GRAINE, which means ‘seed’ in French, stands for “Gabonaise des Realisations Agricoles et des Initiatives des Nationaux Engages” (Gabonese Initiative for Achieving Agricultural Outcomes with Engaged Citizenry) and is a pioneering outgrower plantation scheme launched in December 2014 as a JV between the Republic of Gabon (51% equity ownership) and Olam (49%).
The joint venture (Sotrader) effectively acts as a Public Private Partnership where the Republic of Gabon provides land and financial resources for developing the smallholder plantations and logistics infrastructure, while Olam leads in the development and management of the nucleus and smallholder plantations, building on its competence as a private enterprise with proven expertise in palm plantation development in Gabon and wider experience in Africa of establishing responsible rural investment models in global supply chains.
Aimed at creating a balanced agricultural economy and addressing food security issues by enabling rural communities to become more self-reliant in food production, the GRAINE scheme identifies, allocates and transfers parcels of land that are environmentally and socially suitable for plantation development to co-operatives of Gabonese citizens who are now undergoing plantation management training to grow crops.
The GRAINE project comprises an export crop (Palm) component and a subsistence crop (Banana and Cassava) component, which are respectively managed according to estate- and village-based cooperatives. Co-operative members are awarded a land title, giving them the security of owning their production, and benefit from training, agricultural inputs and improved planting materials. For the palm co-operatives, Olam will help manage 28,000 ha out of total 70,000 ha of operation, and the remaining area will be managed by smallholders. Sotrader guarantees the purchase of all Fresh Fruit Bunches (FFB), whilst food crop market access is organised through the GRAINE agents and network based on a transparent pricing formula.
Also integral to the development is due-diligence on the environmental suitability of land parcels and the awarding of title deeds. Consistent with Olam’s approach to land development, an Environmental and Social Impact and High Conservation Value assessment will be undertaken for Phase 1. The Sotrader GRAINE project is in its planning and early implementation phase, with the RSPO New Plantings Procedure completed in October 2016 for 58,000 ha in Southern Gabon, of which 30,000 ha of savannah will be planted with palm.
This is the first time a programme of this scale and nature has been undertaken in Africa. The ambitious programme will help generate a thriving rural economy for Gabon, distributing wealth through plantation ownership, and facilitate job creation and entrepreneurism.
For Olam it means we have the opportunity to promote the growth of the palm industry through local capacity building and supporting rural Gabonese in their aspiration to become business owners. Those choosing to participate in our project will not only tap into the rapidly growing African consumption market through Olam’s extensive distribution networks, but also into the export markets.