Committed to improve livelihood of palm oil smallholders

KUCHING: The United Nations Environment Project (UN Environment) and the Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil (RSPO) are committed to improving the livelihood of palm oil smallholders.

Thus, the UN Environment and RSPO have signed a small-scale funding agreement (SSFA) that aims to support oil palm smallholder farmers toward improved livelihood and sustainable production.

“A total funding of USD199,611 from the 10YFP Trust Fund administered by UN Environment and matching funding of USD83,683 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 estimated that the success of the project will improve the livelihoods of at least 50,000 schemed and independent smallholders in Sabah, and over 5,300 independent smallholders in Seruyan,” RSPO said in a statement issued recently.

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.

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

RSPO Strategic Projects director Yohanes Izmi Ryan said he was 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 per cent 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 said.

“While RSPO has worked to support smallholders over the years, we recognise 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 programme will be scaled up to the jurisdictional level; enabling these smallholders to achieve RSPO certification,” he added.

In Seruyan (Central Kalimantan), 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 attempted for trials 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 fertilisers, seeds, and nursery management.

In response to the urgent and pressing global call for sustainably-produced palm oil, the RSPO was formed in 2004 with the objective of promoting the growth and use of sustainable oil palm products through credible global standards and engagement of stakeholders.

The seat of the association is in Zurich, Switzerland, while the secretariat is currently based in Kuala Lumpur with satellite offices in Jakarta, London and Zoetermeer (NL).

RSPO is a not-for-profit association that unites 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.

Such multi-stakeholder representation is mirrored in the governance structure of RSPO such that seats in the Executive Board and project-level Working Groups are fairly allocated to each sector. In this way, RSPO lives out the philosophy of the ‘roundtable’ by giving equal rights to each stakeholder group to bring group-specific agendas to the roundtable, facilitating traditionally adversarial stakeholders and business competitors to work together towards a common objective and make decisions by consensus.

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