Strict surveillance and various disease control measures have been put in place during the COVID-19 epidemic, resulting in all sectors needing to adjust and identify practices in daily life and work that effectively cope with the changes wrought by new normal conditions and social distancing.
Current technological advances have led to online learning, working from home, and organising online seminars, all of which are more convenient to manage. This also helps reduce travel expenses, decrease greenhouse gas emissions in the transport sector and lower the spread of the virus. The Sustainable and Climate-Friendly Palm Oil Production and Procurement (SCPOPP) project has therefore adopted the online training as a platform that allows interested trainers including representative from palm oil mills, smallholders, extension officials from the Department of Agricultural Extension (DOAE) and experts from Prince of Songkla University to share their views and lessons learnt on sustainable palm oil production. Up to 200 SCPOPP trainers based in Krabi, Surat Thani and Chumphon provinces together with participants from other locations can access the online training.
However, challenges do exist. The format and period of the training of the Thailand Oil Palm Smallholder Academy or TOPSA was originally designed for face-to-face and interactive learning and has needed to be adjusted to be suitable for online training. The social and environmental impact of sustainable oil palm is the key topic for the online training. Samples and analysis tools for measuring social impacts or legal assessments of oil palm plantations are available for trainers to use and put into practice.
Apart from the social impact assessment training session, trainers are also encouraged to attend a one-day online course on the environmental impact of sustainable oil palm on living organisms and ecosystems. This allows them to acquire a deeper understanding of the values of conservation. Technical knowledge and skills learned will enable trainers and oil palm smallholders to effectively develop a suitable management plan and a monitoring and evaluation system, while minimising the environmental, social and cultural impacts by implementing good techniques for their palm oil plantations.
Voices from participants
Sukanya Srisubat, Purchasing Manager from S.P.O.AGRO-INDUSTRY CO LTD, Phrasaeng District, Surat Thani province, was impressed by the straightforward and concise details, saying the online training session was a valuable learning experience and reflected the active cooperation and support from many relevant parties to people at the field implementation level.
“I have gained knowledge and learned important techniques which are useful for implementation,” said Rabiabrat Manimai, Chairman of the Khao Din smallholders group in Krabi province.
Saengjaroen Wisitpaiboon, Agricultural Extensionist practitioner Level, Kanchanadit District Agricultural Extension Office, Surat Thani province, said online training is both time and cost effective. “Online training not only gives us knowledge, but it also enables us to be a part of a solution for COVID-19 control and climate change.”
Key topics discussed during one-day TOPSA online training include:
High Conservation Values (HCVs)
HCVs are things that are valuable to life, society, traditions, culture and the environment which are worth conserving, such as conservation areas, rare and endangered species of wildlife, endemic animals, etc.
Keeping them intact is essential to minimising the effects on human life. Conservation of HCV can be carried out at the individual level and can be performed individually as well as by farmers’ groups and companies.
In addition, good HCV management requires an on-site HCV assessment, threat assessment, and monitoring as well as proposing a way to mitigate threats and monitoring and evaluating the success of the operation.
Ecosystem and risk area management
The content that participants will learn on this topic includes the impact of palm plantation on the environment and ecosystem, river bank erosion including soil and water conservation measures.
This will help the participants know the importance of ecosystems in the oil palm plantation area, understand the relationship between ecosystems and palm plantations and find ways to preserve and protect ecosystems as well as being able to manage the buffer zone, riparian zone and sloped areas.
The content of this topic includes a basic knowledge of Greenhouse Gas, the impact of global warming, the methods on how to reduce Greenhouse Gas emissions from oil palm plantations as well as the 9R principle to reduce Greenhouse Gas emissions which are
Reuse is knowing how to recycle used items that can be reused.
Repair is fixing damaged items and appliances to be able to be reused.
Reduce is lessening the amount of materials and goods you consume or something unnecessary and maintain what is used to last.
Recycle is recirculation of discarded or unused items, resume production and utilise its advantage.
Refill is using items that can fill the product in the original container.
Return is using old items that can be exchanged for parts or all of them for new ones.
Replace is choosing products that are environmentally friendly, for example, use paper boxes instead of foam boxes.
Refuse is avoidance to use items to reduce consumption.
Rethink is new thinking, which is to change the thinking process to be more innovative and do not destroy the environment.