons only for year four;
- Yield improvement of more than 50 percent as compared with the yield published by the local government in the region for 2019-2020;
- Water consumption lowered by approximately 19 percent in the demo plots where water utilisation is monitored;
- Over 5,000 personal safety kits and crop protection product storage drums distributed to farmers;
- Farmers from more than 69 villages in North Gujarat now participate in the program;
- More than 12,000 hours of classroom teaching have been concluded.
The project creates awareness to take responsibility towards health, environment, safety and societal issues, say the initiators.
The word Pragati is Hindi for ‘progress’.