The Sustainable Food Lab has worked on systemic approaches to vibrant livelihoods of small-scale farmers for over a decade. From our work with the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation to define New Business Models for Sustainable Trade to our work on Climate Adaptation and Performance Measurement, the intersection of sustainable sourcing practices, development policy and investment and outcomes for smallholders has been a central pillar of our work.
With over 15 years of experience Food Lab staff consult companies on sustainable livelihoods strategy, support sector level dialogue and co-host the Living Income Community of Practice, an open learning platform focused on measuring and improving smallholder incomes.
A Living Income, as described in the above graphic, is the net income a household would need to earn to enable all members of the household to afford a decent standard of living.
Living Income Community of Practice
As co-facilitator of the Living Income Community of Practice, we work with partners on two areas: measurement and methodology and strategies to close income gaps. With our co-facilitators GIZ and ISEAL, we design and facilitate webinars, present and engage in industry meetings and support companies and NGOs to understand the concept of living income and connect with the organizations that can accelerate impact.
The Living Income Community of Practice has a Technical Advisory Committee (TAC), which writes guidance documents. The process includes a TAC organization writing guidance and then guidance is debated, reviewed and edited by the entire TAC with the goal of producing a robust guidance based on best practices and broad expertise in agricultural economics. The committee is led by Adam Romo at ISEAL, and consists of IDH, GIZ, WUR, Impact Institute, KIT, COSA, Univ of Malawi, Heartwood, LLC and the Food Lab. You can learn more about the TAC and the experts involved here.
Food Lab staff participate in a number of sector dialogue processes, with the express goal of connecting leaders from different commodity sector grappling with similar challenges and to building an aligned vision of the living income concept. Examples of our sector engagement is our co-leadership of the Sustainable Vanilla Initiative which has identified the challenge of extreme market volatility as the core enabler of living income; participation in the Alliance for Living Income in Cocoa, the IDH Coffee Living Income Taskforce, the Global Shea Alliance and the International Coffee Organization’s Technical Workstream on Living-Prosperous Income.
Articulating targets that are both aspirational and achievable is as much an art as a science. The Food Lab supports member companies and partners to develop strategies for living income that reflect the leverage and sphere of responsibility of the food industry as well as the need for ambitious public private partnerships. Helping to design measurement frameworks and strategies to help close the gap, the Food Lab works between companies, sector organizations and on the ground implementation partners.
In 2019, we partnered with GIZ to develop a Living Income Toolkit for companies and work directly with companies to utilize the toolkit. With support from the Open Society Foundation, the Food Lab has also engaged with cocoa and vanilla cooperatives, working to implement a living income strategy that focuses on diversification as a lever to “close the gap”.
Examples of other partnerships include this case study, highlighting the Producer Development Initiative-Ben & Jerry’s strategy for living income and climate resilience; and the Landscapes for Cocoa Livelihoods Initiative of Beyond Chocolate with IDH, Olam, Mondelez and CIAT-Bioversity.
Research & Tools
The Food Lab and Living Income Community of Practice have contributed to publications on Living Income including:
- Guiding Steps Toward a Living Income in Supply Chains
- Living Income Toolkit PPTs & Graphics
- Living Income Guidance for Governments
- Living Income/Living Wage Benchmarks
- 2020 Ghana Cocoa Benchmark
- 2020 Cote d’Ivoire Benchmark
- Enabling Smallholders to Increase Incomes
- Towards a Living Income Within Agricultural Value Chains
- Pricing mechanisms in the cocoa sector: options to reduce price volatility and promote farmer value capture
- Measuring Smallholder Incomes
- Guidance on calculating household income
- Benchmark FAQ
- Guidance Manual on Calculating and Visualizing the Income Gap to a Living Income Benchmark
- Estimating Farmer Household Income
- Excel Tool for Gap Visualization
- Model Survey Tool