We’ve teamed up with Solidaridad to restore value to degraded land with a sea buckthorn value chain

We’ve teamed up with Solidaridad to restore value to degraded land with a sea buckthorn value chain

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DesertSpring is joining forces with Solidaridad! Enviu is a proud partner of DesertSpring, an alliance of 3 front running companies, striving for a sustainable and fair leather and apparel sector. With DesertSpring, we’re bringing a patented technology to the market that offers manufacturers a sea-buckthorn based alternative to the use of chemicals and heavy metals in their production. The circular and industrial application of sea buckthorn has the potential to unlock some incredible and wide-reaching impact. However, to bring this product to market we need to build a value chain for sea buckthorn. That is why we’ve partnered with Solidaridad, an expert in developing value chains with smallholder farmers.

How sea buckthorn benefits our environment

Land degradation is a huge global concern, with estimates of the amount of degraded land ranging from 1 to 6  billion hectares. Sea buckthorn is a pioneering plant, perfectly equipped to fight soil erosion, improve the quality of soil and restore the land in old mining areas. It thrives in harsh and semi-arid conditions, fixing Nitrogen—a vital nutrient for the growth of new life—to the earth, reversing the effects of degradation and preparing the ground for new growth

In addition to combating desertification, the sea buckthorn plant can help revive local livelihoods and spur economic development. Rural populations lose their main source of income as their land degrades; but by planting sea buckthorn they improve their land and can market the fruits and leaves of the shrub. Its berries are considered a superfood, containing extraordinary amounts of vitamin C and E as well as flavonoids, minerals, essential fatty acids and more. The berries are used in juices, cosmetics, food supplements, ice cream and the leaves can even be used for teas. Hence, farming the sea buckthorn plant can provide a source of income.

Building a value chain for sea buckthorn with Solidaridad, starting in China

Right now the value chain for a sea buckthorn product is still small and scattered. To commercially launch our bio-based application, an important step is to set up a strong value chain for sea buckthorn in China. Why China? 95% of all sea buckthorn grows there, primarily planted to combat desertification. The bushes grow wildly and are 100% organically.

To build this value chain in rural China, we’ve teamed up with Solidaridad, an expert in developing value chains and whose team in china are experienced with smallholder cotton, tea and soy farmers. 

Solidaridad foresees a thriving sustainable supply chain of sea buckthorn in China by firm actions through this project, which will improve the livelihoods of the poor and in need, whilst greatly benefiting the environment and increasing the efficiency of resource utilization.

Referred to by our colleagues in Utrecht, we were approached by DesertSpring last year when we were travelling in Gansu Province, China, conducting our cotton project site visit. We felt that this was a great opportunity for us to take advantage of our connections to local farmers, research institutes and governmental agencies as well as a chance to use sea buckthorn as a bridge to link partners along the supply chain, both domestic and foreign. By harvesting this unique shrub in a way that safeguards the region’s fragile environment, we can improve incomes for local farmers by the extracting the full value from the shrub. We jumped in to be part of this partnership with the aim of doing the right thing and doing the right thing in the right way.

Rusong Li, Solidaridad China

Due to COVID-19, there has been a slight delay, but we’re not letting this stop us. We’re using this time to our advantage by getting ready to harvest large quantities of sea buckthorn next year; Running tests with local farmers, setting up partnerships with communities, and scanning the provinces to determine other suitable regions.

Sowing the seeds of impact: our plans for the future

Our long-term ambition is to make use of 20,000 – 30,000 hectares of sea buckthorn, starting with existing plantations. We’re also exploring setting up new plantations with farmers in degraded land areas in India, Chile, and Southern Europe. These new plantations abroad provide an opportunity to maximize the impact derived from sea buckthorn whilst at the same time reenergizing local economies.

Make sure to stay tuned for more details about more about our collaborations, and the details on exactly how this product can revolutionize the apparel sector.

Are you interested to think or work along on building this new value chain? Send an email to laure@enviu.org!

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