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UBC Theses and Dissertations

Challenges and prospects of Ghanaian palm oil development and the role of independent smallholders in sustainable production MacIvor, Robyn Elizabeth


The expansion of oil palm worldwide is unparalleled by any other vegetable crop. Accordingly, as consumer awareness of social and environmental devastations linked to the industry has risen, certification mechanisms have grown as a way to implement checks and measures in sustainable palm oil production. This work explores the opportunities and obstacles to sustainable palm oil production in Ghana, and surveys the role that independent smallholders could hold through Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil (RSPO) palm oil certification schemes. This research also contributes to the understanding and the role that independent smallholders hold in the development of palm oil plantations in Ghana. Both qualitative and quantitative methods were used in this study, and a total of 25 interviews and 30 surveys were conducted in Juaben and Accra, Ghana. Results show that the potential for increased income has driven 49% of smallholders in the community to begin cultivating oil palm as their primary crop. Farmers can either cultivate independently or enter into a contract with the recently RSPO-certified local mill, the Juaben Oil Palm Development Company (JOPDC). While contracted farmers have access to RSPO and JOPDC extension services, loans, and inputs, independent smallholders do not have access to support, extension services, or training. Importantly, only 20% of independent smallholders in Juaben believe they have the training needed to cultivate oil palm. This work argues that, in order for RSPO certification mechanisms to be truly sustainable, they should be inclusive of all types of smallholders wanting to enter the industry. Literature thus far has not delved deeply into why certification mechanisms are not more inclusive of smallholder development, citing solely that costs are too high and that logistical support is unavailable. To ensure the sustainability of the growing palm oil industry, programs are needed that are specifically aimed at including independent smallholders in their development and building their capacity to become export-driven producers.

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