On Monday, 27 February, at the Paris International Agricultural Show, Michel Eddi, President and Managing Director of the French Agricultural Research Centre for International Development (CIRAD: French Agricultural Research Centre for International Development), and Mickaël Blais, Vice President of the French Alliance for Sustainable Palm Oil, signed a three-year partnership before a gathering of NGOs, government representatives and representatives of producer countries. This partnership will draw on CIRAD’s expertise to support the Alliance’s work with its members to continue developing the sustainable palm oil supply chain and protecting biodiversity in Southeast Asia.

 

CIRAD, with more than sixty years of research in the oil palm industry and, more broadly, long-standing involvement in varietal breeding and plantation agricultural management, works to boost sustainable production of palm oil while reducing its adverse impact on the environment and biodiversity.

CIRAD’s scientific expertise is now very broad in scope, such that it can support entities involved in production along the entire supply chain in the three dimensions of sustainability: economic, social and environmental.

 

This determination to achieve sustainable palm oil production is also central to the objectives of the French Alliance for Sustainable Palm Oil in its interactions with the Global South’s producers. To this end, the Alliance and CIRAD share the same conviction: to achieve this goal, producers must be supported not just through proposed technical and social innovations, but also by building political action frameworks that provide incentives for practices compatible with the supply chain’s sustainability, which has not yet been achieved.

 

To help reach this objective, CIRAD is setting up a platform of scientific projects carried out in Southeast Asia with its public- and private-sector partners that address the sustainability of perennial crop systems. This platform, called SALSA (Sustainable Agricultural Landscapes in Southeast Asia), will promote the concrete integration of disciplines and multi-stakeholder teams into research, training and development projects conducted in the field, working with local stakeholders, using experimental and academic approaches.

 

The French Alliance for Sustainable Palm Oil, actively committed to developing a sustainable palm oil supply chain, was eager to support the research projects carried out under the umbrella of the SALSA platform. This group of French companies already purchases 100% RSPO-certified palm oil, 73% of which is “segregated”, meaning it meets the highest level of RSPO (Roundtable for Sustainable Palm Oil) certification. It now is targeting “zero deforestation” by 2020, in line with the commitment made by France, evidenced by the French government’s signing of the New York Declaration on Forests (2014) and the Amsterdam Declaration (2015).

 

This useful and promising public-private partnership, which demonstrates a shared ambition regarding the issues and objectives involved in achieving sustainability along the entire supply chain, will help develop innovative solutions that can be adopted by the members of the French Alliance for Sustainable Palm Oil. These solutions will support their efforts to improve their practices and those of their partners so as to ultimately achieve the ambitious aim of “zero deforestation”.

 

In the words of Mickaël Blais, Vice President of the French Alliance for Sustainable Palm Oil: “This partnership with CIRAD is a concrete example of our commitment in the field. The research projects conducted by CIRAD with its Global South partners in an effort to establish political frameworks and technical instruments are consistent with our objective of developing sustainable palm oil production while protecting forests and biodiversity in Southeast Asia”.

 

According to CIRAD President and Managing Director Michel Eddi: “To help build the political frameworks and instruments needed for sustainable palm oil production, CIRAD is eager to forge ties between producers in the Global South and processors in the North. Through this partnership, we provide expertise and fulfil our mission as a public research institution, capable not only of making science-based critical diagnoses of situations encountered in the field, but also of working with stakeholders to create solutions to overcome any such challenges. That is the true meaning of this collaboration with the Alliance.”