Contrasting Approaches to Smallholder Certification from Bonsucro and RSPO

In June Bonsucro launched a Production Standard for Smallholder Farmers. This is an adaptation of the principles, criteria and indicators of the Bonsucro Production Standard. 

Bonsucro have removed some non-core indicators, but the scope of the core indicators remains the same. There are some new requirements added that are specific for smallholder farmers, under the Principle on Organisation of Farmers. Overall the standard includes 20 core indicators that must be complied with, and there is a requirement that at least 80% of core + non-core indicators must be met. Given that there are 15 non-core indicators, this implies that smallholders must comply with at least 8 of these. This allows for some flexibility, but there is no provision for recognition of good practice at a minimum entry level or for a step wise approach to full compliance.

Many aspects of this new Bonsucro standard suggest its application will be limited to ‘scheme’ smallholders, who are tied to a mill and dependent upon it for support to attain certification and their access to markets that will recognise this certification. The Bonsucro certification protocol has been updated so that certification of smallholder production independent of mill  certification is now technically possible. However, there are no substantial concessions to small farmers with limited capacity when it comes to compliance with HCV management, environmental impact and management or compliance with metrics on soil and water use and on the quality and quantity of their production. These aspects of the new standard mitigate against certification of independent smallholders who want to maintain control over their farming practices and businesses.

Bonsucro’s approach to smallholder certification contrasts with that proposed in the draft text of the RSPO Smallholder Standard published within days of the Bonsucro’s standard. This new standard is directly linked with the Smallholder Strategy adopted by RSPO last year, which sets as one of its objectives the development of a ‘simplified approach for smallholder certification’. The draft standard proposes principles and criteria specifically tailored to the needs and capabilities of independent smallholders, with 5 minimum requirements for eligibility to enter the system. The draft proposes a phased approach to attaining full compliance, with possibilities for generating smallholder credits on route that could be recognized by the market and therefore provide some material incentive for smallholder advancement. Furthermore, the draft standard proposes options for simplified assessment and verification. Inputs from a round of public consultations in June/July are now under consideration by RSPO.

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