Win-win partnership emerging between agro-industry and palm oil smallholder cooperatives

Posted on 02 October 2019
A smallholder palm nursery ready for transplant
Agro-industries such as the Cameroon Development Cooperation (CDC) imbued with experience and technical know-how in oil palm plantation management are critical in the re-valorization of the palm oil value chain in Cameroon. Unfortunately, these agro-industries with industrial mills having relatively high extraction rates, operate below their full capacity.

To remedy this situation, smallholders become a critical player in the palm oil supply chain with the possibility of providing agro-industries with the much needed supply of fresh fruit bunches. Such supply will enable their mills to operate at full capacity. However, the capacity of the smallholders to effectively fulfil this critical role is undermined by their lack of adequate technical capacity for proper farm management and the proliferation of artisanal mills with poor extraction rates.
In order to ensure high production and increased income, most of the oil palm farmers tend to expand their farms.
With funding from WWF Sweden and the Swedish International Development Cooperation Agency (Sida), WWF Cameroon, supported the Environmental Governance Institute (EGI), to facilitate the creation of six smallholder oil palm cooperatives in the Southwest region of Cameroon. This was in a bid to better organize them so they can increase fresh fruit bunches supply to CDC, without necessarily increasing their farmlands which entails the clearing of primary forests thereby increasing the deforestation rate. After conducting an assessment, EGI strengthened the institutional capacity of the cooperatives through training in governance, business planning… with WWF Cameroon’s support.
WWF is providing support to EGI to facilitate a win-win partnership between CDC and some of the smallholder cooperatives in the South West Region of Cameroon. The rationale for the partnership is two folds – to ensure that CDC mills receive a larger volume of fresh fruit bunches (FFBs) from smallholder farms and to increase the cooperatives’ incomes with the objective of de-incentivizing further expansions. Through the partnership, smallholder schemes can also benefit from technical support from CDC in the form of best farming practices and acquisition of improved farm inputs "Such a partnership will not only benefit CDC and the smallholder farmer but the environment as well because intensification on existing farms will permit smallholders to increase income while reducing pressure on forests,”  says John Takang, Founder and Executive Director of EGI

WWF is thus working with EGI to collect baseline data on farmland sizes of smallholder cooperative members.
“This database would facilitate the monitoring of the farms of smallholder cooperative members over the years, within the framework of the win-win partnership,” Takang adds.

In addition to the counterpart support EGI received from Birdlife International in 2018 through the Critical Ecosystems Partnership Fund (CEPF) Small Grant, EGI has trained smallholder farmers in tools and techniques of mapping farm parcels of cooperative members and none members in order to demarcate their farms from the forests and other key natural resources like water for the benefit of communities. This mapping will help to situate smallholder oil palm farms within the landscape, and as such permit their impacts on the target key biodiversity areas (KBA) to be more easily assessed.

WWF and EGI are capitalizing on the readiness of these smallholder palm oil producers’ cooperative to adhere to a win-win partnership with CDC, to also link up smallholder farmers in the South West Region with SOCAPALM in the Littoral Region for increased market space. This initiative contributes to reducing the environmental footprint of the palm oil sector, in line with WWF Cameroon’s food practice objective aimed at ensuring that by 2022, at least two WWF supported landscapes adopt food production systems that balance agricultural development and ecosystem integrity and functions.

Steps taken so far to produce more from our current farms, will avoid cutting down new forests
 Mr Mundenge Mukoko Simon, Board Chair Tiko Area Oil Palm Farmers’ Cooperative (TAOPF-COOP) reiterated.
A smallholder palm nursery ready for transplant
© EGI Enlarge
John Takang, Founder and Executive Director of EGI
© Janet Mukoko/WWF Enlarge
Mr Mundenge Mukoko Simon, Board Chair Tiko Area Oil Palm Farmers’ Cooperative (TAOPF-COOP)
© Janet Mukoko/WWF Enlarge
An artisanal mill with fresh palm fruits ready for oil production
© WWFCameroon Enlarge