Latin America continues to break ground and advance in its efforts to make sustainable palm oil the norm. Among oil palm producing regions, the region showed solid growth in 2020 with the highest percentage of CSPO (28%) production, according to the 2021 RSPO Annual Communication of Progress (ACOP). At present, there are 31 certified growers in the region hailing from Colombia, Guatemala, Ecuador, Brazil, Costa Rica, Honduras, and Mexico with a total of over 420,500 hectares of certified land, representing 30% of production in the region as RSPO certified.

Among these oil palm growing countries, Mexico recently reached a milestone for having the first four groups of Independent Smallholders to be certified by RSPO in Latin America. These groups comprise a total of 117 smallholders, covering a total land area of 2,660 hectares and come from four Mexican Associations — Verde Industrial de Palma de Aceite, Palma de Aceite Mundo Maya, Palmicultores del Sureste Sociedad de Producción Rural de Responsabilidad Limitada, and Palmeros de los Ríos.

Holistic Programme

The smallholder groups participated in the Programa Holístico (Holistic Programme), a pioneering collaborative effort between PepsiCo, Nestlé, Oleofinos, and Oleopalma to support the sustainable development of the Mexican palm oil sector. Technical support for the certification process was provided by FEMEXPALMA and Proforest, and was bolstered by funds from the RSPO Smallholder Support Fund (RSSF), which offers financial assistance for smallholders across oil palm producing regions.

The Holistic Programme, a first in the region, aims to ensure that palm oil is produced sustainably by covering several fronts with a focus on economic development and farmers’ support through employment creation and enhancing quality of life.

“The certification of these first four groups in Mexico marks a milestone in the inclusion of smallholders in the supply chain of sustainable palm oil in Latin America,” said Francisco Naranjo, Director of RSPO Latin America. “The positive experience of the Holistic Programme paves the way for new groups in the region to join the initiatives of RSPO and improve their livelihoods through certification.”

“We are very happy to have collaborated under the Holistic Programme and to have made this certification initiative for Independent Smallholders a reality, and to have been the first in Latin America to do so,” said María del Carmen López, Planning Manager of Oleopalma. “It was certainly a great challenge, but it also represents a big step towards sustainable palm oil production and most of all towards the inclusion of smallholders. Successfully completing this audit makes all the planning, field, and implementation work worthwhile. I wish to congratulate the four groups for this great achievement — may it serve as an example for more groups of smallholders in Mexico and the world to follow.”

“This milestone is of great importance for the entire Mexican and Latin American palm industry,” said José Luis Pérez Vázquez Aldana, Executive President of FEMEXPALMA. “It is an outstanding example of collaboration among the entire palm oil value chain, from the mill of Oleopalma, the consumers of PepsiCo and Nestlé, the organisations RSPO and Proforest, to the union of FEMEXPALMA. Together, we support the protagonists of this story — the smallholders who are on their way to adopting a sustainable production model, which allows them to achieve the RSPO Independent Smallholder Standard. Congratulations to the four associations for showing that in Mexico, it is possible to make sustainable palm oil the norm.”

This achievement for Mexican smallholders signals an important development in their inclusion in the RSPO certification process in Latin America, which regardless of the size of production, delivers multiple benefits including access to global export markets, better income and higher price per tonne, environmental protection, and ensuring that healthy land is passed onto future generations. Their inclusion also means that Mexican oil palm growers are increasingly better trained and educated according to sustainability principles to ensure no deforestation, no new planting on peat and no exploitation.

Mexico’s milestone reinforces Latin America’s position as the fastest-growing region in terms of certification. In February 2021, RSPO’s Latin American members hit a milestone of 1.5 million metric tonnes of Certified Sustainable Palm Oil (CSPO).

For more information about the Holistic Programme, click here.

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