Sunita’s Story: Measuring Social Compliance Impact on Farms in India

Rohini Chandrasekaran, FLA’s Agriculture Program Coordinator, recently visited several Syngenta-contracted farms producing hybrid vegetable seeds in India. Syngenta is a Participating Company in the FLA. One of the objectives of her trip was to learn more about the impact of Sygenta’s affiliation with FLA on the lives of workers. This is a guest post from Rohini.

I visited a farm in Giroli, where sweet pepper, watermelon, marigold, hot pepper, and tomato seeds are grown for Syngenta. The farm has been associated with Syngenta for the past 20 years. According to the farmers, their association with Syngenta resulted in decent money, increased social status and a good image in the society. The growers like the social compliance aspect of the Syngenta program. According to the growers, honesty and trust among workers builds ownership and leads to profitable seed production. Hence, they accept the requirement that workers should be treated well as these workers are crucial in completing the cross-pollination activity effectively. The growers realized that creating a good work culture and environment would help them to attain prosperity in the seed business.

Sunita (left) works on Syngenta supplier farm in India

Some of the practises introduced as part of Syngenta’s social compliance program include access to incentives like food, tea, medical support, transportation, sponsored picnics; provision of safe drinking water; dining with workers to build relationships; motivating workers’ children to attend school; providing shelter and care for small children; providing overtime premium during pollination; requiring that workers wear personal protective equipment; and more. The majority of the growers I spoke with said that their association with the FLA has helped them understand the importance and value of good working conditions on their farms. In fact, several said that even if they were not monitored by FLA in the future, they would continue these practices on their own because of the long-term benefits for their business.

During this trip I met with a 17-year-old girl, Sunita, who has worked on a seed production farm since last year. Here’s what a typical day looks like for Sunita:

  • 10:00 a.m.: a vehicle from the farmer’s house arrives at her house
  • Work begins upon arrival at the farm. Sunita works especially on inter-cultivation operations such as cross-pollination, ticking, tying, and fertigation.
  • 2:00 p.m.: one-hour break
  • Work continues after the break.
  • 6:00 p.m.: transportation provided back to her home.

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FLA Helps Ensure Ethical Production in Africa

The International Trade Center’s (ITC) Ethical Fashion Program supports the development of marginalized communities of women in Kenya and Uganda, mostly groups of artisans based in poor rural and urban settings. The program enables disadvantaged African communities and their groups of informal manufacturers to become part of the global supply chain, thus developing their export capacities and strengthening their position in both the domestic and regional markets. The project is based on a joint effort of the ITC and Ethical Fashion Africa Ltd. (EFAL), which is based in Nairobi. Watch the video below to learn more about EFAL and designer Vivienne Westwood’s collection.

Vodpod videos no longer available.

Ethical Fashion Africa Program, posted with vodpod

EFAL affiliated with the FLA in February 2010 to work towards better management of the risks in their supply chain. EFAL’s affiliation has been handled as a special project for the first year due to its unusual and diverse supply chain, which extends to informal workshops, communities and home-based work. Within the first few months of collaboration, FLA provided ITC with new tools and methods – including photo elicitation.  This method helped illustrate the day-to-day lives of the workers, painting a more complete picture of the program’s impact on workers’ lives. Photo elicitation is an explorative approach among a small sample of workers to discover what a typical workday looks like; how workers view their lives, their work, and their community; what is most important to them; and how the Ethical Fashion Program is embedded into their daily routines. Read more about the Ethical Fashion Program and see the recently-published 2010 FLA Annual Report to learn more about the photo elicitation method used during program development.

Adding value and improving working conditions through capacity building


Capacity building at the factory level is essential for sustainable compliance.

On May 31, dozens of company, supplier and NGO representatives joined FLA staff for an informal gathering at the FLA Shanghai office to discuss trends, best practices and lessons learned in capacity building for social compliance. Labor advocates and industry leaders are increasingly realizing that it is important to look beyond monitoring to develop resources that positively and sustainably affect compliance. Capacity building at the factory level – activities that strengthen the knowledge, abilities, skills and behavior of individuals – is essential for sustainable compliance. Capacity building encompasses more than training, and can include:

  • Human resource development: the process of equipping individuals with the understanding, skills and access to information, knowledge and training that enables them to perform effectively.
  • Organizational development: the elaboration of management structures, processes and procedures, not only within organizations but also the management of relationships between the different organizations and sectors (public, private and community).
  • Institutional and legal framework development: making legal and regulatory changes to enable organizations, institutions and agencies at all levels and in all sectors to enhance their capacities.

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