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Two hands holding coffee cherries above a basin full of the fruit.

Farmer Thriving Index – Small Foundation announces new partnership with 60 Decibels

Farmers are the primary producers of the food we eat and the raw materials we use for cash crops, which forms the basis of our livelihoods.  

The agricultural system is complex and includes a patchwork of different crops, buyer and value chain dynamics, and support mechanisms for farmers. It can be difficult to get a full picture of this system, and there is a persistent lack of understanding about what farmers need, what support interventions work, and under what conditions these interventions work.  

So how can we know how well farmers in our networks are doing? How can we tell if they are thriving, or merely surviving? 

Three people holding bundles atop their heads walk along a dirt road in a tropical, rural location.

Photo: Annie Spratt, Unsplash

Small Foundation is supporting 60 Decibels to further develop the Farmer Thriving Index to answer exactly these sorts of questions. The index is built across four themes:

  1. Living incomes
  2. Financial resilience
  3. Livelihood sustainability
  4. Food security

This standard metric set and survey will test how well farmers are doing, regardless of context or crop(s). The tool does not study specific interventions, but instead looks beyond programmes to ask fundamental questions about how well a farmer is doing. This has the potential to set a new benchmark that value chain actors can use to understand what is needed to improve the support they provide. The index will also increase the amount of farmer ‘voice’ the sector can draw on, which will greatly improve understanding and trust across the system. Excitingly, the index will also enable the tracking of farmers’ well-being over time, which will be particularly useful in the context of a changing climate.

Tom Adams, Chief Strategy Officer and Co-Founder of 60 Decibels said, “We’re thrilled to be launching the Farmer Thriving Index for coffee and enthusiastic about the potential of comparable data to improve social outcomes and farmer wellbeing in the sector. We’re so grateful for Small Foundation’s partnership in this initiative!”

The vision for the index is that buyers, traders, corporates and investors would have regularly updated information on the wellbeing of the farmers they work with, benchmarked across the sector. Farmers themselves should see their needs, challenges and conditions reflected and value chain actors would be able to compare their approaches to others’.

The project launched in May 2023 with an ambitious plan to survey ~1,000 farmers in the coffee sector in Uganda by December 2023. In addition to this, up to 15 companies will be invited to join the index. 60 Decibels will implement the survey with farmers in these companies’ supply chains, so that coffee companies can understand how their farmers are doing in comparison to a national benchmark and identify specific opportunities to improve farmer wellbeing.

This work has the potential to challenge assumptions about what works by looking past specific interventions and measuring what matters – the wellbeing of the people actually producing the crop.

60 Decibels wants to speak to those who wish to understand the wellbeing of farmers within their supply chain; those who sell a product or service to farmers and want to measure its impact; and those who have programmes of support for farmers and want to find out if, how and why they are working.

Visit the 60 Decibels Farmer website and join the conversation. For further queries, reach out to Madeline Coop: madeline@60decibels.com.

Main photo: Rodrigo Flores, Unsplash

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