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The Responsible Sourcing from Smallholders (RSS) framework enables supply chain companies to engage their smallholder suppliers on responsible production.

RSS Interview: Jose María

Meet Jose María Madrid, a Honduran palm oil grower

Jose María is a farmer in northern Honduras and a member of a farmer association which was established in 1992. The association grows rice and corn for subsistence use and for trading. Jose has 7 children, all of which have finished elementary school. His son is currently studying at university and two of his other children are doing technical degrees Bachelors in Rural Well-being. 

We interviewed Jose María about his cultivation of oil palm and his thoughts on participating in the RSS process.  

How long have you been growing oil palm?  

I started 7 years ago. Before I had livestock and grew food crops. I started to grow oil palm because the area where I live is very vulnerable to constant flooding as it is very close to the Ulua River and Channel Martinez. I lost most of my crops due to flooding but oil palm is resistant to floods and a stable crop which means I can guarantee an income. 

What are the advantages of being an oil palm farmer? 

Oil palm is a very strong crop and it has a permanent production that gives us support to feed our families and be able to afford education for our children. The oil palm is not like other crops that are vulnerable and after harvesting there is the need to wait for the next yield. We can harvest the oil palm continuously. 

What are the challenges of being an oil palm farmer? 

The quality of the roads is poor, which makes the transfer of fruits to the collection centres challenging. Another challenge is the low price of oil palm fruits which makes it difficult to invest in sustainable practices and increasing yields. A major challenge is to achieve (RSPO) certification of our palm fruit production. Without certification we cannot secure good contracts for the sale of our fruit. We take responsibility regarding the production, such as taking care of the environment and implementing best agricultural practices. A big challenge is how to manage chemicals and pesticides and educate our families in the best sustainable management of the oil palm.  

What activities and trainings have you participated in? 

A workshop on risks and needs assessment. I learned about our strengths and weaknesses, the legal status of our land and the inherent risks where our farms are in protected areas or in steep slopes. During a meeting we developed a workplan on how we are going to address on the risks and needs we identified.  

I also participated in a seminar organized by our producer organization, UNPALA. We learned about the legal status of UNPALA, discussed the organization’s finances and talked about the importance of working together to achieve the goals that we as producers want - such as the certification of our produce. This is one of the most important projects we have. 

What does responsible sourcing (RSS) mean to you? 

Responsible sourcing refers to best agricultural practices, good quality of the fruit and responsibility for how plantations are managed and chemicals applied. The requirements for best management practices include the wearing of personal protection equipment, workers’ protection, care and protection of the environment, compliance with all the workers’ rights and protecting workers from any hazards on the farm. It also includes to work on social development projects in our communities

What are the most important needs to address in your farmers group?  

A prioritized need is to improve the price of the fruit because that is affecting us a lot. There are several other needs; access to finance at low interest rate for working capital, repairing the roads and health care centres for our workers and our children. Another need is to address pest and diseases in our crops that have recently appeared, such as red ring, wilting and palm weevil infestation. 

What activities have your group decided to undertake? 

We need is to start implementation of best practices to improve the environment. We are labelling our farms where we have protected areas and we need to take care of the environment and animals. We will make a nursery to raise mahogany tree seedlings to reforest the protected area. We are placing garbage cans in the community and in our farms. We are buying a truck to haul garbage from the community and make a landfill for the garbage. We are buying personal protective equipment to protect the workers, partners and family. And a very important need is to participate in the certification process.  

"a very important need is to participate in the certification process"

Where there any challenges during the project?  

The certification and good training to achieve this is what we really desire and that is also our biggest challenge. Through attending all the meetings we were finally able to understand the meaning of certification and to be able to confront the diseases and pests that affect our crops. One challenge we have is to acquire more land and expand our palm plantations. We must continue working on social welfare of the communities, like supporting the school and health care centre. We support the sports in the school and we also celebrate activities with the community.  

How do you think the RSS approach can benefit you and your association? 

To achieve our goals we need to start with good education that will lead us to succeed on values that responsible sourcing is bringing us. We believe it helps us understand and implement what really an effective certification is for our plantations.  It gives us hope to do things right. 

Photo: Proforest

Details

Name: Jose María Madrid
Age: 57 years
Land: 247 hectares that belong to farmer group with 20 members
Lives: Northern Honduras
Farmer Association: Produccion de Esfuerzo de Amigos - member of UNPALA

Costumer: JAREMAR

Find out more about RSS

What is RSS? A simple leaflet

available in English | Portuguese

Get involved

To find out more about the RSS framework and take part in RSS discussions and development, contact the SHARP secretariat.

info@sharp-partnership.org

Image: Daniel Arancibia