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Latin America Palm Oil Programme

The Latin America Palm Oil Programme supports the adoption of sustainable practices in palm oil production, particularly in areas of rapid expansion.

The programme raises awareness about the importance of responsible palm oil production among civil society and government. It supports the development of national standards for RSPO and HCV, and runs training courses for certification bodies and HCV assessors.

What are our priorities?

Our goal is to work with all stakeholders to support the adoption of social and environmental best practices in oil palm production in the region.

In the short term we are focusing on building awareness and practical understanding about sustainability and certification in the palm oil sector, and among important stakeholder groups such as governments and civil society. We are engaging a range of organisations through multistakeholder processes to develop national interpretations of the global RSPO standard for oil palm production.

An important area of our work is to produce tools and guidance for companies working with small and medium enterprises, to help smaller producers implement sustainable practices. We also provide training and guidance for using the HCV approach to guide decisions on plantation establishment and management.

What does the programme do?

The Latin America Palm Oil Programme delivers benefits across the region through five main components:

1. Awareness raising and capacity building

We promote responsible practices in oil palm expansion and management across Latin America. We do this through workshops, awareness raising seminars, training courses and events such as the Technical Week on Sustainable Palm, which we organised in Belém, Brazil. Participants include growers, as well as representatives of government, private sector, the international community, financial institutions and civil society.

2. National processes

We are facilitating processes to develop national interpretations of the RSPO Principles and Criteria (P&C) for Honduras and Guatemala. These national interpretations ensure the standard used in certification assessments is appropriate for the conditions in the country. The first national interpretation for Honduras was approved by RSPO in April 2014, and is now being revised in line with changes to the RSPO requirements. The process for Guatemala started in March 2014.

In a parallel process, we are a founding member of the national working group to develop a national interpretation of the six high conservation values (HCVs) for Brazil.

3. Implementing sustainable practices

As a first step for companies to implement sustainable practices, we carry out assessments for oil palm growers to identify areas where they do not yet meet RSPO standards. These gap assessments, carried out in Colombia, Guatemala and Honduras, help companies understand what they need to do to meet RSPO or other responsible purchasing standards.

4. Technical training

We run technical training courses for RSPO Lead Auditors, and palm oil growers and processors. We provide the only Spanish and Portuguese-language Lead Auditor course approved by RSPO. Our four-day practical course for producers helps oil palm plantation growers and technical staff from palm oil mills understand and meet RSPO requirements for sustainable production.

We also run practical training courses for HCV assessors in several countries including Honduras, Brazil and Colombia.

5. Sustainable smallholder production

We are testing different approaches to improving smallholders’ access to markets for sustainable products. In Brazil, Colombia and Honduras we are testing a risk-based approach to HCV for smallholders, while in Colombia and Honduras we are running trials for the responsible supply of palm oil from smallholders (RSS), and testing ways of working with groups of smallholders. We will be developing case studies from these experiences. 

Future plans

We are forming partnerships with companies and NGOs working with smallholder oil palm growers. We will support them by developing and implementing tools to help smallholders implement sustainable production and meet supply chain requirements.

We are developing programmes to support training and mentoring of RSPO auditors and assessors in the region, and are supporting an increase in the number of licensed, experienced HCV assessors in Latin America.

Why is it important?

Latin America holds more than one quarter of the world’s forest area, and two-thirds of its tropical rainforests. Oil palm cultivation has increased rapidly in the last decade, with expansion in the region of 3.6 per cent annually, and in some countries at a much higher rate. In Guatemala, for example, the area of oil palm more than tripled between 2003 and 2010. Much of the global expansion is in forested areas, sometimes in areas with high levels of biodiversity. Questions have been raised about labour and human rights standards too, with accusations of forced and child labour, health and safety risks, poor housing and wage exploitation in the sector.

Voluntary certification through schemes such as RSPO and the Sustainable Agriculture Network (SAN) helps palm oil producers demonstrate that their production practices are legal and sustainable. However, producers, governments and NGOs may have limited knowledge of the schemes' requirements and how to achieve this in practice.

Funding and implementation partners

Our funders and partners include Norad, Johnson & Johnson, RSPO, WWF Central America, Solidaridad (Farmer Support Programme), EcoSistemas, Imazon, Fedepalma, WWF Colombia, Cenipalma, ICADE, NaturaCert, FIIT, SHARP Programme,  and palm oil companies and cooperatives.


Our areas of work

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