Although native to South America, rubber is mainly produced in Southeast Asia. In some countries smallholder production predominates: in Indonesia 84% of natural rubber is produced by smallholders. In other countries, like Cambodia, Laos and Vietnam, large scale industrial rubber production is common.
Expanding rubber production and processing industries are accused of tolerating or even encouraging poor social and environmental practices including:
- abuses of workers’ rights and poor working conditions
- use of child labour
- lack of consultation with local communities
- conflict over land rights
- deforestation and illegal logging
- encroachment into protected areas.
But the rubber industry also has potential to bring prosperity and economic development to rural communities and smallholders in some of the world’s poorest regions. Rubber tree cultivation, tapping and processing are labour intensive, and can employ large numbers of people in rural areas. And rubberwood, harvested from rubber trees that have passed their peak latex production, can also supply responsible timber markets.
In this growing area, Proforest is supporting the responsible production and sourcing of rubber and rubberwood, by working with emerging multistakeholder initiatives and individual partners to develop responsible rubber production practices. Our work on rubber complements and overlaps with our work on HCV and HCS.
Implementing responsible production and sourcing practices
Proforest focuses on helping smallholders to develop responsible production practices, and supporting the companies they supply to develop processes for responsible sourcing from smallholders (RSS) through the SHARP Programme.
In Southeast Asia, we’re working with SNV and Indonesian rubber processors who supply some of the world’s largest tyre companies, to identify and support:
- sustainable intensification of production
- reductions in the environmental and social risks of poor production practices
- integration of smallholder rubber production in sustainable landscapes
- Improvements in the livelihoods of smallholder rubber producers and their communities.
We have also undertaken assessments of operations under rubber production against various international and internal company standards, most recently in Africa and in rubberwood plantations in Cambodia.