LE FRUIT beyond the farm – developing a sustainable fruit supply chain in Vietnam & Cambodia

LE FRUIT is paving the way for a sustainable and healthy food and drink environment, supply chain and creating a model farm training future for farmers.

As we become more aware of what we are putting in our bodies and the effect that is happening on the planet, we need to support those who are leading the way. LE FRUIT  is paving the way for a sustainable and healthy food and drink environment, supply chain and creating a model farm training future for farmers. We asked Sophie Boyadjian, Marketing & Export Director of LE FRUIT and Les Vergers Du Mekong to share a bit more about their story. 
GREEN IS THE NEW BLACK: Sophie, tell us a little bit about the bigger picture of farming and farmers around the world. 
SOPHIE BOYADJIAN: Around the world, over 75 percent of people living in poverty, their lives depend on agriculture. The vast majority of the world’s farmers – 1.5 billion people, according to the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) – are smallholder farmers (farms operating with less than two hectares of land), yet they are the largest group of people in the world living in poverty. But smallholders provide up to 80 percent of the food supply in Asia.
GITNB: So how does this relate to what LE FRUIT is working on? 
SB: LE FRUIT has always supported a sustainable agriculture since the early 2000s in Mekong Delta to secure a complete traceability avoiding phytosanitary products and to provide not only the best quality of fruits for its juices and jams, but also as the first force of defense against climate change and even poverty. Jean-Luc Voisin, who is the founder of LE FRUIT brand and Managing Director of Les Vergers Du Mekong and my father, felt that he has ‘a clear stake in ensuring a sustainable development’, which drove him to create his sustainable fruit supply chain programme
GITNB: Can you share more about the threat of climate change in the Mekong Delta area and how this affects your strategy?
SB: The Mekong Delta is the rich orchard of Vietnam thanks to sufficient water, quality of land and being sunny all year round. However, the agricultural land of the Mekong Delta is being threatened by the climate change that brings more floods and consequently, a steady growing salinization of the land. To protect the fruit sourcing locally from the Mekong Delta, the fruit producing and collecting centre must be moved further to Vietnamese - Cambodian border area; despite the fact that Cambodia - the fruit sector - is still underdeveloped.
GITNB: How was the sustainable model farm born? 
SB: At the end of 2016, Les Vergers De Mekong gathered the German Development Bank (KFW-DEG), ASSIST (an NGO focused on capacity building for social improvement and food safety) and France Volontaires (a platform for experienced profiles in the developing countries) to start the Le Fruit sustainable model farm on 5 hectares of unused land, near the Mekong River, in Cambodia. Under the guidance of my father and the company’s fruit supply chain department, they started with land preparation, followed the traditional way of cultivation in the region and worked on a sustainable agriculture. Le Fruit sustainable farm is meant not only to grow top-of-the-range quality fruits to be used in Le Fruit juices and jams, but also to experiment new farming practices with better natural resources management. What’s more? It will become a training center for the local Cambodian farmers or future fruit growers who have interest in growing fruits.
GITNB: Being an organic farm, can you share with us about the environmental protections that have been put in place? 
SB: At the organizational level, we work with official departments to preserve natural eco-systems and introduce an environmental agriculture certification in Cambodia: GAP Cambodia (Good Agricultural Practices). What this means at the farm level is running the farm with Cambodian farmers following these practices, such as water and soil conservation, to face the current challenges such as water scarcity, the impacts of climate change and extreme weather events.

The first year was so challenging for the exploitation of the sustainable farm, but thanks to the dedication of the farm team from villages around the farm, the harvesting has started at the beginning of the year. The 2,000 pink guava trees are giving beautiful and rich guavas and soon we will be able to taste the Victoria pineapples from the 100,000 plants. Mr Voisin is proud to share that ‘no pesticides, nor phytosanitary products or whatsoever have been used on Le Fruit farm even after the floods and droughts’. The guavas and pineapples grown on Le Fruit farm will be the first fruits certified in the country; later are the fruits from the farms of growers trained on Le Fruit model farm.
GITNB: That must be so wonderful and rewarding to experience! What is next for the programme?
SB: The sustainable fruit supply programme is just at its beginning, we would like to involve more farmers and fruit growers, then create a collecting center next to the farm to collect quality fruits with a complete traceability from fruit growers trained on sustainable crops and farming techniques on the model farm. We are also opening the second farm at the end of the year in Cambodia which will also be organic and served to try new farming technics on how to adapt to the regional climate and resource