Ricardo Ruiz Sevilla was one of the last people to plant oil palm in 2012. Until then, he had a career in the public service as the head of the government of Tabasco’s short-cycle crop department.
His mission was to provide farmers with technical knowledge. He remembers when his late father forbade him to plant oil palms because he saw that there were no industries capable of marketing the fruit of this crop that was new to Mexico. “My dad used to tell me, ‘When it is your land you can sow whatever you want’.”
Seven years later, the oil palm bears much more than fruit: growing it has regenerated the ecosystem in a positive way. In addition, a strong industry has established itself in Mexico’s southeastern region. Prices continue to rise in international markets, and Ricardo is thinking about passing his expertise on to his young son Ricardo, who is beginning to take an interest in environmental issues and growing a crop sustainably.
Ricardo currently has 21 hectares, and as a smallholder he belongs to the Jalapa Oil Palm Growers Association in Jalapa, Tabasco, a community near the Grijalva River.
This farmer says that when he started to plot his land, he used his experience as an agricultural engineer to plot carefully and consider factors such as the sun’s position and his privileged location. As his palm grove sits near a riverbank, the Holistic Program has taught him the importance of implementing best practices for the care of both the river and his grove.
The oil palm has been victimized by myths and negative publicity, says Ricardo. The truth of the matter is another story. He has photos on his cell phone of fauna that have returned to land previously used for cattle ranching. Coyotes, armadillos and deer are among the species that have come back to areas where hunting has been prohibited.
“The RSPO certification process has taught us plenty. In particular, it has taught us that we should encourage farm workers to care for wildlife. One reason is that some fauna helps us get rid of rodent pests.”
The Holistic Program is a comprehensive training initiative whose aim is to help producers, especially smallholders learn how to boost plantation yields.
Today, Ricardo no longer worries about whether his oil palms will bear fruit. He knows that if it rains, there will be plenty for everyone. And if it doesn’t rain, he’s ready for that too. He has now got his sights set on a new battle: leaving the planet better than he found it. That is also why he supports his son’s favorite cause, which is saving Mexico’s native species.