Stakeholders from Liberia's oil palm sector have concluded a two-day workshop the on interpretation of the principles and criteria of the Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil (RSPO), a tool which serves as a global guideline for sustainable palm oil production.
The workshop encouraged stakeholders to brainstorm ways on how to explore the sector without harming the environment and cutting off people's livelihoods, especially forest communities.
Solidaridad, through its Sustainable West Africa Oil Palm Programme (SWAPP) with funding from the Embassy of the Kingdom of the Netherlands in Accra, Ghana, is supporting the National Oil Palm Platform of Liberia (NOPPOL) and the Government of Liberia to actualize the RSPO National Interpretation for Liberia.
The process is driven by a National Interpretation Working Group (NIWG), comprising institutions from the private sector and the Government of Liberia.
Deforestation, wildlife extinction, loss of communities, land-grabbing and unfair trade continue to swirl in the oil palm sector in Liberia, particularly between smallholder producers and concessional plantation.
At the opening of the workshop, the Director-General of the National Bureau of Concession, Gregory O. W. Coleman, said the RSPO's principles and criteria answer most of the challenges Liberia's oil palm sector has faced.
"The national interpretation of the RSPO's principles and criteria for Liberia is very key, as it answers most of the challenges that the palm oil sector has faced over the years," Coleman said. "It is key that we ensure this principle at the initial drafting of whatever agreement that will see further expansion in this sector to ensure that the value chain at all levels remains clean, respecting the rights of the people, with prosperity in mind."
He, however, admonished stakeholders attending the meeting to work in the interest of Liberia's oil palm sector.
Coleman also said that one should not be satisfied with work done so far in the sector, but that all parties should scrutinize what is considered an achievement in the oil palm sector.
"When this sector initially started its expansion, there were lots of considerations that we did not take into account; not because it did not happen yesterday means that it was right. This is the most pleasant time to make all of those corrections," he said.
During the same section, Deputy Director for Planning & Development at the Ministry of Agriculture, Robert Fagans, said the workshop on RSPO's Principles and Criteria is a step forward to the sector's development.
"This is important to our country; it is a major step forward and we believe this will put our oil palm sector on par with other countries ahead of us. With this initiative I believe that we are on good footing," said Fagans.
The workshop focused on RSPO's National Interpretation for small producing countries; Term of Reference of RSPO's National Interpretation Working Group (NIWG); RSPO's Principles, Criteria, Indicators and Focus; discussion and review of Principles, among others.
Nonetheless, concession contracts and how they are negotiated have come under heavy criticism over the past years. Reports have disclosed that concession agreements forge ahead without communities' inclusion in the negotiation process. On the other hand, communities are not given complete and accurate information about proposed concessions when contracts or MOUs are being negotiated.