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Smallholder initiatives receive 1million Euro from the RSPO

Smallholders News | March 1, 2016
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Since the introduction of the RSPO Smallholders Support Fund (RSSF) in 2013,  a number of six initiatives around the world have been commissioned approximately RM 4.5 million in line with promoting the production of certified sustainable palm oil.

The 6 initiatives funded comprise 9,300 smallholders over 41,940 hectares of land; which include:

  • 2 initiatives in Africa (Ghana and Nigeria); 
  • 1 in Thailand;
  • 1 in Latin America (Honduras) and
  • 2 in Indonesia

The two initiatives in Africa are critical as palm oil is indigenous to West Africa. The region now produces about 6% of global palm oil, which is far short of its demand as a result of poor agronomy, low yielding planting and limited use and access to fertiliser. Independent smallholders make up 90% of oil palm farmers in both Ghana and Nigeria. 

In Ghana, the land available for cultivation of oil palm on new large-scale plantations is limited due to population growth and traditional land tenure systems. Hence, improving smallholder productivity becomes a priority in addressing Ghana’s infrastructural limitations in the production of fresh fruit bunch. The RSSF granted to this project will play an instrumental role in supporting farmers to improve yields and income through train the trainer programs and conversion from traditional unsustainable methods of farming to best management practices. The preparedness will eventually lead to RSPO certification of smallholders enabling them to access international markets that have stipulated strict policies in buying only certified sustainable palm oil from this year on. Spearheaded by Solidaridad, this project aspires to achieve certified sustainable practices for at least 2000 independent smallholders.

A key challenge in Nigeria is that smallholders do not have any links with established mills and process their fresh fruit bunches through mini-improved processing mills generally owned by private operators who are merely service providers. The big mills on the other hand have no interest in buying fresh fruit bunches from independent smallholders because the mills are adequately covered from their own from estates’ supply and are usually located some distance from most smallholders’ fields.  However - affirmative change will hopefully come about as local palm oil producer, PZ Wilmar is working towards RSPO certification and has indicated willingness to buy from independent smallholders who comply to sustainable farming practices. Hence, it is critical to begin transforming the practice of independent smallholders towards RSPO certification within the catchment area of PZ Wilmar as prospective supply base to the plantation mills. The local regulators have indicated interest for Solidaridad to assist in the field to gradually build an efficient and strong palm oil sector in Nigeria, which in the longer term will alleviate poverty through the provision of employment and a means of livelihood. This project aspires to achieve 75% increase in yields and RSPO certification for at least 2500 independent smallholders.   

As the third largest palm oil producer in the world, Thailand has over 200,000 smallholders throughout the country. A key challenge in this market as in most other new frontiers is the lack of technical know-how and financial capacity. As a result of its successful RSPO certification in 2012, Patum Vegetable Oil has now partnered with Shell Thailand to provide necessary funding and knowledge through trainings to oil palm smallholders in the country. A key focus here is the introduction of activities for smallholders from the very beginning to ensure their long term commitment towards sustainable practices post certification. This includes close alliances with partner mills as well as training and coaching to mills and leaders of farming groups.

The initiative in Honduras, the third largest palm oil producer in Latin America with approximately 6800 smallholders, is aimed at increasing RPSO certification by assisting smallholders and mills to implement the required standard. Spearheaded by Proforest Initiative, the project will support and work together with the Honduran palm oil producing company Jaremar and UNPALA - an Independent Smallholders Association. The poor understanding of best management practices, and low compliance with environmental requirements is common. The longer term aim is to use the results and lessons learnt from this project to get the larger community to embrace sustainable practices. The final goal of the project within a 3 year period is to have 800 smallholders certified.

Within Rokan Hulu, Riau Province of Indonesia, Serikat Petani Kelapa Sawit (The Oil Palm Smallholders Union comprising smallholders as members) has been granted the RSSF to promote good agricultural practices for 800 smallholders. Riau is chosen as the project location, as the province is the biggest oil palm producer nationwide.The good agricultural practices trainings is aimed at realising better incomes through increased productivity targets. In order to ensure the long-term impact and smallholders’ progress towards sustainable practices, support for obtaining RSPO certification will be integrated into the project. This project will be pilot project to promote the yields produced by independent smallholders as guided by the RSPO standard.

The sixth project is also based in Indonesia by  a group called ‘Sapta Tunggal Mandiri’ who are suppliers to a RSPO certified mill owned by Wilmar. The group is pursuing group certification under the RSPO before the end of 2015. Certification will is a starting point in being able to study the effectiveness of RSPO certification as part of an incentive process for replanting.

All the projects have their respective objectives for being granted this funding mechanism. However, the core objective is to build a resilient infrastructure so that smallholders within those jurisdictions establish best management practices for higher yields;reduce fertiliser cost and usage as well as health risks; increase networking opportunities with potential partner mills; and develop informative and educational materials as well as to sustain post certification initiatives.

The RSSF has also confirmed funding support to fully cover 7 certification audits;  6 in Thailand and 1 in Indonesia.

In addition to these - the RSSF has committed funds to cover the cost of high conservation value (HCV) assessments for smallholders within plantations that are considered high-risk areas. HCV assessment is a mandatory requirement for the RSPO certification process, and demands technical know-how and funding. Third party professional assessors are engaged to run these assessments. The application process for the RSPO panel to approve the support of the HCV assessments requires the provision of sufficient information.