Since its launch in 2014, the UTZ hazelnut program has made important steps in moving the hazelnut sector towards a more sustainable future. The program was designed to tackle social issues related to low productivity, child labor and poor working conditions for farm workers. Growing considerably in the past four years, as of May 2018 there were 4,300 farmers and more than 80 market members in the program. Four years into the hazelnut program, we thought it was a good time to look back and take stock of the biggest achievements and challenges of the past years. Read on for the key findings of our impact evaluation that will help further strengthen our impact.

The research

At the launch of the program, UTZ commissioned a baseline study to assess the prevailing situation in the hazelnut sector. This report later served as a benchmark to measure our impact in a 2018 evaluation. Both studies were conducted by Development Workshop, an independent consultancy and research organization based in Turkey that specializes in social issues. The data for the 2018 study was collected through interviews with various stakeholders, including exporters, district governors, and municipalities. Additionally, a sample of 227 UTZ hazelnut farmers across five different regions of Turkey (Düzce, Giresun, Ordu, Trabzon, Zonguldak) were surveyed.

Number of questionnaires conducted per district

Better agricultural practices

One of the biggest challenges of the hazelnut sector in Turkey is low farm productivity. The UTZ program has likely contributed to the improvement of agricultural practices on hazelnut farms, such as better pruning techniques, better timing of the harvest, and activities to improve soil fertility. These practices appear to have paid off with UTZ certified farmers producing above average yields, ranging from 110,1 kg/decare in Trabzon (province average: 59,9 kg/decare) up to 241,5 kg/decare in Düzce (province average: 110,6 kg/decare). While better agricultural practices are a key driver of productivity, it’s important to note that these differences may also be a reflection of the more professional farmers that have joined the UTZ program in the last years.

Hazelnut Production (kg) per Farmer, UTZ Sample

Towards a child labor-free sector

Another positive impact of the program is increased awareness among farmers of the importance of preventing child labor. The study observed a 65% decrease of UTZ certified farmers employing children younger than 16. This significant improvement can be a direct result of farmer trainings and the establishment of summer schools that children are able to attend during the harvest.

Low incomes are one of the root causes of child labor, so despite our achievements in this area, the risk of child labor still exists. That’s why we will continue our work to prevent and remediate child labor by educating farmers and helping them improve risk assessments. We will also continue to place an emphasis on training our auditors to effectively detect child labor on certified farms.Female farmer during hazelnut harvest

Improved conditions for farm workers

Temporary migrant workers, hired only for the harvest period each summer, present another major challenge to the hazelnut sector. These farm workers are particularly vulnerable to poor working and living conditions and don’t have many protections. The report shows improved wages for migrant workers hired by UTZ certified orchards as well as better working conditions, with cleaner and safer living environments for on-site workers.

While many migrant workers still do not have access to social security or paid leave, the evaluation shows that all of the workers received more than (or at least equal to) the applicable minimum wage, even though still many have no access to any social security or right to weekly/monthly leave. Almost all the UTZ certified farmers participating in the evaluation who employ workers living on-site declared that they provide their workers with the necessary facilities, including electricity, access to clean drinking water, and housing fit for bad weather conditions. This is a significant improvement compared to the 2014 sampling which showed that 18% of workers lived in a hazardous environment.

Increased Collaboration Across the Supply chain

Since the start of the UTZ hazelnut program, we have worked with our founding members to build stronger connections with the Turkish national and local governments. The 2018 impact evaluation revealed the fruits of these efforts: certificate holders reported better relations with farmers, traders and processors. As a result, certificate holders invested in trainings for their farmers and members, set up Internal Management Systems and conducted internal inspections. Looking at the bigger picture, the report showed that the UTZ program improved market access for 76% of hazelnut farmers, with these farmers receiving cash or in-kind premiums for their hazelnuts. Going forward, we will step up our efforts to increase market recognition for UTZ certified hazelnuts so even more certified farms can be rewarded.

Get on board

This evaluation acknowledges the hard work and progress made by certificate holders through the UTZ hazelnut program. As we continue to push for a more sustainable future in the hazelnut sector, we will keep working in partnership with key stakeholders and companies to address the still prevailing issues in the sector and increase demand for certified hazelnuts.

Are you ready to start sourcing certified hazelnuts for your (chocolate) products? Join the UTZ program today! We can’t wait to have you on board.

Read the full hazelnut research report and our response.