Palm oil | WWF
	© James Morgan  / WWF International

Smallholder certification

RSPO smallholder certification is taking pressure off vital habitat for elephants and tigers.
Tesso Nilo on the island of Sumatra is one of the world’s most critical national parks.  It´s one of the last strongholds of Sumatran elephants and tigers and boasts some of the most diverse flora on the planet. But it also happens to be located in the middle of Riau province, Indonesia – the leading palm oil producing region.

Oil palm production covers some 2.1 million hectares in Riau of which 1.1 million is owned by smallholders. Lacking the information, credit, technology and access to markets that large corporations and their suppliers enjoy, these hundreds of thousands of smallholders have few options for improving their livelihoods.

Research by WWF-Indonesia shows that oil palm plantations have encroached on 30,000 hectares of the national park’s 83,000 hectares. In order to protect the park, WWF set up an association, Amanah, to help smallholders benefit from best practices for smallholder certification.

As part of its global commitment to source 100 per cent RSPO-certified palm oil by 2015, French retailer Carrefour agreed to fund the project after visiting Tesso Nilo. Last year, Carrefour committed to sell RSPO-certified cooking oil in Indonesia,the second largest palm oil consuming market. Since 2010, it has been buying sustainability certificates for all the products it sells in France.

The smallholder group has been aiming for certified palm oil under the RSPO’s group certification scheme. Having passed an audit in February, Amanah received its certificate in July 2013.

Increased productivity

Amanah group members have reduced their use of weed-killers by 40 per cent and fertilizers by a third, and are also using fewer pesticides.
They save money by buying in bulk and sharing transport, harvesting and marketing costs. The farmers also receive a small premium for selling certified fresh fruit bunches. Productivity, meanwhile, has improved by at least 20 per cent.

" In 2012 – before the trainings – average production was 20 tonnes per hectares per year. In the first four months of 2013 we yielded two tonnes per hectare each month, or an average of 24 tonnes over the year. "

Haji Sunarno, Manager Amanah

Greater Understanding

Smallholders obtained a greater understanding of the importance of
preserving their environment, Haji Sunarno says.  “When our members want to expand their plantations, they consider whether the location is inside HCV areas or crossing an animal track. They will only expand plantations to agricultural areas that do not harm HCVs or critical habitat of important species.”

The success of Amanah has caught the interest of others. “We have seven more farmer groups of 132 farmers that would like to join RSPO through Amanah,” says Sunarno. “At first they were sceptical about RSPO certification, but after they saw how our members improved their cultivation techniques and productivity they want to join us to be RSPO-certified independent smallholders.

Also, three months after Amanah received RSPO certification for sustainable palm oil management, the association gained support from another retailer: Unilever is now buying their GreenPalm certificates which will allow smallholders to further increase their sustainable practices. 

More examples of how transforming markets can make a difference can be found here.

Better Production for a Living Planet

	© WWF
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The growing demand for palm oil is adding to the already severe pressure on remaining rainforest ... 
	© Mark Edwards / WWF
The growing demand for palm oil is adding to the already severe pressure on remaining rainforest areas of the world.
© Mark Edwards / WWF


Palm oil is an important driver of deforestation in Southeast
Asia leading to biodiversity loss and greenhouse gas emissions.
It also causes social problems (land disputes, child labour,
riots, loss of local economic opportunities)

  • Most productive source of vegetable oil per hectare;
  • As a tree crop (lifespan 25-28 years) there is low impact from annual cultivation and the need for fertilizer, pesticides and water are reduced. Oil palm plantations can sequester carbon;
  • Can alleviate poverty - palm oil production represents 4.5% of Indonesian gross domestic product, with 40% of Indonesian production coming from smallholders.
    The Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil (RSPO) transforms markets to make sustainable palm oil the norm.

WWF Targets

  • 2020 50% of palm oil bought is RSPO certified


  • 18.4% of global palm oil production is RSPO certified (August 2016)

Priority Countries

  • Production
    Indonesia and Malaysia (approximately 85% of global production), Congo Basin (emerging)

    India, Indonesia, China (the three largest and fastest growing markets in the last decade), EU


  • Demand drivers
    Population, income, consumption, urbanisation (associated with less time to prepare food).

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