Following a joint effort between Timberland and the local Smallholder Farmers Alliance (SFA), the reintroduction of cotton farming in Haiti has created a new cotton supply chain designed to bring social and environmental benefits to Haitian farming communities. Timberland first partnered with the SFA in 2010 to plant five million trees in Haiti over five years following the devastating earthquake that year, which affected approximately 3.2 million people, or one-third of Haiti’s population. To fulfill this commitment, SFA created a model in which smallholder farmers grow, transplant and care for trees in exchange for better quality seeds, hand tools, agricultural training, literacy programs, microcredits and livestock.
By 2015, the 6,000 SFA farmers who participated in the program had increased their crop yields by an average of 40 percent and raised their incomes by 50 to 100 percent, enabling them to send 3,400 more children to school. Encouraged by these results, Timberland decided to move from being a supporter of the Haitian smallholder community to becoming a customer, introducing two sneakers and a tote bag made from community cotton fibers.
The new cotton supply chain is open to other brands and industries, not just Timberland, to expand opportunities and provide diversification for farmers. To provide assurance of the product’s authenticity, SFA developed a mobile app for its agronomists to use with farmers to track crop inputs, yields, organic and regenerative practices, and the socioeconomic benefits of farmers’ participation in the program. The resulting Smallholder Data Services (SDS) app and platform, which incorporates Lydion Data Economics Operating System (DEOS) blockchain technology, will be tested in a pilot in 2021 and allow customers to track the cotton in Timberland’s Community Cotton products back to the farmers who grew it.