Tate & Lyle’s stevia sustainability project in China
Stevia is a low-calorie sweetener, which is rapidly growing in demand globally due to its health benefits over sugar. As a leading global provider of food and beverage ingredients, Tate & Lyle wants to ensure that the stevia market grows using environmentally sustainable and ethical practices.
In partnership with Tate & Lyle, Earthwatch is conducting research into the stevia supply chain in China, one of the largest producers in the world. Local scientists led by Earthwatch are studying the impact of stevia production on soil, water, waste and energy, as well as the effect on farming communities. The aim is to understand the impact of farming the crop in China, both for producers and the environment.
Tate & Lyle will use the insight gained to understand how their own operations affect the environment and local communities. Meanwhile, Earthwatch will work with Tate & Lyle to provide stevia growers with practical guidelines on how to minimise their impact on the planet.
Nurturing pollinating insects in India
India’s Kullu Valley is an important area for agriculture, especially orchards for apples and other fruit. However, as a result of climate change and pesticide use, the populations of bees and other pollinating insects is declining. This in turn has led to a reduced apple crop, threatening the livelihoods of local people who depend on farming for income.
One crucial gap in our knowledge is how agriculture in the Kullu Valley is affected by the decline of plants known as ‘bee flora’, which attract pollinating insects. This has the potential to hamper sustainable agriculture in the region.
Earthwatch is partnering with a local research institute to study the biodiversity in the Kullu Valley, focusing on bee flora. We are also investigating how agriculture benefits local communities, and how encouraging natural pollination by insects could make farming sustainable once more.
So far, the project has trained and equipped more than 50 local farmers and youths to become beekeepers. In addition, 350 people have been trained about the importance of bee flora, leading to the planting of 2,000 varieties of these important plants. The data collected has also contributed to the Global Pollination Project, a worldwide initiative for the conservation of pollinating insects.
Earthwatch Europe is a partner in the UKSoils initiative - a website bringing together accessible resources to help everybody, from school children to agriculturalists, connect with soil health.