Smallholders Task Force

The Task Force on Smallholders (TFS) was set up by a General Assembly Resolution at the 3rd Roundtable of the RSPO (RT3) with a mandate to promote smallholder participation in the RSPO, carry out diagnostic surveys of smallholder situations and views, carry out and document trials of the application of the P&C with smallholders and ascertain the suitability of the RSPO Principles & Criteria for smallholders and make proposals on how best these can be adjusted, nationally and/or generically to ensure favourable smallholder involvement in sustainable palm oil production. The aim of the Task Force was to ensure that smallholders are not marginalised from the sustainable palm oil market and are able to benefit from improved standards and best practice.

Formally the TFS is a committee which reports to the RSPO Executive Board (EB). It has been led by Sawit Watch and the Forest Peoples Programme. For the past four years it has been guided by a Steering Group composed of four members from each of the active National Interpretation Working Groups and some other co-opted members with specialist knowledge of smallholders and willing members of the RSPO Executive Board. The Task Force has functioned thanks to the voluntary engagement of a large number of actors and members of the RSPO and with the support of various donors including Oxfam-Novib, Hivos, CORDAID, Stichting Doen and the Dutch Government.

After intensive consultations, Generic Guidance for the Certification of Scheme Smallholders was adopted by the RSPO Board in July 2009. After further intensive consultations, in July 2010, the RSPO Board adopted Generic Guidance for the Certification of Independent Smallholders under Group Certification. At the same time a Group Certification Protocol was developed through further consultations by BioCert and ProForest.

Despite these results, smallholder participation within the RSPO system remains limited end of 2011. Several challenges need to be overcome in order to create a smallholder inclusive system. Part of the challenges is linked to the RSPO system itself, such as the standards, guidance documents, supply chain systems and incentive mechanisms. Other challenges are more related to the institutional environment in which smallholders operate, such as access to finance, access to farmer organizations and technical assistance.

To tackle these challenges the TFS has set different priorities for the coming years. The current TFS structure need to be seen fitting with the new RSPO structure that is organised in Taskforces (to address short term and/or specific issues), Working Groups (to address on-going issues) and Standing Committees (that oversee the work of other groups and inform the EB of developments). Consequently, during the 9th Roundtable of the RSPO (RT9) it has been announced to transform the TFS into the Smallholder Working Group.