Continued from part 1 (^^)
Unfortunately, the contribution of oil palm smallholders is not adequately captured in the certification pathway. Astari & Lovett (2019) note that existing sustainability standards act as barriers that exclude smallholders from the formal market. Certification requires a high level of management, administration, quality control, marketing and service delivery, and is beyond the reach of smallholders, who can only achieve it with external support (Bronkhorst et al., 2017). Also, membership, training, certification and monitoring for certification (RSPO certification) can be more expensive for smallholder farmers, discouraging them from participating. As a result, in Indonesia, less than 1% of independent smallholders were certified by the Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil (RSPO) and Indonesia Sustainable Palm Oil (ISPO) as of 2017 (Suhada, Bagja, & Saleh, 2018). This stats is ironic as Indonesia is the largest palm oil producer, accounting for 61% of global palm oil production (Indonesia Investments, 2017). Due to the high proportion of certified palm oil imports, small-scale farmers in Indonesia have far fewer opportunities to reach global value chains that shift towards sustainable demand.
Reforestation allows farmers to avoid new land clearing and deforestation. Nevertheless, it does not proceed as expected because of the risk of productivity losses and time gaps before new farms can start production. Many companies are responsible for deforestation activities and are now more obliged to comply with RSPO and ISPO requirements (Schoneveld, Ekowati, Andrianto, & van der Haar, 2019). However, unsustainable practices, such as illegal land conversion, are associated with smallholder farmers not being monitored and poorly regulated.
Rather than limiting the goals of smallholders to a single scope of sustainability standardisation, sustainability needs to be pursued from both a fundamental and an overarching perspective to build smallholders' capacity in the value chain. Approaches to achieving sustainable practices that go beyond certification may increase the number of smallholder farmers in the value chain and secure their livelihoods. Some EU countries, such as Belgium, which has achieved 100% certified sustainable palm oil sourcing, have committed to pursuing sustainable commitments beyond certification (ESPO, 2017). In this case, they have added additional requirements for traceability and additional social and environmental standards.
Without wasting words, palm oil itself is not bad. There are good examples in Africa. The problem is mass production and mass consumption. We also buy from big companies, but many farmers producing the oil unsustainably are small farmers, so targeting big companies may not be as effective as we think. I think it would be better to work more with small farmers in Indonesia.