Working with Smallholders

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Given their large contribution to supplying global commodities, the certification of smallholder farmers is particularly important in the context of BACP’s work to transform commodity markets toward more biodiversity-friendly production. Globally, smallholders represent over 90% of cocoa production and 30% of palm oil production. 


With a significant portion of this production taking place in biodiversity-rich areas of tropical developing nations (lowland Guinean forests of West Africa, lowland rainforests of Indonesia and Malaysia, Cerrado woodland-savannah and Amazon biomes of Brazil), inclusion of smallholders in sustainable value chains has the potential to contribute to improved land use and biodiversity conservation, with major associated benefits for poverty reduction.


Over the course of the grant, two primary pathways for promoting best practices amongst smallholders were identified and implemented. In the first pathway, grantees facilitated direct engagement between certifiers and producers to encourage adoption of principles and criteria. Grantees acted as trainers of farmers, trainers of trainers, and certifiers themselves.


In the second pathway, grantees facilitated technical assistance and capacity building for stakeholders in a ‘pre-certified’ state. With the help of local NGOs and CSOS, they educated stakeholders about biodiversity-friendly practices, even when compliance with principles and criteria of certification was far down the line.


Grantees worked to improve the understanding of the opportunities and challenges for smallholders in uptake of biodiversity-friendly farming practices, receipt of certification, and inclusion in sustainable value chains. They used their findings to further help smallholders. One grantee helped smallholders establish a credit union after finding that lack of access to credit was a major barrier to uptake of biodiversity-friendly oil palm production.


Projects overall were successful when there were multiple partners across the value chain, a pre-established price premium or other incentive for adoption, and where community awareness and locally adapted trainings were established early on. Partners’ commitment to long-term (3-5 years) technical assistance and to enabling community’s access to credit and land tenure were also vital. Successful projects generally had the right mix of partnering institutions, incentives to farmers, and training protocols.

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