Coca Cola’s CSR initiative is enabling reverse migration in Uttarakhand and is looking at increasing livelihood opportunities for over 500,000 farmers by 2025 with its Fruit Circular Economy initiative. Coca Cola launched the ‘Apple Unnati’ project in the state, with Indo Dutch Horticulture Technologies Pvt Ltd as its implementation partner, in the year 2018.
Coca Cola’s Fruit Circular Economy initiative in India aims to aid the Indian agro-ecosystem and Unnati is the flagship project under the initiative. Through its Unnati projects, which covers 5 fruits – Mango, Apple, Orange, Grapes and Litchi and priority commodities like sugarcane, Coca Cola is aiming at a productivity increase of up to 5X for farmers.
“The country’s average apple productivity is nearly half of the global average. Uttarakhand, despite its favourable climate and vast available land for greenfield apple cultivation, has a productivity of 3-4 tonnes per hectare per annum, which is half the nation’s average productivity,” said Dr Aditya Panda, Senior Manager- CSR and Sustainability, Coca Cola INSWA. That’s where Unnati Apple comes in, with a larger objective of making India self-sufficient in apple production, make modern technology available to farmers at a lower cost, and help hill farmers settle in their native villages, he added.
How is Apple Unnati enabling farmers of Uttarakhand?
Under the project, Indo Dutch Horticulture Technologies offer hands-on training to farmers about the nitty-gritties of apple cultivation in an ultra-high-density plantation (UHDP) setup. They are provided with all the enabling infrastructure for the plantation by the IDHT team, with around 80 per cent subsidy from Coca Cola.
The beverage major has also set up demo farms to showcase new superior varieties of apple, grown as part of the ultra-high-density plantation.
These farms use a drip irrigation concept that provides only as much quantity of water as needed for these plants to sustain and fruit. Under UHDP cultivation, the apple plants are supported with a trellis system to help it grow as creepers. Hail nets are put in place for protection from hailstone damage.
Sudhir Chadha, Director, Indo-Dutch Horticulture Technologies, said, “Project Apple Unnati in partnership with Coca-Cola India has empowered and enriched farmers of Uttarakhand like never before. The Ultra-high-density production not only helps them increase the produce by 5 times but also bring about a substantial increase in their income. These advanced agricultural practices are indeed encouraging the youth and we have observed reverse-migration in the state. We thank Coca-Cola India for their continued support as our partners and for bringing about this revolution in apple farming.”
The way ahead
After the successful completion of the first phase of Project Unnati – Apple, Coca Cola now intends to extend the project by another three years and would work with the apple farmers of Uttarakhand and Himachal Pradesh on “Project Unnati – Apple (Phase 2)”. At the same time, Unnati Apple will also reach out to farmers of Jammu and Kashmir to shift to UHDP plantation of apple from traditional methods.
“We will continue with this project and bring in as many farmers as possible under the scheme. We will train them, support them throughout the process. For now, there is no exit strategy for Coca Cola from this project. Our aim is to reach a level where India could substitute apple imports from other countries,” concluded Panda.