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Creating a Transparent Supply Chain for Sustainable Palm Oil

In the Kigoma region of Tanzania more than 30,000 families farm palm oil. Despite cultivating a very lucrative crop, the vast majority of these farmers live in poverty, with incomes hovering around $1 per day.

The current global appetite for palm oil and the growing pressure from enlightened consumers who are demanding sustainably grown palm oil, present these families with an opportunity to better their lives and their communities.

Sadly, smallholder farmers have traditionally faced many obstacles to reaching global markets. This remains true in Kigoma. However, few things are as important to a smallholder as their land rights and their environment. As such, it is imperative that Kigoma not repeat the mistakes experienced in the development of the oil palm industry in South-East Asia, which initially came at a very high social and environmental cost.

The Tanzanian non-profit Seed Change is working to help these families protect their environment, strengthen their land rights, and in time, capture some of the price premium that comes from producing certified sustainable palm oil.

Seed Change partnered with Cadasta to take the first step to create a transparent palm oil supply chain that also protects farmers’ rights and their environment. Cadasta helped Seed Change develop a tailor-made digital questionnaire that not only documented the farmer’s land rights and create an evidence base for sustainable farming, but also collected information about Seed Change’s impact in the community and data on farm growth patterns.

By documenting each farmer’s land rights and gathering other information about farming practices, Seed Change can help farmers become certified as sustainable by the Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil (RSPO). The sustainable practices mandated by the RSPO will improve livelihoods for smallholder farmers and help protect the environment for generations to come.

To date, data collectors, using GPS-enabled smartphones, have gathered data from nearly 500 households, and counting.  

“The data collected through Cadasta’s platform is a great resource for our organization. We can see farm changes and growth, compare villages and farms, and better understand the different land use pressures at play,” said Seed Change Managing Director Alex Chetkovich, “It makes it much easier to know where we should target our work moving forward.”

With Cadasta’s suite of tools, Seed Change can now monitor farming in the region, provide more targeted programming, and measure the organization’s impact by documenting changes in the region’s landscape. “Cadasta’s platform made it easy to build the survey and train data collectors at almost zero operational costs. It’s a great all-in-one platform,” said Chetkovich.

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