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Best Practices voor een duurzame toekomst
14 mei 2005

Rabobank analyses sustainable palm oil enterprise

The non-governmental organisation Kasanyangan Mindanao Foundation Inc (KFI) is setting up a commercial enterprise to produce palm oil, involving an investment of about sixty million dollar. Some 3.500 farmers, each cultivating three hectares of land, will form a cooperation. Susan Hansen, employee of a bank rooted in agricultural cooperatives, was asked to join the two-week exchange programme to analyse the market opportunities and commercial viability of the business plan of KFI. "I must admit that I started off a bit sceptical. In the eyes of some NGOs the palm oil industry is perceived as an unsustainable business, since they argue that large scale plantations can damage tropical rainforests and can involve forced displacement of indigenous populations. And from a business point of view, a palm oil enterprise is not easy, since it calls for a large amount of producers who will only after a couple of years see any returns on their investments. But I visited the proposed area for the project, which consisted of bare and arid land that could only profit from planting trees. We met with all the stakeholders, the farmers and the local government, who all seem to be very enthusiastic about the idea. Commercially it is a good plan. The local demand for edible oil is higher than the local production. In other words, these 3.500 farmers and their families will have a better future." Back in the Netherlands, Susan Hansen will keep advising KFI. She will also help them to improve their market presentations and she will direct them to potential investment funds. Susan Hansen: "Rabobank does not have a branch in the Phillippines, but I can investigate the possibilities within the bank." What was in this trip for herself? Susan Hansen: "For me it was a perfect combination of practice and ideals. I gained a lot of insight, being in a conflict region with muslim and communist rebels. I think that I now understand what makes you become a rebel: hunger. KFI has experienced that rebels are prepared to return from the hills if they have the chance to become a farmer." And what was in it for her employer? Susan Hansen: "Rabobank sponsored my trip fullheartedly, because it perfectly fits in our social responsibility goal." P+ Webtip: Exchange Young Executives EYE