Thailand has a high number of small-scale farmers or smallholders working in palm oil production: together, they farm more than 80% of the total area under oil palm production. In general, smallholders have limited knowledge of sustainable farming practices (such as improving fertilizer use and applying organic materials; have great potential for reducing GHG in the palm oil sector), and lack sufficient capital to be able to improve their farms. With these constraints, smallholders in Thailand produce low yields, resulting in a low quality of palm oil being extracted in the mills.
As a consequence of smallholders’ constraints, only around 2% of Thailand’s entire palm oil output is produced by Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil (RSPO)-certified smallholders and palm oil mills. Support for a broad-based training programme for smallholders is thus vital in order to improve smallholders’ capacities and advance the production of sustainable palm oil. Even though the Ministry of Agriculture and Cooperatives (MoAC) has set a policy to promote sustainable agricultural development following the 12th National Economic and Social Development Plan 2017–2021, the large-scale rollout of intensive smallholder training courses is proving difficult for the government. This is due, amongst other things, to budget constraints as well as a shortage of suitably qualified national instructors. Capacity deficits also exist in the areas of GHG measurement and reporting, which means that mitigation actions cannot be tracked or documented. As a result of these requirements, the Thai government is looking at ways in which the sustainable palm oil production can be expanded even more rapidly, e.g. through certification of an entire jurisdiction.
To enable the national government and relevant stakeholders to mainstream sustainable and climate-friendly palm oil production in Thailand
The project closely cooperates with the Thai government and palm oil businesses to
Sustainable Practices: Create qualified national instructors and enhance oil palm smallholders’ capacities in sustainable farming practices and meeting an internationally-recognised sustainable palm oil standard (i.e. RSPO) through an intensive Training of Trainer (ToT) curriculum.
Partnership development: To promote a cooperation along the value chain for smallholder engagement together with increase awareness and market demand of sustainable palm oil in the country.
Greenhouse Gas (GHG) reduction: Promote and demonstrate appropriate GHG reduction practices for oil palm cultivation to smallholders. In addition, develop a system for monitoring and reporting GHG reduction.
Upscaling framework: Recommend a policy framework upscaling sustainable and climate-friendly palm oil production towards an “landscape” or “jurisdictional approach” with a commitment from local government and key stakeholders to ensure that all palm oil produced from one jurisdiction area (i.e. district, province, or national level) is sustainably produced and certified.
RESULTS SO FAR
A total 74 groups of smallholders with 3,400 farmer members growing oil palm over 10,000 ha in three pilot provinces (Surat Thani, Krabi and Chumphon) has been engaged and benefited from the project support.
An intensive Training of Trainer curriculum and its training materials (such as posters, handbooks, animation, and PowerPoint presentation), the so-called “Thailand Oil Palm Smallholders Academy: TOPSA”, has been completed and rolled out to 38 Master trainers and 250 targeted trainers from lead farmers, local extension officials and mill representatives. So far, these trained trainers have actively engaged and trained 3,400 smallholders following TOPSA curriculum.
Development of digital database management application for farmers, called “i-Palm”, has been completed. It is introduced to farmers as a supporting tool for
filling in their data at farm-level anywhere and automatically see their status
tracking farming performance and room for improvement
preparing for RSPO certification audit (such as checklist for internal audit)
checking GHG emissions and reductions from their plots
All smallholder groups are currently supported by the project for RSPO certification preparation.
An online campaign was launched in January 2020 to raise awareness and call for action on supporting sustainable palm oil among the general public and smallholders. Currently, over 130 messages have been posted on GIZ Facebook page, named “GIZ Farmers Care Earth” and reached out to our fan page more than 2,000 followers.
Nineteen palm oil mills have engaged and willing to cooperate with smallholders with incentives (i.e. source oil palm fruits from smallholders with a fair price according to better quality, support RSPO membership fee, fast track to deliver oil palm fruits, and office space for farmer group) through a Partnership Agreement. So far, nine Partnership Agreements have been signed between palm oil mills and smallholder groups.
Greenhouse Gas (GHG) reduction:
A study on appropriate GHG reduction practices has been completed through a series of stakeholder consultations. Five out of twelve practices were assessed, prioritized and recommended as “Appropriated GHG reduction practices for oil palm cultivation”. They are harvesting ripe fruits, optimize fertilizers use (following leaf-soil analysis), mulching empty bunches, planning cover crop, and intercropping which has been integrated into the TOPSA training curriculum.
A simplified calculation tool is now ready to use for monitoring and reporting GHG reduction. Moreover, this calculation is further embodied in the i-Palm application.
Two Oil Palm Research Centers and fifteen farmer plots are setup in 3 provinces to demonstrate sustainable and climate-friendly practice, including reduction practices for smallholders.
A feasibility study on upscaling sustainable and climate-friendly production towards RSPO jurisdictional approach (JA) has been completed through a series of focus group discussion and in-depth stakeholder interviews. The study suggested that Suratthani province is suitable to piloting RSPO JA as it has the largest oil palm planted area in the country. Therefore, the study result was presented and consulted with key stakeholders in Surathani in March 2021. The meeting concluded that even though the stakeholders (i.e., farmers, palm oil mills and local authorities) are interested, local authorities could not fully commit and support the RSPO JA implementation. This is because a national policy framework to support RSPO implementation is still lacking to justify budget and official mandates.
Final study result with policy recommendations will be presented and consulted with relevant national governments in Q4/2021