5degreesnorth (5dn) is a new business incorporated in 2012 with the purpose of deploying its intermediate technology Chieftain mill, management expertise, resources and networks in support of smallholders growing oil palm in West Africa. 5dn aim to provide a workable, business-like alternative to oil production based upon on either very small and sometimes unreliable artisanal mills or giant industrial mills such as those favoured in palm growing areas in Indoneisa and Malaysia.
With an initial focus on Ghana, 5dn will support and work in partnership with farmers to help them obtain good value for their fruit. Generally speaking 5dn do not seek to own or otherwise directly control land, which in some cases has belonged to African families for many generations. Instead they provide agronomy expertise, additional specialist labour to assist with harvesting, logistical support such as transport and, critically, local milling. Their agile Chieftain mills, purposely designed by Michael Hadcock, President of 5dn a former Unilever engineer with over 30 years experience in Africa, can be situated within easy reach of where the palm is grown rather than in distant locations dependent upon major infrastructure. They pay a guaranteed fair price for healthy fruit brought to their mills and once milled also take responsibility for packaging, marketing and sale of the oil.
5dn will also help farmers establish and maintain cooperatives or similar to promote their collective interests. It is their firm view that our business will prosper more readily when farmers and other stakeholders in the process benefit proportionately also. This is a shared value business.
5dn are also committed to the values and principles of sustainable development. Two of the founders of 5dn are owner/directors of Beyond Green, including Jonathan Smales, who was formerly a director and international trustee of Greenpeace with more than 25 years experience in sustainability policy, campaigns and practice in business, government and the third sector.
5dn will provide a sustainable source of income – this is a business not an aid project – and provide widespread employment in rural areas to help stem the flow of migration and enable more balanced communities. And they will evolve both general and bespoke policies and practice in close association with local people in each region in which we operate to improve social infrastructure and provide new physical infrastructure such as small-scale renewable energy generation and ecological wastewater treatment.
5dn are determined to deliver a profitable business in palm with a far smaller carbon and ecological footprint than that demonstrated by mainstream producers and to take opportunities to enhance ecologies and habitat via sensitive farming practices.
In the first instance the environmental gains in their process will be achieved by optimizing yields – the profitability of their business is not contingent on maximizing production or of treating palm oil as principally an international commodity; our model will very likely require less transport, far lower dependency on fossil fuel-based fertilizers and, with the application of waste plant material as fuel in the milling process, we will be comparatively energy efficient.
5dn are committed to monitor, measure and report openly on our environmental and social performance and invite inspection by respected NGOs, government bodies, universities and others. Over time, they will report on the full lifecycle environmental impacts of our business – from cradle-to-cradle – and participate enthusiastically in international sustainable palm initiatives both to learn and contribute their own learning.