Bangkok- The jurisdictional approach, that seeks to align interests and coordinate actions among governments, businesses, local communities, and NGOs, will not only support the sustainability of the palm oil industry in the future, but will also be able to address environmental and social issues faced by the sector, proponents of the approach told the 17th Annual Roundtable Conference on Sustainable Palm Oil (RT17) here.
“The jurisdictional approach is solving the social, and environmental issues, as well as helping producers in the palm oil industry to cultivate sustainably,” Yulhaidir, Head of the Indonesian District of Seruyan in Central Kalimantan Province, told a panel discussion on the second day of the conference organized by the Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil (RSPO) last week.
Seruyan, along with Sabah in Malaysia, and Ecuador, have been designated as pilot projects for the jurisdictional approach to palm oil certification in 2015 under the RSPO.
A jurisdictional approach to certification means making sure that all stakeholders in a jurisdictional territory work together on an equal footing, to ensure that production and processing of a particular commodity in the jurisdiction are done sustainably and ultimately, to ensure all producers in a jurisdiction are compliant to the RSPO Principles & Criteria.
“To make sure that smallholder farmers and producers are all obliged to follow all necessary approaches in sustainable cultivation, the Seruyan district has also launched a web-based monitoring system in line with the RSPO’s P&C,” Yulhaidar said.
To work towards implementing a jurisdictional approach to palm oil certification, the district established a working group to prepare for jurisdictional certification. It is composed of eight district institutions, representatives of eight major palm oil companies operating in Seruyan and eight representatives of social or community organizations.
Through the jurisdictional approach, Seruyan district seeks to not only improve productivity, open wider market access and improve the livelihood of farmers, but also to reduce deforestation rate, to map and protect high conservation value areas, to reduce social conflicts, to map and assist farmers to protect the rights of customary communities and inventarize land with cultural sites.
The process, Yulhaidar said, is still far from completed and he added that the involvement of all stakeholders was a must, because “It’s not easy, nor cheap,” to achieve the jurisdictional approach status.
“This long, uneasy process needs incentives from time to time, which is why we need a guarantee that buyers will buy the commodity at a price that is mutually beneficial for both, because that will continue sustainability for all,” he said.
Calls for buyers to assume their share in achieving sustainability by buying more sustainable palm oil has marked the conference. Producers are doing their bits by trying to comply with RSPO’s stringent sustainability standards and now it was time for buyers to assume their responsibility, the conference heard.
Frederick Kugan, Deputy Chief Conservator of Forests from the Sabah Forestry Department said that the jurisdictional approach was cost-effective for certification, which means they can also reach a wider market due to its competitiveness.
“Having a jurisdictional approach is very important, because all the issues that need to be addressed, is already addressed at a state level; land, forests, smallholders, are all addressed in the jurisdictional approach,” he told the panel discussion.
Kugan also said, that since its inception in 2015, the approach was implemented so that Sabah would also be conflict-free, enabling it thus, to provide a sustainable livelihood for the people of Sabah.
“It’s very important that the jurisdictional approach is continuously recognized,” Kugan said, adding that Sabah is aiming to be 100 percent RSPO certified by 2025.
Sharing the experience of Ecuador, was the Executive Director of ACD consulting Maria Albán, who said that the impetus in her country was to save their part of the Amazon basin, in the face of the growing expansion of various commodities, including palm oil.
“We are in the process of finalizing a road map at the national level to be able to reach this certification approach by 2022,” she told the panel, stressing the importance of strong commitments to sustainability from all sectors, including palm oil.
Ecuador is the second-largest palm oil producer in Latin America. With a production of 550,000 tons of palm oil in 2015 and 87 percent sourced directly from smallholders, Ecuador is one of the region’s main exporters of the commodity.