TOPSA trainers ready to take sustainable palm oil in action
Writer: Thitinai Pongpiriyakit, GIZ Thailand’s Agriculuture and Food Cluster
It is undeniable that trainers are the key people who can drive forward the knowledge on the standard of growing sustainable oil palm among smallholders in southern Thailand. This is why the Sustainable and Climate-Friendly Palm Oil Production and Procurement (SCPOPP) project gives importance to train the trainers of the Thailand Oil Palm Smallholder Academy (TOPSA).
Its curriculum has been designed to meet the global sustainability standard particularly the Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil (RSPO), which unites stakeholders of the palm oil industry comprising oil palm producers, processors or traders, consumer goods manufacturers, retailers, banks/investors, and environmental and social non-governmental organisations (NGOs), to develop and implement global standards for sustainable palm oil.
The certification, awarded by the RSPO approved certification body endorses the business which has complied with global demand for sustainable palm oil production which is on the rise along with products that support communities and the environment
So far, up to 320 trainers who are lead farmers and local extension officials have been intensively trained on TOPSA since its launch in July 2020. They are planning to pass on the knowledge and experience learned from the curriculum to thousands of oil palm smallholders in their communities.
To date, a total of 2,500 farmers have been trained on the RSPO Independent Smallholder Standard, Internal Control System and Database Management, which are the basic elements of a group certification. These farmers will be further trained technical knowledge on Good Agricultural Practices as well as Environmental and Social Impact Management to meet the full requirement of RSPO certification by Q2/2021.
“TOPSA’s participatory-oriented approach encourages participants to learn, enjoy and better understand the technical contents which are usually difficult to follow,” said Manop Sainuy, representative from the committee of oil palm collaborative farming group, Sai Thai Sub-district, Mueang Krabi District, and Thanit Srionnual, representative from the committee of oil palm collaborative farmimg group, Pakasai Sub-district, Nuea Khlong District, Krabi
Both participants pointed that trainers needed to be equipped with more in-depth knowledge and insight on sustainable palm oil production in order to effectively pass on knowledge and information to smallholders”
Pailin Konpech, manager of Lungsuan smallholders group in Chumphon province said interesting games and group discussion sessions arranged during the pre and post-training session helps all trainers actively participate in activities, leading to better understanding on details of the curriculum. Such learning process are useful for trainers to effectively pass on the knowledge to community farmers later on.
However, there are some remaining challenges to overcome. Decha Chamnongrat, a trainer from Lumtub smallholders group in Krabi province said the technical contents in the Agriculture Module is considered too technical and difficult for trainers to simplify and pass on the knowledge to community farmers. He believes a further support and from the ‘master trainers’ who are officials from the Department of Agriculture and the provincial agricultural extension are still essential for not only knowledge sharing benefitss but also sustainability of palm oil smallholder development in Thailand.