Digital boost for palm oil farmers from Henkel

By Lucy Whitehouse contact

- Last updated on GMT

Digital boost for palm oil farmers from Henkel
Henkel, a German industrial and consumer goods company, has announced it is partnering with a development organisation to support smallholder farmers in Colombia.

Teaming up with Solidaridad to promote sustainable palm oil and support more than 5,000 smallholder farmers, Henkel says the new project will leverage digital technology in innovative ways to promote sustainability.

The collaboration will see Henkel using Solidaridad’s new platform, called Farming Solution, to increase productivity and sustainability in its supply chain.

How does the Farming Solution platform work?

According to Henkel, the digital platform facilitates the following activities:

  • Smallholders complete a self-assessment questionnaire to evaluate the challenges facing their specific farm.

  • Based on this input, the tool develops a tailored set of recommendations for how to improve their agricultural practices using knowledge gathered from farmers’ associations and expert groups around the world.

  • Farmers then begin executing their unique action plan, with the help of supporting materials including an online library of manuals and tutorial videos.

  • The platform allows them to monitor their development and compare progress against peer group benchmarking data – so they can continually improve their practices and achieve sustainability certification for their crops.

This new project shows the massive potential for digital technology to drive progress toward sustainability​,” says Prof. Dr. Thomas Müller-Kirschbaum, Head of Global Research and Development in Henkel’s Laundry & Home Care business unit.

“It represents another step forward with our commitment to going beyond buying certified palm oil, and directly supporting the farmers who grow the oil palm fruit on small farms. We’re proud to be supporting this approach together with Solidaridad​.”

Avoiding a drop in demand

Palm oil is an increasingly important commodity in South America, explains Henkel, and the company says the crop represented 3.3 percent of Colombia’s agricultural GDP in 2016, with 1.1 million tons of crude palm oil produced across 476,782 hectares of land.

Around half of this is produced by more than 5,000 Colombian smallholders – and these independent farmers face some challenges: productivity on independent farms is estimated to be 40 percent lower than it is on the average large farm.

As many of the largest buyers of palm-related materials have made commitments to ensure that the oil and derivatives that they purchase are certified as sustainable, some smallholders may face a decrease in market access if their crops are not produced in line with criteria such as those from the Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil (RSPO),​” Henkel explains.

That’s where projects like this latest partnership between Henkel and Solidaridad make a pioneering difference to farmers’ lives, by accelerating the adoption of sustainable practices.​”

Henkel’s palm oil farmer support efforts come hot on the heels of a commitment made last week by the UN Environment Project and RSPO in the same area​.

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