Held on September 6, 2016 in Accra, Ghana, the event brought together about 300 participants from African countries to discuss how businesses on the continent can adopt best practices in sustainability while helping small producers access global palm oil supply chains.
During the conference, participants from Africa requested the RSPO Secretariat to address the following:
- Better communications with African members through both the RSPO Secretariat and the Board of Governors
- Availability of an African Technical Manager representing the RSPO Secretariat in Africa to coordinate existing works, create awareness and better promote RSPO in the region
- Availability of more service providers, particularly assessors and certification bodies based in Africa as part of better service and minimising cost for complying with the RSPO requirements.
Dr Ahmed Alhassan Yakubu, the Honourable Ghanaian Deputy Minister of Agriculture who was the keynote speaker at the conference, announced that his government is forming the Ghana Palm Oil Board. Other notable speakers included representatives from the Cameroon Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development, civil society and development NGOs as well private companies involved with palm oil industries in Africa.
During the second day of the conference, topics such as new planting procedures (NPP), remediation and compensation procedures (RaCP) and Land Use Change Analysis (LUCA) were presented and discussed.
Growing the potential of smallholders
As a side event, a RSPO Smallholder Strategy Workshop was held with about 45 participants. The session was facilitated by RSPO’s Yohannes Izmi Ryan and Julia Majail, who discussed current issues, along with short- and long-term plans for palm oil smallholders in Africa.
The workshop results will be used and incorporated as input for RSPO’s global comprehensive smallholder strategy and action plan, to be discussed during the RSPO Board of Governors meeting this November.
About 30 participants representing companies involved in the development and management of palm oil mills and plantation participated in a parallel training on the use of the PalmGHG calculator.
Encouraging palm oil industry context
The conference took place against a backdrop of increased investment in the palm oil sector in Africa – bringing with it the potential to provide jobs, improve local economies and reduce rural poverty. Future growth in the sector is expected to help close the palm oil deficit and position the region as a net exporter of palm oil.
However, if not well planned and implemented, this growing industry could bring with it significant negative social and environmental impacts, leading to further rural impoverishment, land conflicts, deforestation and destruction of High Conservation Value Areas.
Looking to the future, the existence of the RSPO is an opportunity for the palm oil industry in Africa to do the “right thing” from the beginning, especially for countries that are just getting started in this sector. The governments should capitalise on the sustainability elements promoted by RSPO to attract responsible investors to their respective countries.
It is expected that businesses that have embraced the RSPO spirit will be the model for upcoming development in the region. Joint cooperation with civil society and experts is of paramount importance to ensure long term economic and social benefits at all levels of society.
To view the pictures and updates from the conference, please visit https://storify.com/proforest/aspoc16