Building a smallholders-inclusive platform for sustainable natural rubber

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24 September, 2019




The Global Platform for Sustainable Natural Rubber (GPSNR) is an international, multi-stakeholder, voluntary membership organization, with a mission to lead  improvements in the socioeconomic and environmental performance of the natural rubber value chain.

Development of the GPSNR was initiated by the CEOs of WBCSD’s Tire Industry Project (TIP) in November 2017. Members of the platform currently include producers, processors & traders, tire makers and other rubber makers/buyers, car makers, other downstream users, financial institutions, as well as civil society organizations. Representatives from each of these stakeholder groups have contributed to the development of the Singapore-based platform and the wide-reaching set of priorities that define GPSNR’s strategy and objectives.

Smallholders account for 85% of world rubber production, but usually suffer from lower yields. Additionally, in recent years rubber prices have been experiencing a dip that has resulted in smallholders not being able to make ends meet by means of their sales of latex. In January 2019, interested stakeholders that came together in Singapore to discuss the governance and objectives of the platform unanimously agreed that to bring about change, work had to be done to ensure smallholder inclusivity within the platform.

In order to achieve this, the GPSNR created a Smallholders Representation Working Group and assigned the main responsibility of coordinating actions to identify and secure adequate smallholder representation within the GPSNR governance. Since its establishment a few months ago, the GPSNR Smallholders Representation Working Group, comprising GPSNR member volunteers, has been working consistently and collectively to ensure the voice of rubber smallholders is meaningfully represented within the platform’s governance model. 

The group has been actively involved in understanding, strategizing and testing the methods by which the platform can ensure adequate and relevant smallholder inclusion. In its work to date, the group has selected 11 Working Group members as “Country Champions” who have extensive regional knowledge regarding the rubber supply chain. These members have been conducting interviews of various smallholder organizations in their assigned country or region. The Working Group also refers to these “Country Champions” as “GPSNR Ambassadors” because of the role they play in creating awareness about the platform. In the past few months, they have helped promote the platform internationally, specifically in natural rubber producing countries, by interacting with several organizations, companies and government authorities across the world. This in turn has helped create curiosity and interest regarding the platform with local stakeholders and in the international rubber community.

Realizing the challenges in language and cultural differences, the various interests of different players in the rubber value chain, and the perception of and by smallholders, the working group has decided to organize regional workshops for smallholder representatives’ identification. These workshops will be a chance to facilitate an open and constructive discussion between the participants, including smallholders, smallholder representatives and other rubber stakeholders.

The five workshops, to be held in different producing regions of the world, including Thailand, Indonesia, Vietnam, Ghana and Brazil, will be tailor made to ensure that smallholders can play a meaningful role within GPSNR. These first five workshops are to be held between October and November 2019 and will be possibly extended to other regions in a second phase of the works.

The primary objectives of the workshops is to understand the local needs and motivations of the smallholder farmers; understand and recommend solutions to the barriers for smallholders and their representative organizations to join and actively participate in the GPSNR as well as observe and explain the interaction and chemistry between farmers and representative organizations.

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Guest blog by Stefano Savi, Director, Global Platform for Sustainable Natural Rubber (GPSNR).