A group of Peruvian farmers from the Santa Lucía Palm Producers Association in the Amazonian region of San Martín have achieved an important sustainability milestone by becoming the country’s first RSPO smallholder Members.

Their sustainability journey can be traced back to 2018, when eleven smallholders from San Martín sought to improve their oil palm farming methods and integrate sustainable practices in all phases of their production. As part of the membership process, a Land Use Change Analysis (LUCA) study was conducted by RSPO to define areas for remediation and compensation for changes in land use through geo-referencing and micro-zoning of the plots with satellite imagery.

Grupo Palmas, the first Peruvian company to obtain RSPO certification under the RSPO Principles and Criteria (P&C) in 2022, assumed the role of Group Manager supporting the smallholder group through its Cadenas Productivas programme. Apart from promoting the integration of sustainability criteria in its production chains in the regions of Loreto, San Martín and Ucayali, they have committed to include independent smallholders in their supply chain and ensure their traceability and sustainability as part of their 2017 Sustainability Policy.

Alongside the Regional Oil Palm Federation of San Martín (FREDEPALMA), Grupo Palmas assisted the Santa Lucía farmers in all stages of certification. Grupo Palmas continues to promote RSPO membership and certification for the smallholders, who are part of their production chain.

“Smallholders make up a majority of palm oil production in Latin America. As the industry grows in the region, it is fundamental that smallholders continue to be a part of the sustainability journey,” said Bella Sosa, RSPO Smallholder Manager, Latin America. “I applaud the Santa Lucía Palm Producers Association for becoming the first RSPO smallholder members in Peru, and feel confident that this will pave the way for more smallholder groups in the country to work towards certification.”

As new RSPO Members, the smallholders have committed to adopting sustainable production practices. “We must guarantee the legality of our plots, apply good agricultural practices, protect the rights of our workers and the environment, and participate in the sustainable palm oil market,” said Jairo Hidalgo, president of the Santa Lucía Palm Producers Association.

Marilu Bustamante, a member of the association, shares that support from Grupo Palmas has led them to learn sustainable agricultural techniques that they were previously unaware of. “We learned to care for the environment – now we do not burn or cut down trees. With the technical knowledge we received, we are able to manage our crops well,” she shared.

Access to international markets

Over 70% of palm oil production in Peru is carried out by independent smallholders. Oil palm production has created about 42,000 jobs and generated income for 7,000 smallholders, as well as reduced areas dedicated to producing coca leaf destined for drug trafficking.

Membership and subsequent certification under the RSPO Independent Smallholder Standard provide smallholders with better access to international markets, leading to increased economic incomes and improved quality of life for the farmers and their families.

“RSPO Member producers, with the support of Grupo Palmas and FREDEPALMA, promote a sustainable market for palm oil, putting Peru in the eyes of the world and encouraging more producers to invest in sustainability, which benefits the region,” said Sandra Doig, Grupo Palmas Central Sustainability Manager.

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