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Understanding the smallholder landscape

Smallholders live in highly rural areas across the emerging markets. They supply Olam with cocoa, coffee, cotton, sesame, cashew, cotton, chilli, pepper, sugar, rubber and palm oil.

Many smallholders have very little education, and therefore limited or no understanding of environmental impacts such as deforestation, water pollution or biodiversity loss. Our farmer training sessions use pictorial aids to help them understand this. Our extension officers also audit for poor practices on their visits. However, understanding the landscape of all smallholder suppliers is a mammoth task! In 2015, we therefore focused on mapping high risk product areas aided by technology.

GPS mapping smallholder farms

One of the most significant developments in 2015 was the roll-out of the Olam Farmer Information System (OFIS) among cocoa farmers. Using GPS technology, one of the functions of this proprietary platform is to map the farm of an individual smallholder, from the lie of the land to the age of the trees. This means that not only can tailored advice be given to improve yields, we can also help to minimise environmental impact.

For example, OFIS can estimate exactly how much fertiliser the farmer needs to apply and when to do so. This means the farmer does not waste his fertiliser (or his money) by over-applying, while greenhouse gas emissions from the fertiliser are also minimised. Roll-out of OFIS is enabling the production of individual farm management plans for thousands of cocoa smallholders. In 2016, OFIS will be used by the coffee, rubber and hazelnut teams.

For information on how we help to educate and monitor smallholders on deforestation please refer to our section on ‘Climate Change‘ within this Report.

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