No one would deny that trainers are key to promoting knowledge on the standard of growing sustainable oil palm among smallholders in southern Thailand.
Currently, up to 320 trainers comprising lead farmers and local extension officials have been trained by TOPSA since July 2020. They can pass on knowledge about sustainable palm oil cultivation to over 3,000 farmers. They are planning to continue passing on this knowledge and experience learned from the curriculum to another thousands of oil palm smallholders in their communities. To date, apart from the RSPO Independent Smallholder Standard, a total of 2,500 farmers have been trained on Internal Control System and Database Management, which are the basic elements of a group certification.
These farmers will be further trained in technical knowledge on Good Agricultural Practices as well as Environmental and Social Impact Management to meet the full requirement of RSPO certification by the first quarter of 2021.
“TOPSA’s participatory approach encourages participants to learn, enjoy and better understand the technical content, which is usually difficult to follow,” said Mr. Manop Sainuy, representative from the committee of the oil palm collaborative farming group, Sai Thai Sub-district, Mueang Krabi District, and Mr.Thanit Srionnual, representative from the committee of the oil palm collaborative farming group, Pakasai Sub-district, Nuea Khlong District, Krabi
Both participants pointed out that trainers needed to be equipped with more in-depth knowledge and insight on sustainable palm oil production in order to effectively pass on knowledge and information to smallholders.
Miss Pailin Konpech, manager of Lungsuan smallholders group in Chumphon province, said: “Interesting games and group discussion sessions arranged during the pre and post-training session helps all trainers actively participate in activities, leading to better understanding of the details of the curriculum. Such learning process are useful for trainers to effectively pass on the knowledge to community farmers later on,”
However, there are some remaining challenges to overcome. Mr. Decha Chamnongrat, a trainer from Lumtub smallholders group in Krabi province said: “The technical content in the Agriculture Module is considered too technical and difficult for trainers to simplify and pass on to community farmers,” He believes further support from the ‘master trainers’, who are officials from the Department of Agriculture and the provincial agricultural extension, is essential, not only for the knowledge-sharing benefits but also the sustainability of palm oil smallholder development in Thailand.