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SHARP is working with companies and other stakeholders to understand existing models for smallholder development, focusing on the elements that work and understanding why they are successful.

Successful models for sustainable smallholder development

In this section:


Smallholder production of agricultural commodities is expanding or changing rapidly in many sectors and countries. These changes could be hugely beneficial or very detrimental, socially and environmentally, depending on the models of production being adopted. In many cases companies play a central role in encouraging or even driving this expansion through the provision of markets, financing or technical support, or the development of formal outgrower or smallholder schemes. Therefore, companies often have a strong influence on the type of production model used. It is extremely important that there is an understanding among companies about the implications of the approaches they support and to adjust these approaches where better outcomes could be achieved.

There are many models of smallholder production, ranging from independent farmers or cooperatives to large-scale schemes funded by governments or the private sector. There is a need to review and discuss advantages and disadvantages of these existing models for different situations, and identify components of models that have been successful in practice. By using this as a basis, companies, smallholders and other stakeholders can then exchange ideas and experiences on how to more effectively adapt and apply improved models for smallholder development to their local context.

Baseline studies

download icon smallModels in Malaysia by Wild Asia

download icon smallModels in Liberia and Sierra Leone by Fauna & Flora International

download icon smallModels in Indonesia by Daemeter

download icon smallModels in Cameroon by Elie Hakizumwami

download icon smallModels in Ghana by Proforest

download icon smallModels in Brazil, Colombia and Ecuador by Earth Innovation Institute 


Access to finance in the palm oil sector in Latin America and the Caribbean El acceso a la financiación en el sector del aceite de palma en América Latina | Workshop supported by SHARP, Proforest, Fedepalma, Solidaridad, FAST, Ecosistemas and Cecodes, Bogotá, June 2015

download icon small report: Español (1 MB) | Español (570 KB)
download icon small presentations: see this page

Smallholder palm oil production in Indonesia | SHARP workshop, Jakarta, June 2014

download icon small report: English

Sustainable outgrower model development for Liberia | Workshop convened by SHARP and GROW, Monrovia, June 2014

download icon small Introduction, background and options for outgrower models 
download icon small Summary workshop report

A different model for sustainable smallholder development of tree crops in Liberia, proposed October 2015

download icon small Presentation

Social and environmental best practice for smallholder palm oil production in Latin America | Boas práticas socioambientais aplicadas a pequenos produtores na cadeia produtiva de óleo de palma na América Latina | SHARP workshop, São Paulo, April 2014

download icon small report: English | Español | Português
download icon small presentations: see this page

Improved collaboration of agro-industry and smallholders in sustainable palm oil production in Cameroon | Le renforcement des partenariats gagnant–gagnant entre agro-industries et petits exploitants pour une production durable d’huile de palme au Cameroun | WWF, Minader and SHARP workshop, Douala, February 2014

download icon small report: Français

Partnership between Agro-industries and Small Palm Oil Producers: What Partnership Models Works for Cameroon? | Rainforest Alliance, SHARP, WWF workshop, Limbé May 7-8, 2015 

download icon small report: English

Profiles of Palm Oil Company-Smallholder Working Arrangements

These examples, with pros and cons of each, are intended to inform decisions of,

a) Palm oil Companies looking to:

  • Improve engagement with an existing smallholder supply base
  • Expand or develop a new supply base of smallholders a way that is consistent with their commitments on smallholder inclusion and best practice in responsible sourcing.

b) Policy makers looking to create an enabling environment for smallholder production in the context of national strategies and international commitments on environmental sustainability, climate change mitigation and adaptation and green growth.

These examples can serve as a source of fresh ideas to be adapted for any specific circumstance. Companies and policy makers interested in learning more about a given example are encouraged to contact the SHARP Secretariat, which can provide links with relevant SHARP partners able to provide further details.

download icon  Brazil  English

download icon  Colombia  English | Spanish

download icon  Ghana  English

download icon  Honduras  English | Spanish

Access to finance for farmers in the palm oil sector

Few agricultural commodities receive as much attention to their social and environmental aspects as palm oil. Supporting sustainable palm oil production by smallholders is one of the focuses of the SHARP partnership. Well-designed models enable small farmers to participate in palm oil supply chains on fair terms. With appropriate tenure and pricing arrangements, smallholders have a good chance of making a profit to invest back into farming or in other areas.

Oil palm is a tree crop and many smallholders need access to credit to fund planting, replanting, technology and the long wait to maturity. Improving the availability of finance can be part of a successful production model.

download icon small To find out more, read the results of our study into palm oil financing in Latin America, and browse presentations from the accompanying workshop (in Spanish). Find out how producers in Ghana source finance in the absence of formal credit markets, in SHARP's specially commissioned report. Or compare the access to credit by Malaysian and Indonesian smallholders in our baseline studies.