A group of independent small oil palm growers in South Sumatra on Wednesday (21/10) became the first in the world to be certified under a newly adopted Independent Smallholder (ISH) Standard of the Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil (RSPO) aimed at boosting the inclusion of smallholders into the RSPO system.
Thirty independent smallholders managing 130 hectares of oil palm under the Mitra Bersama village cooperative (KUD) in South Sumatra, were audited by Certification Body, Mutuagung Lestari, which has then approved the group’s RSPO ISH certification for the ‘Eligibility’ phase, the first of three phases under the new scheme.
“This new standard serves as an important foundation in RSPO’s movement to transform markets while ensuring the inclusion of smallholders, and I am thrilled that Indonesian smallholders are the first in the world to attain this major achievement,” said RSPO’s Indonesia Country Director, Tiur Rumondang, in a press release.
The audit, the statement said, was held while upholding the relevant Covid-19 procedures to ensure the health and safety of all involved.
KUD Mitra Bersama was supported through a project run by RSPO member, Louis Dreyfus Company in collaboration with the Louis Dreyfus Foundation and Dutch non-profit organization SNV, providing financial and capacity building support, including training on certification and good agricultural practices relating to palm oil grading, harvesting and transport, maintenance, plantation assessment, responsible use of fertilizers, and pest and disease management.
“Due to low yields, smallholder palm growers often have limited means to invest in sustainable agriculture. Struggling to meet the complex requirements of certification, they risk exclusion from the supply chains of companies committed to sourcing certified products,” said Rubens Marques, Indonesia CEO at Louis Dreyfus Company.
The group has worked with the company since 2019 and Marques aired hope that the achievement would pave the way for many more smallholders – in Indonesia and elsewhere – to embark on the journey toward more sustainable supply chains.
RSPO Head of Smallholder Program, Ashwin Selvaraj, said that the adopted RSPO ISH Standard was an opportunity to further bring about a systemic, sustainable change that considerably improves the welfare of smallholders globally.
“We are also seeing positive impacts with groups in Malaysia, Thailand and Mexico, who are ready to be audited,” Selvaraj added.
The RSPO ISH Standard certification scheme consists of three phases: ‘Eligibility’, ‘Milestone A’ and ‘Milestone B’, each with specific claims that smallholders can make about their production, and corresponding benefits for the producer. A field audit takes place at each phase, assessing specific compliance requirements.
The eligibility certification phase now allowed the group to allocate 40 percent of its production volume of fresh fruits bunches as RSPO Independent Smallholder Credits, traded via the RSPO PalmTraceplatform.
To progress to the next phase, the KUD Mitra Bersama smallholder group will need to demonstrate further improvements to meet the next milestone indicators, while maintaining compliance with existing ‘Eligibility’ phase criteria.
KUD Mitra Bersama’s Group Manager, Nyoman Sucipta, said the training they received from SNV on implementing the ISH Standard not only taught them about sustainable oil palm cultivation, but supported the group’s efficiency in production costs, allowing them to save more of their income.
“This process helped us learn about recording fruit transactions, developing standard operating procedures, and establishing an Internal Control System (ICS), which are all key elements of the standard. Together with the management of KUD Mitra Bersama, I am happy and proud to be the first group to achieve this milestone towards RSPO ISH certification, and we are committed to continuing the certification process to the next stage of Milestone A and Milestone B,” Sucipta said.
The RSPO ISH Standard was adopted at the 16th annual General Assembly in Bangkok, Thailand in November 2019. The standard aims to increase the inclusion of smallholders into the RSPO system through a mechanism which takes into consideration the diversity in challenges and situations faced by smallholders globally, together with their varying needs and concerns, while adhering to the key pillars of RSPO’s Theory of Change (ToC): Prosperity, People and Planet.