Smallholder Program

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With the support of the Boeing Corporate Citizenship program and the Swiss government, RSB is implementing a program that seeks to improve the livelihoods of smallholder farmers by linking them to markets and promoting sustainable practices based on the RSB standard.

As smallholder farmers in vulnerable communities and developing countries, which lack adequate environmental and social safeguards, seek to increase and intensify biomass production so as to participate in the global bioeconomy, they are at risk for driving land and water degradation, loss of biodiversity and food insecurity. If projects are developed in areas currently dominated by smallholder farming communities, then care must be taken to ensure economically equitable treatment of smallholder farmers and women.

In general, smallholder producers are challenged with low institutional capacity, inadequate financial and social incentives, limited access to technology for higher yields, high certification costs, limited market access and insufficient external support. These constraints make it more difficult for them to reach compliance with the RSB Standard and receive certification.

The Smallholder program was launched in 2013. During its first year, the program focused on identifying barriers to smallholder market access and certification and developing strategies to address them, including the RSB Smallholder Standard. With the support of Norad, the National Wildlife Federation and other partners, the RSB held workshops in Southeast Asia and Central America that reviewed case studies consulted with local groups on and the proposed smallholder standard.

In 2014, the program started working with pilot projects in South Africa and Brazil, including partners to build capacity on the ground and to establish strategies to meet RSB standards as a tool to increase market access and improved livelihoods.

RSB is also developing partnerships with multilateral organisations, development agencies and industry to support smallholders through international funding and establishment of complete supply chains. RSB is currently working with South African Airways (SAA) and SkyNRG in Africa, with Smallholder Acceleration and REDD+ Program (SHARP) in a joint project in Brazil, engaging partners to integrate the smallholder initiative into Sustainable Energy for All (SE4ALL), and supporting its members Applied Environmental Research Foundation (AERF) and Civil Society Organisations’ Network for Sustainable Agriculture and Environment in East Africa (CISONET) work with smallholders in India. RSB is also supporting smallholders in Asia via Biomass Group’s Gliricidia project in Sri Lanka.

Download a presentation about RSB’s smallholder projects by Doris Cellarius from Sierra Club.


General view of macaúba natural stand

Macaúba natural stand in Betim, Brazil. Photo Credit: Aurea Nardelli, RSB