We are continuously striving to scale up our fully traceable organic supply chains to make organic plant-based lipids more widely available. Our portrait series is our way of spilling the beans, highlighting our efforts and the partnerships that are instrumental to our organic supply chains.
“In a sector that is as dynamic and rapidly growing as organic food, it is crucial to establish trust through safe, high-quality and traceable ingredients at every stage.”
We make it our mission to work with farmers and suppliers across the globe who hold the same values as us, and Planting Naturals palm oil mills in West Africa is one of them. Thanks to our partnership with Planting Naturals, we can source organic palm oil directly from certified farmers and local plantations in Sierra Leone. We connected with the founders, Kevin Godlington and Jan Hein de Vroe, and Managing Director, Mohamed Kamara, of Planting Naturals to find out more about their ongoing efforts to empower the local farming community and the role that Bunge Loders Croklaan plays in connecting them to the world.
In a country like Sierra Leone, explains Mohamed, achieving organic farming certification was not a popular concept, even though local farmers have been using organic fertilizers for generations as chemical fertilizers are too expensive for most farmers. “In 2015, the Planting Naturals team helped approximately 1400 smallholders achieve organic certification. A small step for us, a milestone for our farming community. This helped prove that organic certification is indeed attainable in a smallholder context in Sierra Leone”, Mohamed adds. “Since then, there has been no looking back. This milestone paved the way for business expansion and the number of organic certified farmers that we now work with stands at over 9,500.”
“Going organic is not an easy process”, says Jan Hein. It means dealing with a system built on data collection, traceability, certification, and much more. Jan Hein explains to us that the high rate of illiteracy in Sierra Leone, coupled with low income, makes it difficult for farmers to navigate this system.
Planting Naturals bridges these gaps. With thorough internal and external checks, they ensure the highest standards of quality and authentic certification. “The market is pushing for traceability, especially conscious consumers in Europe”, says Jan Hein. “In a sector that is as dynamic and rapidly growing as organic food, it is crucial to establish trust through safe, high-quality and traceable ingredients at every stage.”
Once certified, the palm oil is ready for export. Jan Hein explains how the partnership with Bunge Loders Croklaan opens a world of opportunities for wider distribution for Planting Naturals and, in extension, for all the 9500+ smallholders they work with.
Together, we not only empower local farmer communities in developing countries like Sierra Leone, but also bring the consumers closer to the source. Making the journey from farms, to mills, to refineries, all the way to the end users as transparent as possible.
“We were looking for a partner like Bunge Loders Croklaan, that values sustainable farming and supporting farming communities worldwide, so when we were asked by one of our clients to develop a specific ingredient for their new product, we decided to work with Bunge Loders Croklaan.
Also, with our fast growth trajectory of the last few years, we felt it was an important move to work together with one of the largest agribusiness players in the world to secure sufficient demand and develop the organic palm market further”, says Jan Hein.
Planting Naturals has been working in Sierra Leone since 2014, certifying all their smallholders against the Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil (RSPO) standard, along with both NOP (US) and EU organic standards. In July 2021, RSPO certification was confirmed for 4,983 smallholders of the Ngoyaï Gbaayegie farmers group. This is now the largest group of Organic and RSPO certified smallholder farmers in the world and is supported by Planting Naturals.
In the past, some agricultural companies have abandoned their palm oil projects, leaving behind degraded stretches of land. Over the next five years, Planting Naturals plans to expand their re-wilding program and reforest these stretches in Sierra Leone. This is certainly a project Bunge Loders Croklaan looks forward to participating in!
While saying our goodbyes, Jan Hein remarks: “We make a good team. And together, we see a bright future, influencing and informing the marketplace, and meeting consumers’ demand for high quality organic products.” We sure agree!