Sabah’s mid-sized oil palm planters band together for sustainability push

·3-min read
Malay Mail
Malay Mail

KOTA KINABALU, Aug 29 — Medium-sized oil palm producers in the state will soon adopt sustainable practices under the Malaysian Sustainable Palm Oil (MSPO) and Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil (RSPO) certification standards.

This comes after the first meeting of the Koperasi Lestari Penanam Sawit Sabah Berhad (Klass), a cooperative to assist the producers get group accreditation under the two certification standards.

“Businesses are often discouraged from pursuing certification as it is costly. The newly formed cooperative will serve as a platform to support its members’ certifications by sharing costs and applying industry best practices to achieve group certification under MSPO and RSPO standards,” said Koperasi Klass protem chairman Hamka Kasma.

According to a statement issued by WWF-Malaysia, the certification was a joint application by a group of oil palm growers and will apply to them all.

In order to facilitate access for small producers and offer reduced costs, a group certification model allows each individual group member to benefit from the economies of scale by being part of a larger group, as well as making certification more affordable as costs are shared.

Both certification standards, among others, require oil palm plantations to preserve riparian reserves, avoid development on steep slopes and prevent encroachment on protected areas.

“Good agricultural practices and respecting human rights are also required towards stopping deforestation and ensuring no exploitation of people in the production of sustainable palm oil,” said the statement.

Klass is the third cooperative facilitated by WWF-Malaysia’s Sustainable Palm Oil Team (SPOT) after the formation of Koperasi Pekebun Kecil dan Sederhana Sawit Lestari Sabah Berhad (KO-Salesa) this August.

Currently, both Klass and KO-Salesa consist of 50 and 37 smallholders, respectively, covering a combined total land area of roughly 1,300 hectares in the Tabin and Sandakan landscapes.

The first initiative is Koperasi Landskap Kelapa Sawit Sabah Bhd (LKSS) facilitated by SPOT in 2019 for Tawau which now has over 380 members comprising of 300 smallholders and 80 medium-sized growers with a cumulative land area of about 16,000 hectares.

Of 380 growers from LKSS who are part of the group certification, 25 are undergoing RSPO certification processes.

WWF-Malaysia’s Head of Conservation Robecca Jumin said that they were hoping to improve sustainable oil palm production that will directly impact conservation efforts on Sabah’s forests and the restoration of its key ecological corridors, ultimately creating a living landscape.

WWF-Malaysia’s sustainable agriculture manager Max Donysius said that the MSPO certification was a necessary step towards RSPO certification, and in line with the state government’s commitment to 30 per cent Totally Protected Areas (TPA) and 100 per cent RSPO certification of palm oil by 2025.

Under WWF-Malaysia’s Sabah Landscapes Programme, SPOT aims to support 450 small and medium-sized growers in three priority landscapes, namely Tawau-Kunak, Tabin and Lower Sugut, covering 45,000 hectares to produce RSPO-certified palm oil by 2025.

Based on the three pillars of “Protect, Produce, Restore,” the Sabah Landscapes Programme combines both conservation and sustainable development by integrating the protection of forests, wildlife and rivers, with RSPO-certified production of oil palm, and restoration of ecological corridors and riparian reserves.