The campaign to deepen the nation’s economic diversification received more attention by experts and participants at the “Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil (RSPO) and Proforest”, with a strong message that Nigeria and the continent must show real investment in the sector.
For the experts, there is an urgent need for a long-term sustainable development plan for oil palm production in Africa and Nigeria must lead the way.
Edo State Governor, Godwin Obaseki, who delivered an address at the event, said that a real interest in the development of the sector would be of immense interests for Nigeria and all in Africa.
“If you are not part of the solution, then you are part of the problem. Let me congratulate all of you here today, for demonstrating your commitment to a solution.
“In a region where livelihoods are intricately connected to both the palm oil sector and natural resources, and where oil palm growing areas overlap areas of international conservation importance such as High Forest Cover countries like Gabon, it is vitally important that any development is done sustainably, ensuring a balance between palm oil production and nature conservation.
“With high-profile dignitaries, growers, non-governmental organisations, financial institutions, and consumer goods manufacturers in attendance, it is mutually acknowledged that if African palm oil-producing countries achieve their ambition to convert from net importers to net exporters, palm oil production will significantly increase,” he said.
RSPO’s presence has been on the increase with certified members in over 15 countries across Africa, and with stringent new principles and criteria in place, the conference provided an ideal platform for a constructive debate around regional vision and renewed commitment from key producing countries.
RSPO’s Assurance Director, Salahudin Yaacob, called for a “long-term sustainable development plan” in the region, stating that “RSPO can only achieve its vision of transforming markets to make sustainable palm oil the norm through collaboration with all stakeholders, from growers to governments, and financial institutions to NGOs.”
But Africa Regional Director for Proforest, Abraham Baffoe, said “a sustainable oil palm industry in Africa is something we are deeply committed to – and it is wonderful to have so much interest from companies and other stakeholders.
“We look forward to seeing these connections deepen as a result of this conference, as we all work together towards an industry which contributes to the economic development of African countries, whilst preserving the crucially important biodiversity of the region.”
The sector’s smallholder farmers are estimated to account for approximately 70 per cent of palm oil production area in Africa, yet roughly 30 per cent of output, hence supporting smallholders to improve their yields was another keen area of focus for delegates.
The Deputy Minister for Agriculture of Liberia, Robert Fagans, agreed that working with smallholders to improve their yields through sustainable farming methods is critical for palm oil growth across the continent.
The group has been developing a new, separate standard to simplify the entry process into the certification system, although members are expected to vote to adopt the proposed RSPO Independent Smallholder Standard during the RSPO General Assembly in November 2019.
The RSPO will continue to work with local partners on the ground to ensure that sustainable palm oil production in Africa benefits both people and the planet.
The conference covered the regional implementation of the 2018 RSPO Principles and Criteria; the role of financial institutions in promoting sustainable agriculture; how governments can mainstream sustainability; and opportunities to change the deforestation narrative in African palm oil-producing countries.