A key element which needs to be in place to ensure that palm oil production does not lead to deforestation is a system that traces production back to the farm level. Once it is clear where a company is sourcing from, sourcing from unsuitable areas can be prevented and deforestation around production fields can be monitored.
That is why SNV and Akvo partnered to create an innovative tool to trace the supply of oil palm fruit from independent smallholders.
Akvo builds open source internet and mobile software, which is designed to support international development and increase aid transparency and effectiveness. Akvo developed Akvo FLOW, a multi-language tool for collecting, evaluating and displaying any quantity of geographically referenced data - using Android smartphones and an online dashboard. It allows the user to map situations on the ground and monitor changes over time.
Akvo developed a modified version of the tool for SNV, to trace agricultural production to the farm level: the technology may be the first of its kind because in Indonesia, up until now, it was only possible to trace fresh fruit bunch supplies back to large plantations. Companies who worry about losing their sustainability certification or who are looking to become sustainably certified are often hesitant to source from independent smallholders because their production is not yet traceable.
Traceability Tool is piloted in Jambi, Indonesia
On February 5-7, SNV Indonesia conducted a Field Level Operational Watch training and piloted the SNV’s Traceability Tool for the first time. This learning event aimed at teaching SNV staff and Prosympac, a palm oil company which has just started with the construction of two independent mills and which will source from surrounding independent smallholder farmers, to use the traceability tool. The learning event also served as a training of trainers so that SNV and Prosympac can train other trainers, in order to multiply the number of enumerators capable of plotting large swathes of palm plantations and “tracing” the smallholders’ plots within them. Four SNV team members and two Prosympac representatives, including Prosympac’s CEO Mr. Martinus Nata, attended the three-day training.
During the training, Aulia Rahman, Akvo Flow trainer for South East Asia region said: “Palm oil is a commodity that cannot be neglected. Oil palm is essential in every product that we use every day. Akvo supports SNV Indonesia’s initiative to transform the palm oil industry into a more responsible and sustainable industry through good mapping, data collection and measurement of palm oil plantations.”
SNV’s Traceability Tool traces the fresh fruit bunches of oil palm from independent smallholders and thus allows palm oil mills to identify the independent smallholders who they source from. Using a smartphone and android-based mobile application, the system locates fields with Geo Shape and GPS systems for data collection. SNV’s traceability tool allows users to:
- Determine the current plantation location and size of the plot of each farmer;
- Determine the total fresh fruit production produced per hectare per year in a plantation;
- Monitor the changes of production and inputs in a plantation.
The traceability tool can be used to trace the production of any kind of commodity grown by independent smallholders. After piloting the tool in Indonesia, SNV plans to upscale the application of the tool to other landscapes and sectors in which we work.