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Asian Agri and Apical Group have jointly announced that an inaugural batch of 239 independent smallholders under the Smallholder Inclusion for Better Livelihood & Empowerment (“SMILE”) programme in the Labuhan Batu Regency of North Sumatra, has achieved the Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil (“RSPO”) sustainability certification.
The smallholders were awarded the certification following an RSPO audit conducted from 18 to 21 April 2022, which assessed conditions including no deforestation, waste management and peat land protection. The certification is the latest addition to several milestones achieved under the SMILE programme since its launch in November 2020. Earlier milestones include the participation of 698 smallholders in the first phase of SMILE, as well as the signing of all Memorandum of Understandings between PT Indosawit Subur of Asian Agri and each of the cooperatives in North Sumatra, Riau, and Jambi.
SMILE is a joint programme with Asian Agri, Apical and Kao Corporation to provide independent smallholders with critical training on best sustainable farming practices, with the objective of increasing their incomes through enhanced productivity, and eventually paving the way for them to achieve RSPO certification. Post-certification, the smallholders will be eligible to receive certified palm oil premiums averaging 5% higher than non-certified palm oil. In addition, SMILE includes initiatives that promote greater smallholder inclusion and improved livelihoods through empowerment initiatives for communities, aligned with RSPO’s objectives as well as the companies’ commitment to meet the UN Sustainable Development Goals.
“We would like to congratulate all our independent smallholders for their efforts in implementing sustainable production. Independent smallholders are self-financed and often challenged by limited resources and expertise to produce palm oil sustainably, so SMILE was launched to reduce social and economic gaps that affect their livelihoods. Through providing relevant training and capacity building, we are heartened to have helped them achieve RSPO certification for the first phase of the audit, which will enable them to sell their produce at a premium, thereby increasing their income and raising their quality of life,” said Director of Sustainability at Apical, Bremen Yong.
“The palm oil industry is important for developing countries as it helps create job opportunities for the 2.6 million farmers who rely on it. Independent smallholders make up 40% of this industry and together with SMILE, we can continue to support and improve the well-being of the independent smallholders. We are proud of the smallholders who successfully completed the RSPO audit. To date, SMILE has supported close to 600 independent smallholders in working towards RSPO certification” said Director of Sustainability and Stakeholder Relations at Asian Agri, Bernard A. Riedo.
The remaining smallholders under SMILE Phase 1 will undergo the RSPO main audit in the third quarter of 2022 while the progress for these smallholders will be monitored continuously. Preparations are currently underway for the RSPO certification process for registered smallholders under Phase 2 of the SMILE programme.
On behalf of the Koperasi Konsumen Tebing Tinggi Pangkatan Sejahtera, as head of the cooperative, Khairul Anam, said, “The impact of this programme is great for us smallholders, as not only do we benefit in learning the right methods in agrofarming for the plantation, but we also receive additional equipment in addition to the premium provided. With the many benefits of the SMILE programme, we hope other smallholders will be keen to participate in this programme as well”.