Promoting sustainable agricultural supply chains and improving standards

Project description

Title: Programme for sustainable agricultural supply chains and standards
Commissioned by: German Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development (BMZ)
Country: Global
Lead executing agency: Varies by country
Overall term: 2017 to 2020

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Smallholders produce about 90 per cent of cocoa worldwide and well over 70 per cent of the world's coffee, cotton and rubber. These people are the first link in a long supply chain, but despite this, they are all too often unable to make a living from their efforts in growing crops. Entire families, including children, work in fields and on plantations day in, day out, but this is not enough to generate a living income. They are denied a dignified life and a secure existence. 

Soya, palm oil, cocoa, coffee and rubber are among the major drivers of deforestation around the world. The degradation of ecosystems, including rainforest clearing, fuels climate change. This, in turn, is hampering growing conditions in many places, which is making the situation for farmers even worse. The consequence, more and more often, is rural exodus and migration. In light of this, the German Government has identified a need for action, with ‘deforestation-free supply chains’ forming part of the current coalition agreement. This has made the programme even more relevant.


People in global agricultural supply chains are leading dignified lives and earning a living income, and agricultural products are being grown and traded fairly. Forest destruction has been stopped and we are better protecting our ecosystems and our climate. The agri-food sector is a modern and attractive field of employment, which also offers young people prospects for the future.



The Programme on Sustainable Agricultural Supply Chains and Standards is a transnational programme that focuses on agricultural resources such as coffee, cocoa, bananas, soya, rubber, palm oil and cotton. Because many of the challenges facing farmers are not limited to one region or one resource, an improvement in production conditions can only be achieved across the board, adopting a holistic approach.

That is why the programme aims to boost sustainability in agricultural supply chains by supporting closer-knit national and international cooperation between actors from the private sector and local and national governments. The programme uses multi-stakeholder partnerships (MSPs) to work with representatives from the worlds of business, politics, science and civil society.

Specialist advisors are developing strategic approaches to improving working conditions, wages and income. The measures are directed towards both the agricultural sector and the food and textiles industries, including processing and trading. The programme is implementing these approaches along the supply chains together with all actors. With the help of innovative information and communication technology (ICT), solutions are being developed that can be used in different areas and situations. Specialists are also advising the German Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development (BMZ) on strategies, concepts and current developments. 


  • The issue of environmental compatibility and production conditions in global agriculture is successfully represented in international and national dialogue bodies.
  • By supporting farming methods that preserve forests, the programme has helped to protect forests in Indonesia and Côte d’Ivoire. This has made an important contribution to preserving biodiversity and reducing greenhouse gases.
  • The supported partnerships increasingly implement aspects of sustainability in the global supply chains for coffee, cocoa and bananas. For example, the proportion of certified cocoa products on the German market has significantly increased.
  • In order to promote fair trade, the programme has joined hands with food retail companies to develop approaches for transparent supply chains and sustainable procurement practices. A working group of the German retail trade on living wages and income, coordinated by the Initiative for Sustainable Agricultural Supply Chains (INA), developed a voluntary commitment that was signed in the presence of the German Federal Minister for Economic Cooperation and Development.

Additional information