Globally, 1.6 billion people depend on forests for their jobs and livelihoods, while in many African countries 50–60% of the population work in agriculture.
However, the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) estimates that the rate of deforestation between 2015 and 2020 was 10 million hectares per year; with agricultural commodities such as palm oil, rubber and cocoa being one of the leading drivers.
While native to Africa, the majority of oil palm is produced in Southeast Asia. With increasing domestic and international demand, the need to develop the industry in Africa was clear.
However, it had to be done in a responsible way, contributing to improved food security and better livelihoods for millions of Africans, while protecting West and Central Africa’s remaining rainforests.
The Africa Palm Oil Initiative (APOI)
This led to the establishment of the Africa Palm Oil Initiative (APOI) in 2014, a multi-stakeholder initiative bringing together government, companies and communities in ten palm oil-producing countries.
APOI was established with the vision to create a prosperous palm oil industry that brings jobs and wealth to local communities in a way that is environmentally and socially sustainable and protects the rich tropical forests of the region.
APOI provides a framework for governments to engage with local communities and the private sector, while giving companies a channel to fulfil their commitments to reduce commodity-driven deforestation.
These ten countries in Central and West Africa account for 25% of global tropical forests, and more than 75% of Africa’s forests: Cameroon, Central African Republic, Côte d’Ivoire, Democratic Republic of Congo, Edo State (Nigeria), Gabon, Ghana, Liberia, Republic of Congo, Sierra Leone.
Roadmap to CoP27
2016 – CoP22: 7 APOI Ministers signed the Marrakesh Declaration for Sustainable Development of the Palm Oil Sector in Africa. Supported by several private sector companies.
2021 – CoP26: 10 APOI countries provided statements of Five years of progress since the Marrakesh Declaration, committing to expand the principles to other commodities including cocoa and rubber at CoP27.
Nov 2022 -CoP27: We will convene Ministers from all ten APOI countries to sign an expanded declaration as part of the new Africa Sustainable Commodities Initiative.
The Africa Sustainable Commodities Initiative is a single set of principles for the responsible production of agricultural commodities in Africa; protecting forests, good governance, and transparency, while ensuring social benefits for farmers, communities, marginalised people and safeguarding their human rights.
ASCI puts producer countries in Africa at the forefront of defining the principles for the sustainable development of cocoa, rubber, palm oil, coffee and other commodities, in a way that protects livelihoods and natural resources.
Five Years of Progress in West & Central Africa
These ten countries in Central and West Africa account for 25% of global tropical forests, and more than 75% of Africa’s forests.
|Cameroon||Cameroon has embedded the APOI principles into its National Strategy for the Sustainable Development of the Palm Oil Value Chain (2021 – 2030) elaborated by government, private sector companies, producer associations / cooperatives, and civil society.
Commitment to Human Rights: The National Plan embodies commitment to principles of gender equality, the rights of smallholders, workers’ rights and the rights of local and indigenous communities as well as their livelihoods.
Cross-commodity Dialogue: Cameroon is actively seeking investment to finance the sustainable development of palm oil alongside cocoa and rubber sectors, as a single pathway.
Emissions Reduction: Key activities include promoting the reduction of deforestation and forest degradation (REDD+), and commitment to the national interpretation of RSPO standard
|Central Africa Republic||Working to ensure the sustainability of the national platform, through technical support and funding from the Belgium Agency for Development to establish the InterProfessional Association of the Oil Palm Industry.
Smallholders Are Key: The Inter-professional Association will bring together all associations, cooperatives and the private sector to work with smallholders, backed by government commitment.
Technical Input from Industry: A collaboration between the national platform and Palm d’Or agribusiness, will build capacity on best management practices in oil palm planting, HCV-HCS training.
Long-term Sustainability: Set up by the Minister of Agriculture, CAR is focused on forging strategic alliances to ensure it can move beyond the creation of principles and plans to long-term implementation and protection of resources.
(2nd Largest Producer in Africa)
|Côte d’Ivoire is balancing sustainable development of palm oil with cocoa, (world’s largest producer with 40% of national export income).
Local Community Engagement As part of APOI, the Village Savings and Credit Association was established to ensure representation and engagement at local community level.
Tackling Issues in the Landscape: Key issues, such as forest and wildlife conservation, as well as gender equality and smallholder training and certification, are tackled through partners at the landscape level.
