Collaboration drives production of sustainable coconut oil

BASF, Cargill, Procter & Gamble and the Deutsche Gesellschaft für Internationale Zusammenarbeit have joined together in a development partnership under the develoPPP.de programme by the German Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development to help establish a sustainable certified and transparent supply chain of coconut oil in the Philippines and Indonesia

The Philippines and Indonesia are the world’s two largest producers of coconuts and exporters of coconut based products.

The majority of the coconut farmers are smallholders and tenants, cultivating less than four hectares of land who are seldom organised in functioning farmer groups and cooperatives.

This gives rise to a number of challenges including: little or no economies of scale, lack of financing and training resources, and a rigid supply chain, which increase the farmers’ dependence on middlemen and perpetuates inefficient and unsustainable agricultural practices.

By working with the smallholder farmers and teaching them better practices, the main goal of the development partnership is to increase their incomes and economic self-sufficiency by improving the productivity of their farms.

This will be achieved through training on Good Agricultural Practices (GAP), inter-cropping and enhanced farm management skills, and the strengthening of farmer groups.

Around 3000 smallholder farmers in the Philippines and 300 in Indonesia will benefit from the programme. Out of this group, around 800 smallholder farmers will receive additional training on the Sustainable Agriculture Network (SAN) standards in order to apply for Rainforest Alliance certification.

The partnership is also working on establishing a chain of custody for certified material to help increase transparency along the supply chain.

Cargill, which owns and operates copra-buying stations and crushing plants, is providing training to smallholder farmers and setting up the structures for certification.

The crude and refined oil produced by Cargill is then further processed by BASF and Procter & Gamble (P&G) for ingredients in the home and personal care and in the nutrition and health markets. Together, the private partners bring in the understanding of and experience in the coconut oil market mechanisms and trends.

Deutsche Gesellschaft für Internationale Zusammenarbeit (GIZ) contributes to the project with its expertise in capacity building on farmers’ level as well as in implementing GAP and sustainability standards.

GIZ also steers the project and manages its implementation on the ground, working closely with government agencies including Philippine Coconut Authority (PCA) and the Agricultural Training Institute (ATI) in the Philippines.

The project builds on a preceding development partnership — Nucleus of Change — implemented in General Santos in the Philippines by Cargill, BASF and GIZ from 2011 to 2015.

During this partnership over 1000 smallholder farmers were trained and the first 300 coconut smallholder farmers became the world’s first Rainforest Alliance Certified TM coconut farms.

Natividad Beligolo from the Sarangani Province in the Philippines was one of the farmers, who was trained in GAP, such as the right use of fertilisers, intercropping and replanting.

He said: “Through certification I earned additional income from premiums, which is a big help to our family to sustain our everyday lives — more food on the plate and ensuring education to our children."

Harald Sauthoff, Vice President of Global Procurement Natural Oils and Oleochemicals at BASF, said: “These initiatives show that there is high commitment by all partners to further promote the production of certified, sustainable coconut oil. The results that have been achieved in the project Nucleus of Change in General Santos in the Philippines until today now lay the foundation for this extended cooperation with P&G as a new partner.”

Matthias Radek, Chief-Advisor for Partnership Projects in Agriculture at GIZ Philippines, said: “Like the predecessor project Nucleus of Change, this joint initiative is not only a chance for the industry to make an important supply chain more sustainable, but it also creates new opportunities for local smallholder coconut farmers to increase their incomes. Thereby, the project partners will jointly contribute to poverty alleviation in rural areas in the Philippines and in Indonesia.”

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