German industrial and consumer goods firm Henkel has partnered with development organisation Solidaridad to help smallholder oil palm farmers in Colombia become more sustainable through digital technology.

The project would help use Solidaridad’s new Farming Solution platform to increase productivity and sustainability for more than 5,000 smallholders, Cosmetics Design Europe reported on 29 November.

“This project shows the massive potential for digital technology to drive progress toward sustainability,” said Thomas Müller-Kirschbaum, head of global R&D at Henkel Laundry and Home Care unit.

Within the Farming Solution platform, smallholders would complete a self-assessment questionnaire to evaluate the challenges facing their farms, based on which the platform recommended methods to improve the farmers’ agricultural practices.

The data on farming methods was gathered from farmers’ association and expert groups worldwide, said Henkel.

The farmers could then execute a unique action plan with the help of support materials, such as an online library and video tutorials.

The platform further allowed the farmers to monitor their development and compare progress against peer group benchmarking data in order to improve their practices and achieve sustainability certificates.

“As many of the largest buyers of palm-related materials have made commitments to ensure that the oil and derivatives that they purchase are certified as sustainable, some smallholders may face a decrease in market access if their crops are not produced in line with criteria, such as those from the Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil (RSPO),” Henkel said.

According to the firm, oil palms represented 3.3% of Colombia’s agricultural GDP in 2016, with 997,900 tonnes of crude palm oil produced on 476,782ha.