Zero Deforestation: In 2016 Côte d’Ivoire signed a Zero Deforestation Agriculture Agreement with REDD+, endorsed by the Paris Agreement to reduce emissions from deforestation and forest degradation.
|Democratic Republic of Congo.||Most of the land suitable for growing oil palm in the Congo basin is found in the Democratic Republic of Congo.
Supporting Smallholders Commitment to ensure support for smallholder production without the clearing of forests to enable that expansion.
Strategic Alignment Institutionalisation at a national level demonstrates government commitment to including palm oil production in the national strategy for the overall agricultural recovery
Emissions Reduction: The APOI platform in turn has aligned its work with DRC’s national 2016-2021 REDD+ readiness planning.
|Gabon||Demonstrating how to achieve sustainable development for High Forest Cover countries, while improving people’s livelihoods and preserving the rich tropical forests still standing.
Including Smallholders Throughout: Training has been extended to smallholders on HCV and HCS and how to implement requirements, so they can benefit from the expansion of oil palm and participate in the market.
Meeting International Standards: Complying with international standards such as RSPO, HCV and HCS, Gabon has also made them relevant with the RSPO National Interpretation
Protecting Forests By Empowerment: Gabon’s model includes allocating land to smallholders to develop, with land to live on and raise their families. When smallholder farmers are empowered economically they commit to protect the forests.
|Ghana||Ghana has developed a national cross-commodity platform through a multistakeholder process, which is endorsed and supported by the President and the Ministry of Lands & Natural Resources.
Gender Mainstreaming: Gender equality and social inclusion have been a real focus to ensure that marginalised groups including women, migrant workers and young people are duly considered.
Tree Crop Development Authority: A new legal entity established to regulate six commodity supply chains – oil palm, coconut, mango, shea, rubber and cashew. TCDA assumes responsibility for APOI.
Farmers at Forefront: Increased investment in schemes by private sector companies to create job opportunities and wealth for smallholder farmers, including training to improve productivity of their farms.
|Liberia||Working through a multistakeholder process, with APOI and the National Oil Palm Platform of Liberia (NOPPOL), the government has launched a National Oil Palm Strategy, with land rights and local communities at the heart of production, development and forest protection.
Legal Backing for Livelihoods: The Land Rights Act (2018) gives legal and regulatory backing – ensuring Free, Prior and Informed Consent (FPIC) is required for all developers and investors on customary land.
Value of Ecosystems: Communities must be consulted about any use of customary land and should be justly compensated for their ongoing stewardship of valuable ecosystems.
HCV-HCS approaches: Required for impact assessments for land use – this ensures potential investors are aware of all social and environmental risk to the land, the nature and the people who rely on it.
|Edo State, Nigeria (5th Largest Palm Oil Producer)||Increasing Nigeria’s sustainable production while protecting remaining forests of the state is economically imperative.
Protection of Rights: Free, Prior and Informed Consent (FPIC) must be given by indigenous people and local communities before agricultural development takes place in Edo State.
Certified Commitment: All palm oil companies operating in the state must comply with the requirements of the Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil.
Produce, Protect, Rehabilitate: Companies must integrate smallholder development into operations, protect forest areas within concessions and provide resources to restore degraded forest equivalent to 25% of their land holding.
|Republic of Congo (223,340 sq. km of forests)||A national platform, national principles and an action plan for implementation.
FPIC National Guidance: Alongside training government and partners in Free, Prior and Informed Consent, RoC has developed and validated FPIC national guidance, a major achievement and tool for industry
Savannah, Not Forests: Ministerial Order signed to orient palm oil plantations towards savannah regions, thus reducing pressure on forests in the Congo Basin.
Getting Smarter on Climate: Congo is also working to develop climate smart agriculture regulations and evolve the APOI platform to support this in the near future.
|Sierra Leone||The platform is co-chaired by the Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Food Security and the Ministry of Trade and Industry, reflecting the dual focus of both the forest communities and farmers with the private sector.
Land Acquisition Process: The APOI platform has been involved in the setup of five alternative livelihood programmes to reduce dependence on the forest for survival, including beekeeping and aquaculture.
RSPO Endorsement: The country’s RSPO National Interpretation was endorsed in November 2021 following public consultation. All oil producing companies, including smallholders will be guided by this.
Managing Carbon Sink: A large company has integrated FPIC, HCV and HCS into their operational management plans as a result of training delivered. This will help to manage ecosystems, increase forest cover and carbon sink, and increase biodiversity within plantations.