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How Cargill, Solidaridad Are Cultivating a Sustainable Palm Oil Industry in Colombia

Image Credit: Gabe Silveman/The Washington Post

The palm oil industry is undergoing a major transformation with public and private stakeholders ramping up efforts to make sustainability an industry mainstay. Last month Greenpeace suspended its active campaign against IOI Group after the palm oil producer announced plans to eliminate deforestation and exploitation from its supply chain. And earlier this week, BNP Paribas rolled out a new palm oil policy that sets responsible palm oil production as a pre-condition for financing. Now, Cargill has teamed up with nonprofit Solidaridad and Colombian international trading company C.I. Biocosta S.A. to launch a palm oil smallholder sustainability program across Colombia.

Aimed at improving agricultural practices and farmer livelihoods, the two-year program will provide more than 480 palm farmers with training and technical assistance on responsible agricultural practices and improved farm management techniques covering key areas of health and safety and environmental and social impact management.

“This program supports Cargill’s commitment to building a 100-percent transparent, traceable and sustainable palm supply chain by 2020,” said Robert Horster, Global Trading Director for Cargill’s Edible Oils Solutions. “Our goal is to stimulate inclusion of Colombian farmers in the global palm oil market, boosting their livelihoods and establishing best practices in sustainable agriculture.”

This marks Cargill’s first initiative in Latin America focused on responsible palm oil production. With Solidaridad and Biocosta, which serves as Cargill’s supplier base for producers and mills, Cargill will promote the adoption of the Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil’s principles and criteria. The goal is to enable smallholders to increase productivity, profitability and market access with sustainable practices and eco-label certification.

“Solidaridad is pioneering sustainable approaches in the region and, through this engagement with Cargill and Biocosta, will ensure new economic opportunities for smallholders and the implementation of sustainable practices,” said Maria Goretti Esquivel, Palm Oil Program Manager of Solidaridad Colombia. “The participation of international buyers, like Cargill, in this kind of initiative is key to fostering sustainability in the palm oil supply chain and advocating for changes in the sector.”

Biocosta includes approximately 700 smallholder farmers, accounting for nearly 50 percent of palm oil production in the northern region and driving socio-economic development.

Palm oil is the third largest crop cultivated in Colombia after coffee and bananas. As the market for palm oil products in the country expands and brings economic growth to the region, best practices in agriculture, occupational health and environmental management are critical. In parallel with the new program, Cargill, Biocosta and Solidaridad will conduct a social and environmental impact study to evaluate high conservation value land and assess deforestation risks to fully integrate palm oil farmers into sustainable supply chains.

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