The Struggles of Smallholders Amid Rapid Palm Oil Expansion

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Smallholder harvesting palm oil fresh fruit bunches. Photo by: Sawit Fest 2021 / Ahmad Fadly

PALMOILMAGAZINE, JAKARTA – Despite being classified as small-scale planters, smallholders are numerous in many palm oil plantation centers. Unfortunately, those who tirelessly cultivate their land often find themselves disadvantaged.

The phrase “to become the weakest” aptly describes the plight of smallholders in these regions, as their needs and lives are frequently overlooked. