The Indian Ministry of Environment and Forestry’s Climate Change Working Group were interested in understanding how private forestry companies could be supported to achieve more carbon sequestration. In India private companies cannot own large areas of land and so have to partner with small growers to acquire raw material. Some paper pulp companies in Odisha State appeared to have some good practices in carbon sequestration that could be used for the study. Trioss were invited to conduct the study in partnership with the Schumacher Centre. An initial survey found that they had some good ideas, but were struggling to get the farmers to grow trees for them. On further investigation it was clear that farmers did want to grow trees for them, but felt those that already did so were treated badly. Listening to the response of the companies it appeared that there was a mutually abusive relationship in place.
An investigation of options for resolving the challenge was made, using the well-established Participatory Rural Appraisal (PRA) methodology. The most interesting outcome was that it proposed exactly the approach that the companies were taking but were failing. A review of why the methodology had failed revealed that in normal practice the PRA questions are developed by external experts; the farmers were asked those questions in a very participatory way and then the results are interpreted by the experts. So the control over the questions and interpretation of the answers is with the experts not the people who live with the challenge or the outcome of the initiative.
A methodology that would allocate power more usefully in the process was identified; the Implicate Change method. Adopting this approach transformed the view of the challenge and solution. It emerged that a number of forest product supply chains were facing the same challenges. Also that the farmers were smart in the way that they wanted to offer forest products to the market; offering a range of products to different markets so hedging their bets on market performance, as well as being able to access short, medium and long term production markets. The project engaged with businesses in all the markets the farmers wanted to supply. The project also drafted a methodology for restructuring the supply chain that balanced power, that was in turn supported by both farmers and paper companies.
Investigation found that mutually abusive relationships between businesses at the top of the pyramid and suppliers at the bottom were the norm in India and many other developing economies. A concept of the “broken pyramid” was developed to explain how different rules of the game, expectations and power existed at the top and bottom of the pyramid. It was also found that unless the interests and power were balanced in ways that made sense in both worlds, then a mutually abusive relationship that undermined the benefits for all parties was a likely outcome.
The value of the dialogue approach to resolving these issues was established.
An approach for an effective supply chain structure was developed and supported by participating grower and businesses.