RSS to identify issues in smallholder rubber production

As previously reported SHARP’s Regional Focal Point SNV has been working on a model for improving smallholder management of natural rubber production. They have now introduced the RSS framework to add value to this programme.

A risk and needs assessment was carried out with a farmer group in Jambi Province in February this year. The group has 40 members whose main farming activity is natural rubber production on plots ranging from 2 to 10 ha. Rubber has been planted on this site since the 1950s. Their farms are 10-15km from the nearest large area of natural forest in the Berbak National Park, the largest wetland (Ramsar Site) in Southeast Asia.

The RSS risk assessment provided an understanding of potential issues related to smallholder rubber production in the area. Some of the key findings were:

  1. Land rights rely on informal agreements. They have been recorded as unilateral claims stating that a farmer controls or occupies a given unit of land. These claims are managed at village level and recognised by the customary chief but they are not yet recognised by the statutory law.
  2. Given that smallholder rubber plots are not located directly adjacent to forested areas, the risk of expansion at the expense of HCV forest is considered low.
  3. Sun Bear and Pangolin are among threatened wildlife species still present in the area.
  4. There is a low level of awareness concerning safety on the farm. Farmers routinely use herbicides for controlling weed growth, but pesticide and fungicide use is restricted to newly planted seedlings. There is no use of protective clothing during spraying, nor are helmets worn when harvesting.

The RSS needs assessments also provided valuable insights into patterns of land use, mapping existing knowledge against Best Management Practice for rubber production and highlighting priority areas for capacity development. The farmer group also identified internal issues relating to legality and conflict of interest among members and external challenges such as access to markets and price instability. They recognise a need for better organisation within their farmer groups.

With a growing interest from companies further down the supply chain to support increased quality and quantity of rubber yields, there is a need to better understand key issues related to smallholder rubber production. The RSS assessment in Jambi Province has highlighted a number of risks and needs that can illuminate and inform decisions of supply chain actors on engagement with and investment in their smallholder suppliers.

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