Palm oil smallholder farmers receive funding boost

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17 Nov 2017 --- The United Nations Environment Project (UN Environment) and the Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil (RSPO) have signed a small-scale funding agreement that aims to support oil palm smallholder farmers toward improved livelihood and sustainable production. 

Smallholder farmers are responsible for around 40 percent of the world’s palm oil but can often struggle with gaining market access. Much more work needs to be done to improve their working practices, management and conditions.

This is where the funding initiative comes in because it aims to improve their livelihoods and include smallholder farmers as a vital part of the supply chain on a much larger scale. 

This latest project continues the momentum in the palm oil industry towards sustainability, better working practices and improved labor conditions. It follows yesterday’s FoodIngredientsFirst story about a group of major corporations – including  Colgate-Palmolive, Kellogg’s, Nestlé, Unilever and Wilmar International Limited, in collaboration with Business for Social Responsibility (BSR) – joining forces to improve the working conditions and livelihoods of workers across the wider palm oil supply chain in Indonesia.

A total funding of US$199,611 from the 10YFP Trust Fund administered by UN Environment and matching funding of US$83,683 from RSPO will be distributed between smallholder farmers in the regions of Sabah, East Malaysia, and Seruyan, Central Kalimantan, over the course of the two-year project. 

It is predicted that the success of the project will improve the livelihoods of at least 50,000 schemed and independent smallholders in Sabah and more than 5,300 independent smallholders in Seruyan.

The project was selected for funding through a 10-Year Framework of Projects (10YFP) Trust Fund open call for proposals in close collaboration with Sustainable Food Systems Programme.

10YFP is a global framework of action to enhance international cooperation to accelerate the shift towards sustainable consumption and production in both developed and developing countries. The Trust Fund is managed by the 10YFP Secretariat hosted by the United Nations Environment Project. 

Strategic Projects Director at RSPO, Yohanes Izmi Ryan is eager to get the project started and to see smallholder farmers receive such essential support. 

“Smallholders play a significant role in the supply chain, producing around 40 percent of the world’s palm oil, but suffer from lower yields, a lack of best management practices, and ultimately struggle to achieve international market access,” he says. 

“While RSPO has worked to support smallholders over the years, we recognize that we’re yet to provoke large-scale inclusion of smallholders which RSPO and our stakeholders desire.”

“However, certification has a significant impact on improving the livelihood of smallholders and interventions through this program will be scaled up to the jurisdictional level; enabling these smallholders to achieve RSPO certification,” he adds.

Agricultural facility 
In Seruyan, the sole purpose of the project is to develop an agricultural facility to provide direct support and training for capacity building for more than 1,000 smallholder oil palm farmers. 

In Sabah, a set of four intervention activities will be trialed in 20 villages across the state.

Throughout these initiatives, smallholders will develop knowledge and capacity on good agricultural practices and other key principles of sustainable agriculture, as well as being provided access to agricultural inputs such as fertilizers, seeds, and nursery management.

Part of the role of non-profit organization the RSPO is to unite stakeholders from seven sectors of the palm oil industry – oil palm producers, palm oil processors or traders, consumer goods manufacturers, retailers, banks and investors, environmental or nature conservation NGOs and social or developmental NGOs – to develop and implement global standards for sustainable palm oil.

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