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Delivering the world’s first Rainforest Alliance certified copra

July 09, 2015

Reaching a milestone in the production of sustainable coconut oil, 300 smallholder farmers in the Philippines have produced the world's first Rainforest Alliance certified copra. The copra, or dried coconut flesh, is grown on the southern island of Mindanao as part of a joint project between Cargill, global chemical company BASF and German development organization Deutsche Gesellschaft für Internationale Zusammenarbeit GmbH, or GIZ for short.

The three organizations have worked together since 2011 to promote sustainable coconut oil and improve the livelihoods of coconut farmers in the Philippines. One of the leading global producers of coconuts, the Philippines grows more than 3.5 million hectares of coconut palms, yet coconut producing regions are among the least developed, poorest areas in the country.

To address this, the joint program has trained more than 1,000 smallholders on good agricultural practices, such as the proper use of fertilizers, intercropping and replanting to improve long-term yields. Farmers also have gained access to micro-credit facilities instead of having to rely on pre-financing by middlemen. Now, 300 smallholders have met the social and environmental standards set by the Sustainable Agricultural Network to receive Rainforest Alliance certification.

“Farmers who participate in all of these joint activities are able to increase their income by at least 15 percent,” said Efren Barlisan, general manager of Cargill Philippines, who noted that Cargill and BASF pay farmers a premium for certified copra. “This is one way that we can help smallholders succeed while also securing a supply of high-quality, sustainable copra.”

The benefits of the program extend into the community. Around 2,500 small farmers and their families – up to 12,500 Filipinos – have received access to healthcare through the project: they were able to register at the PhilHealth, government health insurance and now receive free medical treatment.

“In our opinion, this pilot project was very successful in bringing together the strengths of public and private partners,” said Ulla Keppel, GIZ project manager. “BASF and Cargill have brought their expertise and technology to bear. GIZ has managed the project and contributed with its experience in supporting the formation of farmers’ groups as well as implementing good agricultural practices and the sustainability standard.”

Harald Sauthoff, vice president of Global Procurement for Natural Oils and Oleochemicals at BASF, said that this project lays the foundation for future cooperation among the partners.

“We were able to show that it is possible to specifically promote the sustainable production of high-quality coconut oil and improve the living conditions of the coconut farmers,” he said. “This success allows us to look to the future with optimism.”