Sabah ready to trail-blaze on ju­ris­dic­tional scale cer­ti­fied sus­tain­able palm oil

The Borneo Post (Sabah) - - HOME -

BONN, Ger­many: Sabah'spur­suit of a con­ser­va­tion based econ­omy that draws on ju­ris­dic­tional scale ini­tia­tives to fully cer­tify its palm oil and ad­dress de­for­esta­tion through a Sabah statewide For­est Man­age­ment Plan will need ma­jor re­la­tion­ship and be­havioural change across and be­tween sec­tors, both in Malaysia and glob­ally.

In the two years since the Sabah Gov­ern­ment pledged to pro­duce palm oil to Round­table on Sus­tain­able Palm Oil (RSPO) stan­dards by 2025, the Ju­ris­dic­tional Cer­ti­fi­ca­tion Steer­ing Com­mit­tee (JCSC) en­trusted with the task has been chal­lenged by un­even readi­ness, con­strained ca­pac­i­ties, in­con­sis­tent in­sti­tu­tional com­mit­ments, sys­tem­atic frag­men­ta­tion and skep­ti­cism.

Sabah's story shared at the Mar­rakech Part­ner­ship for Global Cli­mate Ac­tion to cel­e­brate Forests Day at COP23 in Bonn, Ger­many on Sun­day, opened by high­light­ing that the Malaysian Bor­neo state pro­duces 10 per cent of global palm oil sup­ply while stay­ing on track to have 30 per cent of its land mass se­cured as To­tally Pro­tected Ar­eas by 2025. It cur­rently stands at 26 per cent or 1.9 mil­lion hectares.

Sabah Forestry Depart­ment Deputy Con­ser­va­tor of Forests (For­est Sec­tor Planning) Fred­er­ick Ku­gan said that mov­ing to 100 per cent RSPO cer­ti­fied palm oil trans­lates into adopt­ing a cred­i­ble vol­un­tary stan­dard and in­te­grat­ing this into state pol­icy and the le­gal frame­work.

“In tan­dem, we are em­bark­ing on a process to pre­pare a 25-year Sabah-wide For­est Man­age­ment Plan. Our for­est fron­tiers, wa­ter­sheds and eco­log­i­cal sys­tems are per­sis­tently threat­ened by the push to grow and sup­ply more, abet­ted by the world's grow­ing ap­petite for one of its most ef­fi­cient veg­etable oils.

“These twin ini­tia­tives will de­cou­ple in­creased pro­duc­tiv­ity of oil palm and de­for­esta­tion and ini­ti­ate con­ser­va­tion based economies,” he said in a panel on New De­vel­op­ments in Elim­i­nat­ing De­for­esta­tion from Key Sup­ply Chains which high­lighted new com­mit­ments to de­for­esta­tion free com­modi­ties.

Ku­gan also gave an over­view of the JCSC that is co-chaired by Sabah Forestry Depart­ment and the Nat­u­ral Re­sources Of­fice and which is equal parts gov­ern­ment, pri­vate sec­tor and civil so­ci­ety. All this is pos­si­ble be­cause of the com­mit­ment of the cur­rent State Gov­ern­ment and its readi­ness to en­gage with in­ter­ested par­ties to­wards this cause.

Work has started on map­ping High Con­ser­va­tion Value – High Car­bon Stock (HCV-HCS) ar­eas to guide go, and no-go ar­eas, for oil palm; in­te­gra­tion of Free Prior and In­formed Con­sent (FPIC) into Sabah's le­gal and in­sti­tu­tional land­scape; and or­gan­is­ing small­hold­ers and build­ing sup­port sys­tems to ad­dress land le­gal­i­ties, farm man­age­ment, pro­duc­tiv­ity, train­ing, and health and safety.

“These com­bined ac­tions are ori­ented to­wards three goals: achieve no loss to HCV-HCS forests; en­able zero con­flict in oil palm pro­duc­tion land­scapes; and strengthen small­holder sus­tain­abil­ity and up­lift liveli­hoods.

“Thanks to the United Na­tions En­vi­ron­ment Pro­gram (UNEP) 10 Year Food Pro­gram and RSPO, we are con­nected in a joint process with Cen­tral Kal­i­man­tan, which is also em­bark­ing on ju­ris­dic­tional cer­ti­fi­ca­tion at the district level, to share ex­pe­ri­ences in the small­holder com­po­nent of the larger work,” Ku­gan said.

Shar­ing the stage was For­ever Sabah Chief Ex­ec­u­tive Fa­cil­i­ta­tor Cyn­thia Ong who stressed that Sabah's ju­ris­dic­tional cer­ti­fi­ca­tion process is about gover­nance and in­clu­sive de­ci­sion-mak­ing, and will re­quire re­forms of long­stand­ing laws and in­sti­tu­tions of­ten dat­ing from colo­nial times that still dom­i­nate how land is al­lo­cated and used.

“When pol­icy and pro­cesses are hurtling in a di­rec­tion charted on a his­tor­i­cally ex­trac­tive de­vel­op­ment tra­jec­tory, en­tire sys­tems' change is re­quired to make the pivot to­wards clos­ing the de­for­esta­tion fron­tier and this takes col­lec­tive per­se­ver­ance and time.

“Si­los have to come down, po­lar­ized per­spec­tives have to meet, ro­bust ta­bles, open spa­ces and trust have to be built, and we need leaps of faith, heads out of clouds, hands in dirt and coura­geous hearts in gear,” Ong said.

She said Sabah's process is con­fronted by the in­ter­nal ten­sion of the uni­lat­eral push for na­tional stan­dards and tar­gets with­out prior con­sul­ta­tion with the State, and ex­ter­nal ten­sions such as the im­pend­ing Euro­pean Union de­ci­sion on palm oil im­ports that could have an im­me­di­ate ef­fect on in­dus­try be­hav­ior.

Ong also said old fi­nanc­ing mod­els and strate­gies that con­strict suf­fi­cient and con­sis­tent flow of funds to the work are a ma­jor lim­i­ta­tion to Sabah's process, hav­ing re­ceived less than US$200,000 (RM846,000) from the in­ter­na­tional com­mu­nity as Malaysia is re­garded as a mid­in­come na­tion.

“That said, we are not seek­ing aid. We seek seed in­vest­ments, we seek buy­ers of the up­com­ing Sabah Small­hold­ers 100 per cent Cer­ti­fied Sus­tain­able Palm Oil prod­uct that pulls the sup­ply chain in the right di­rec­tion, we seek rad­i­cal greens to not jeop­ar­dize our hard work, we seek re­cip­ro­cal ac­tion from the world sig­nal­ing we are not alone,” she said.

She stressed that while watch­ing the world make high level pledges and con­tin­u­ing to reach out, hope and wait, Sabah is al­ready in po­si­tion and ready to trail-blaze the front­lines of ac­tion, and seeks coura­geous part­ners to run with it.

“Is there a bridge be­tween the global and the lo­cal, the uni­ver­sal and the unique? Does COP care about the big am­bi­tions of a small state al­ready en­gaged in turn­ing the tide? Can Sabah do it with­out the world en­gaged? Can the world do it if Sabah can't,” she asked.

Iszud­din (right) hand­ing over a cheque to Alexan­der.

Ku­gan (left) and Ong spoke about a con­ser­va­tion based econ­omy that draws on ju­ris­dic­tional scale ini­tia­tives to ad­dress de­for­esta­tion and pro­duce cer­ti­fied sus­tain­able palm oil.

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