Diageo launches innovation fund to mitigate climate change in African smallholder farms

By Rachel Arthur

- Last updated on GMT


Related tags Diageo Africa spirits Sustainability

Smallholder farmers are highly vulnerable to weather changes and water scarcity, leading Diageo to launch a fund for innovations which promise to lessen and monitor the impact of water and climate crises on such farms in Africa.

The beer and spirits giant will devote up to £450,000 ($527,000) to innovations focused around the key areas of water, carbon and biodiversity impacts.

Targeting smallholders across Africa

As part of its 'Society 2030: Spirit of Progress'​ ESG action plan, Diageo pledges to build resilience in its communities and monitor its farming program to preserve natural resources.

The company is looking for ideas that deliver against its ambitions in this plan: putting the emphasis on 'moving away from internal targets and looking for bigger, bolder ideas and solutions that can transform sustainability in all areas of our supply chain'.

Diageo Sustainable Solutions launched in November 2020 to foster collaboration between Diageo and innovators on next gen sustainability technology.

Current pilots underway from previous rounds include a partnership with EXXERGY, Dassault Systemes and Ardagh group​ to develop a coating to make glass thinner without losing its strength to reduce emissions and the resources needed.

Innovators, start-ups and those who have developed relevant technology in other sectors - or who need seed funding to further develop their technology - are invited to apply for the latest round with a deadline of October 7.

The pilots will take place in East Africa and, if successful, will be rolled out across Diageo’s smallholder farmer network across Cameroon, Ghana, India, Kenya, Mexico, Nigeria, Tanzania, Turkey, the Seychelles, South Africa and Uganda.

The fund will focus on three key areas:

  • Water:​ Over the next 50 years, rainfall in Africa is projected to decrease by 10–20% or more, threatening to undermine global progress toward poverty alleviation, food security, and sustainable development.
    "It is imperative that soil water holding capacity and monitoring is greatly improved on smallholder farms to maximize productivity,"​ notes Diageo. "Relevant solutions could include soil additives for water retention, hyper-local weather forecasting, or probes for taking readings from the field."
  • Carbon: ​Carbon is critical to soil function and productivity, and a main component of and contributor to healthy soil conditions but can also be released in the atmosphere by agricultural practices.
    "There is a need to improve the soil carbon measurement, modelling, interpretation and monitoring to quantify the amount of carbon in the soil and support soil health improvements. Relevant solutions could include remote monitoring for landscape-scale intelligence, modelling carbon sequestration linked to land management and spectral devices."
  • Biodiversity: ​Biodiversity and climate are two sides of the same coin and biodiversity is vital to mitigating and adapting to climate change.
    "It is vital that biodiversity measuring also improves so it’s possible to track the types and changes in biodiversity throughout time. Relevant solutions could include camera trapping, co-operative models working with smallholder farmers and on farm or remote data collection practices."

Diageo’s Global Sustainability Director, Kirstie McIntyre, said: “Even under the 1.5c trajectory called for by the Paris Agreement, farmers in the southern hemisphere will need help to adapt to climate change. Our next Diageo Sustainable Solutions round will create action for innovators around the world to help save lives and livelihoods in the countries and communities that are most at risk.”

John Cant, Head of Diageo Sustainable Solutions, added: “Globally, we have unpredictable weather with increasing droughts and floods and a gap in our agriculture monitoring capabilities. Soil moisture monitoring must be improved so we can look at where we can improve soil water holding capacity, supporting our farmers to maintain a steady farming cycle and income.”

For more information and to apply, visit https://dss.diageo.com/

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