Since its official launch in November 2019, the RSPO Smallholder Trainer Academy (STA) has conducted four training sessions in Medan and Aceh, Indonesia; Accra, Ghana; and Santa Marta, Colombia, resulting in the training of 75 Master Trainers from 27 organisations.

We caught up with Kertijah Abdul Kadir, RSPO Smallholder Programme Manager, to find out more about the progress of the Academy and its goals for the near future.

What is the progress of the STA so far and what have we done to promote it?
So far, the Academy has been well received and the stakeholders we’ve contacted were happy with this initiative. Like us, they feel this is an important and necessary platform to help increase smallholder training and for smallholder inclusion globally.

We completed the first series of Master Training last year, which consisted of four training sessions across Africa, Latin America and Southeast Asia. We plan to do the second series early next year. However, this also depends on the progress of the Master Trainers in the first series, as they will be the ones conducting training in the future. We need to make sure they are confident and comfortable enough to train other people who wish to become Master Trainers.

To promote the STA, so far we have reached out to like-minded organisations and interested stakeholders through our network to become project partners. We have also prepared communication materials that were distributed at the RT17 in Bangkok last year. We share the digital versions of our brochures with the organisations that we’ve contacted for partnerships and we have uploaded the brochures to the RSPO website. Besides that, we have also developed the STA portal, which was launched in December last year.

How do we encourage stakeholders to join the Academy? What are the benefits?
If an organisation wants to help build smallholders’ capacity, they usually need to start from scratch, which includes assessing training needs, preparing the materials, and finding the trainer. This can easily cost them about RM40,000 to RM50,000 (roughly USD $9 – $11.4K) depending on the duration of the training and topics covered. By being a STA partner and paying the annual fee, they get access to all the training materials and a pool of trainers, as well as assistance with implementing the training to smallholders.

We also welcome organisations who already have their own smallholder training programmes to join us. They can actually use the Academy as a platform to inform people about their programmes and share their materials to help others with their training.

Are there any challenges in promoting the Academy?
Whenever we approach stakeholders to talk about the Master Training, they ask whether it is compulsory for certification. Generally, there is a misconception that we are training them on compliance against the RSPO standards. However, we are actually promoting sustainable agricultural practices that align with RSPO standards, and support smallholders to improve their livelihoods. This is beyond certification. So, we often need to explain to them what the Academy is all about, how it works and what they can expect from this training.

What is the next phase of the Academy’s plan in supporting the first batch of Master Trainers with implementing their training plans? 
Based on the feedback from the Master Trainers, we have revised and improved the content of the training guides. They have also been translated to Bahasa Indonesia, Bahasa Melayu, Thai, Spanish, and French. All the Master Trainers can access the three training guides for smallholders, group managers, and programme officers on the STA portal. The Master Training manual is also available on the portal in six languages for use as a reference when they carry out their own training. 

The Academy also displays our project partner’s logos as content contributors. To use these materials, Master Trainers need to sign a Code of Conduct to ensure that they use them responsibly. The Academy will also help promote the Master Trainers’ training programmes within the RSPO and Academy’s networks. If they need assistance, they can always contact the Academy.

To learn more about the STA or if you’re interested in becoming a Partner, please email [email protected] or visit the STA portal

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