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Indonesian smallholders first in the world to be certified under RSPO ISH Standard

Recently a group of 30 independent smallholders who manage 130 hectares (ha) of oil palm under KUD Mitra Bersama, in South Sumatra, Indonesia became the first independent smallholder group to be certified under the newly adopted Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil (RSPO) Independent Smallholder (ISH) Standard. 

Recently a group of 30 independent smallholders who manage 130 hectares (ha) of oil palm under KUD Mitra Bersama, in South Sumatra, Indonesia became the first independent smallholder group to be certified under the newly adopted Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil (RSPO) Independent Smallholder (ISH) Standard (image courtesy RSPO).

Certification Body, Mutuagung Lestari, recently completed the audit for this smallholder group, while upholding the relevant coronavirus (COVID-19) procedures to ensure the health and safety of all involved.

They approved the group’s RSPO ISH certification for the ‘Eligibility’ phase, which enables the group to allocate 40 percent of its production volume of fresh fruit bunches (FFB) as RSPO Independent Smallholder Credits, traded via the RSPO PalmTrace platform.

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 – congratulations KUD Mitra Bersama!, RSPO’s Indonesia Country Director, Tiur Rumondang said

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 organisation 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 fertilisers, 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. We are therefore extremely pleased and proud to see this farming community, with which we have worked since 2019, become the first smallholder cooperative to access RSPO ISH certification, an achievement that we hope will pave the way for many more smallholders – in Indonesia and elsewhere – to embark on the journey toward more sustainable supply chains, said Rubens Marques, Indonesia CEO at Louis Dreyfus Company.

Three-phase standard

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.

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 production, and corresponding benefits for the producer.

A field audit takes place at each phase, assessing specific compliance requirements.

The adopted RSPO ISH Standard is an opportunity to further bring about a systemic, sustainable change that considerably improves the welfare of smallholders globally, and we are also seeing positive impacts with groups in Malaysia, Thailand and Mexico, who are ready to be audited, said Ashwin Selvaraj, RSPO Head of Smallholder Programme.

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, said Nyoman Sucipta.

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