Fedepalma and IDH sign €1.2 million co-financing agreement for sustainable palm oil in Colombia

Fedepalma and IDH – the Sustainable Trade Initiative signed a co-financing agreement for €1.2 million on 25 August to confirm their commitment to strengthening the sustainable production of Colombian palm oil, in an online ceremony hosted from Bogota (Colombia), with Cenipalma as technical partner.

With an investment of around 1.2 million Euro or 5 billion Colombian pesos, this represents the beginning of a plan with significant potential for the palm oil industry and for the country.

Palm oil plantation, Colombia
Palm oil plantation, Colombia

Jens Mesa Dishington, Executive President of Fedepalma, announced the official start of the project ‘Sustainable Palm Oil of Colombia’, in the departments of Cesar and Magdalena, and explained that this alliance aims to strengthen extension services in 11 Palm Oil hubs, including 1,642 producers (82% of them small producers); 11 extractors, specialists, suppliers and other stakeholders in the palm oil value chain.

He said: “Today, the commitment and conviction of the palm growers and the guild to open up new opportunities for the sector has materialized, and this has been a longstanding objective. This path started in 2018 with a visit to the Netherlands where we began the relationship and the search for synergies between Fedepalma and IDH and for which we always have the support of the Colombian Ministry of Agriculture”.

Through this initiative, Fedepalma, Cenipalma and IDH will drive change to contribute to agricultural sustainability.

Colombia is the fourth largest producer of palm oil in the world, with a small share in relation to the countries of Southeast Asia.

This project builds on these attributes and responds to the European Green Deal, which aims for more sustainable supply chains, with the palm oil supply chain in particularly sharp focus. The news also comes as the UK government considers tightening regulation on deforestation-linked supply chains. If the legislation is passed, this would increase demand from the British market for sustainable palm oil.

This initiative represents a message of hope, for it shows that there is a will and the possibility to collaborate on constructive and forward-looking issues for Colombia and the world.

The expert voice of IDH

Daan Wensing, Program Director Global Landscapes at IDH, thanked the Palm Oil industry for this commitment from a global perspective, explaining that the partners of the Agreement will contribute to agricultural sustainability, which will attract investors and donors to leverage the funds needed for transformational change according to the principles of the landscape approach.

“This approach seeks to balance land use demands in the best possible way for human well-being and for the environment. This means creating solutions that consider food and livelihoods, finances, rights, restoration and progress towards climate and development goals”, said the director, confirming that this presents an opportunity for Colombia and the palm oil industry in terms of access to investments, markets and greater credibility and reputation for agribusiness.

Through this long-term alliance, based on shared values and aspirations, the partners seek to bolster the transition of the Colombian and global palm oil industry. Through the PPI approach on its three fronts (production, protection and inclusion), IDH consolidates territories where agricultural products are sustainably grown, forests and natural resources are protected, and communities prosper under this agro-industrial model.

Wensing underscored that trust and projection are based on the identity, synergy, and good teamwork among the three organizations, and that they will continue to develop projects and seek alliances to strengthen and expand the impact and coverage of the Sustainable Palm Oil strategy for the entire Colombian palm sector.

This sustainable sourcing strategy further develops previous experience in the Colombian palm oil industry towards sustainable practices, and will help make these further specialized and increase their geographic coverage.

Cenipalma, a key player in science and research 

Similarly, Alexand Cooman, Managing Director of Cenipalma, commented that this is a start-up project for others to come in the future and that their ambition is to have interdisciplinary and cross-cutting programmes that integrate the capacity of the sector and its allies.

He said that palm oil productivity had fallen in the departments of Cesar and Magdalena over the last three years, due to water and plant health effects, and that the solution must be comprehensive with territorial management that involves both technical-productive work on the farm and coordination with public, private and civil players.

He estimated that the extension methods, good practices and indicators to be developed are based on years of research, development and application by Cenipalma and the technical teams of the Palm Growers Hubs, in collaboration with global experts.

The event, the company and the attendees

In today’s online event, which took place between 9:00 and 10:00: am, Colombian time, in addition to the participation of Jens Mesa Dishington, Executive President of Fedepalma, Alex Cooman, Director General of Cenipalma and Daan Wensing, Director of IDH, Juan Gonzalo Botero, Vice Minister of Agricultural Affairs of the Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development of Colombia, the event was also attended by Caroline Ramaekers, Ambassador in charge of the Dutch Embassy in Colombia, Christian Brandli, Director of Economic Cooperation and Development of the Swiss Embassy in Colombia, and Adriana Mejía Cuartas, of the Dutch company Herencia, Value Your Legacy.

Juan Gonzalo Botero, Vice Minister of Agricultural Affairs of the Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development of Colombia, addressed the land approach, the guidelines and synergies of the project with national policy, and how the Ministry has been cooperating and partnering with IDH and the palm oil industry within the framework of AgroColombia Productiva y Sostenible, and acknowledged the project as a contribution to rural development in Colombia.

He was emphatic in supporting the alliance because he believes it is aligned with the agricultural, economic, and environmental policies of the National Government, and therefore ratified their commitment to carry on supporting innovation, productivity, and sustainability initiatives in Colombian agriculture.