New RSPO standard for smallholders signals hope for Nigerian palm oil producers
Smallholders in Nigeria’s palm oil value chain, like others across the world, can now get certified according to standards of the Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil (RSPO), opening up new possibilities for them in market access, global competitiveness, and attractiveness to potential financiers.
Agribusiness Insight had exclusively reported on the Independent Smallholder (ISH) standard, which would facilitate registration of smallholders through cooperatives or group, with provisions that eliminate the financial and technical limitations that hitherto prevented them from getting certified.
This month, RSPO had its 17th Annual Roundtable Conference on Sustainable Palm Oil (RT17) and 16th Annual General Assembly (GA16) in Thailand, where members adopted the RSPO Independent Smallholder (ISH) Standard, described as a bold commitment to supporting greater inclusion of smallholders into the sustainable palm oil supply chain.
“Through the new rules for Shared Responsibility, I expect all members to actively participate and work together to increase the demand for sustainable palm oil with mutual accountability throughout the supply chain,” said Datuk Darrel Webber, chief executive officer of RSPO in a statement.
The newly adopted RSPO ISH Standard implements simple, straightforward requirements and cost-effective tools that consider diversity, capacity, and incentives, whilst ensuring that core sustainability criteria are upheld. Girish Deshpande, Global Surfactants Business Planner and Palm Sustainability Leader of Procter & Gamble UK, said, “This standard allows us to achieve our ambition of being a force for good and a force for growth, driving livelihood improvement for smallholders.”
Henry Olatujoye, president, National Palm Produce Association of Nigeria, previously told BusinessDay the “RSPO is good but the platform for it to be established in Nigeria is not yet there.”
“RSPO will only work in a place where there is a regulator, even before one tree is planted,” he said. According to him, while RSPO is good, he still has reservations that “Nigerian operators still do not understand the benefits that can accrue to them by adopting the RSPO policy.”
There are however provisions to assist smallholders in achieving certification easily (including in Nigeria), through the RSPO smallholder strategy that provides access to simplified assessment tools. Whereas big companies pay tens of thousands of dollars to get required assessments done before getting certified, for smallholders, RSPO is through its smallholder support strategy, helping them achieve this at no cost, as explained by Elikplim Dziwornu Agbitor, technical manager for Africa at RSPO in a previous interview before the standard was adopted.
The RSPO event in Thailand also saw the launch of a new initiative, the RSPO Smallholder Trainer Academy (STA) that aims to significantly increase the resources available for smallholders globally. By adopting a ‘train-the-trainer’ approach, RSPO hopes to reach larger numbers of small scale oil palm farmers through agricultural best practice training. “We can’t leave smallholders behind. Supporting them with training is vital to make sustainable palm oil production inclusive,” said Narno Sayoto Irontiko, chairman of FORTASBI, an association for smallholder Farmers in Indonesia.
For Nigerian players in the value chain, with time, it would be seen how much they would take advantage of these RSPO provisions, expanding their access to markets, and aligning with financiers keen on supporting only certified sustainable ventures.