Oikocredit hosts palm oil panel at Cracking the Nut

Oikocredit hosted a panel on the challenges faced in the production and sale of sustainable palm oil at the Cracking the Nut conference in Washington, D.C. at the beginning of March 2016.

We spoke to Frank Rubio, Oikocredit International’s global head of agriculture – deputy director credit, about the importance of the event for Oikocredit.

Frank Rubio speaks at Cracking the NutWhy did Oikocredit attend this year’s Cracking the Nut conference?

Oikocredit participated as speakers at Cracking the Nut Rwanda in 2014. The experience was excellent and opened the door for expansion of our lending in the coffee sector in that country.  Likewise, Cracking the Nut Washington was an opportunity to galvanize Oikocredit’s AgriUnit as we increase our brand awareness and contacts in the U.S. market.  Cracking the Nut also offers the chance to network with many of the key players in sustainable agriculture in the U.S. market including industry players as well as NGOs, networks and donors in the sector. The fact that Cracking the Nut Washington was held at the Inter-American Development Bank (IDB) headquarters was also a motivating factor for participating, since Oikocredit’s agriculture unit is targeting the IDB for potential funding of several initiatives in the coffee sector.

What did Oikocredit do at the conference?

We sponsored a panel on the challenges that organizations face in the production and sale of sustainable palm oil. The panel consisted of five actors in the sustainable palm oil value chain – including current Oikocredit partners – all of which are at different stages of certification in achieving sustainable production.

Why was the conference valuable for Oikocredit?

The event was important for placing us at the forefront of a controversial but important issue. The conventional palm oil industry is well known for generating detrimental effects to the environment including contributing to climate change and habitat destruction. Oikocredit has decided to take a proactive stance despite possible reputational risks. The expectation is that our financing and capacity building will help generate further growth in sustainable and organic palm oil production — as well as the development of more stringent certifications that cover ‘grey areas’ in current certification standards, such as use of secondary forests and peat lands for new palm oil production, and the traceability of palm oil through the value chain. 

What’s next?

The sponsored panel addressed the opportunities and challenges in financing sustainable palm oil.

Sustainable palm oil is a growing industry and Oikocredit is in a unique position to not only support the industry but also become leaders in promoting ‘good’ palm oil production over ‘bad’.  Cracking the Nut can be considered the launching pad for a series of other activities we will be implementing during the year related to this commodity including webinars, a research paper and events.

Around 250 participants attended Cracking the Nut Washington, which ran from March 1-2 and focused on the regeneration of rural and agricultural market development and financial inclusion in developing countries.