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Exciting news! We’ve been selected to pilot test a smallholder specific approach to High Conversation Value (HCV) area assessment. Conducting an HCV assessment is the major requirement to obtaining recognition as certified sustainable by the Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil (RSPO). Once we have completed the assessment, Seed Change will be well on the way to becoming the first smallholder group certified as sustainable in all of Africa.

Developed by the HCV Resource Network, the approach we are testing creates a way to identify, manage, and monitor biological, ecological, and cultural areas that are considered outstandingly significant or critically important to a community, region, and nation. RSPO is the sustainable certification body for palm oil with 2,135 members, representing 40% of the palm oil industry. RSPO certified palm oil accounts for 20% of all palm oil sold. Many major companies have committed to only using certified palm oil, including: Starbucks, L’Oreal, Johnson & Johnson, Mars, Danone, Kellogg’s, Nestlé, Taco Bell, Unilever with more regularly making similar commitments. RSPO certification for Seed Change will mean that not only will our farmers have the knowledge to produce palm oil in an environmentally friendly and ethical manner, but they will also be able to eventually partake in the much more lucrative international palm oil market.

But certification is a tricky (and costly!) process and it has not always been designed with considerations for smallholder farmers and specifically independent smallholders who are not paired to a large private plantation or mill. In general, paperwork and regulation processes cost the little guy proportionally more than the big guy – and guys don’t get much more little than a smallholder in Kigoma and guys don’t get much bigger than Unilever, Mars, and Colgate-Palmolive or a Malaysian palm oil giant. At Seed Change we are dedicated to helping create systems that support and empower smallholders – from farmers in Kigoma to their counterparts in Ghana and Brazil and Papua New Guinea. We are thrilled to be part of the HCV Network’s pilot testing process and we are excited that the voices and thoughts of Kigoma farmers will be heard by large international organizations.

Now the (slightly) bad news. Currently we only have funds to run the pilot test in one of the ten villages we work in although we would love to run it in all ten and very much hope to do so in the near future. If you are interesting in supporting this program, please consider making a donation today.


You can read the announcement here. Other selected pilot tests will be run by Rainforest Alliance, Solidaridad, Proforest, and SNV – the Dutch government’s development organization.


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