Planting Naturals and Goldtree S.L. are thrilled and proud to announce that as of the 10th of February, 2022, the operations at both Goldtree S.L. and Nedoil Ltd. have officially achieved Chinese Organic certification. This is in addition to our previously acquired certifications – EU Organic and RSPO certified sustainable palm oil – and applies to our Crude Palm Oil (CPO) and Crude Palm Kernel Oil (CPKO) products.

This new standard applies to two of our plantations located in Sierra Leone – SOPL Moyamba, Bonthe and Zimmi plantations – as well as 9,563 smallholder farmers from villages surrounding Goldtree S.L. and Nedoil Ltd., all of whom were part of our smallholder network that supplies us with the FFB (Fresh Fruit Bunches) that are used to produce our organic, sustainable palm oil.

This is something that has been a goal for some time now, so it's a huge accomplishment for all who were involved; from everyone at Planting Naturals and Goldtree S.L. who have been planning and organising this, all the way down to the individual smallholder farmers that were a part of the audit process and are now also Chinese Organic certified.

Not only are we proud to be certified under an additional standard to those that we have already, but in acquiring this certification it is somewhat of a landmark achievement. We are the first company and operations to be Chinese Organic certified in Africa for palm oil, as well as the largest network of smallholder farmers to be certified under this standard for palm oil.

While reaching milestones like these opens up new markets for us and our products, it is also humbling and rewarding in equal measure. Achieving these certification standards helps provide credibility to the efforts that we are implementing to create a supply chain, advocating for, and adopting, sustainable, organic agricultural practices. In doing so, this will provide benefits to the smallholder farmers, West Africa, the palm oil sector, and the entire global agricultural sector. We hope that this achievement will inspire other actors in the agricultural sector to take further action to create supply chains that are beneficial to the people they employ and the land they operate on.

Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the audit that took place had to be conducted remotely, with the ICS (Internal Control System) officers visiting the farmers and facilitating the interview between the auditor and the farmers who participated in the audit.

In the picture (left), one of the farmers who was audited can be seen, as well as one of the ICS officers, just out of frame. The auditor joined us from China, speaking directly to some of our smallholder farmers in Sierra Leone.

This certainly presented some unique and additional challenges that we would not have had to face in a non-remote audit – most notably that being some of the farmers are in remote areas of Sierra Leone with limited signal.

Thankfully, due to the huge efforts from the Sustainability team and ICS team at Goldtree and Nedoil, any challenges that were faced were swiftly overcome.

The images, below, are from another one of our farmers, Halimatu Barbay, that recently became Chinese Organic certified. In addition to growing oil palm on her farm, she also engages in "intercropping", which describes the practice of growing more than one crop simultaneously on one plot – in this case, pineapples!

While these secondary crops aren't under the remit of the audit, the practice of intercropping provides various benefits to the farmer, the land and the crops themselves. It provides greater yields and, therefore, greater income for the farmer, while also protecting their income if one of the crops fails – this is especially beneficial in a country like Sierra Leone that experiences dry seasons.

Intercropping can also be beneficial for the land itself, as it protects the plot from weeds thriving (as the nutrients in the soil aren't available to the weeds), while also preventing any surface runoff in the event of an extreme rainfall event – something that is also experienced in Sierra Leone during the rainy seasons.

This accomplishment allows us a moment of respite for us as a company to reflect on our achievements thus far. While this is something that we are immensely proud of, we also realise there is still much to be done to reach a point where moments like these are no longer accolades, but simply the norm. Nevertheless, a huge congratulations to the entire team that was involved in making this a reality!

Written by Tom Hersbach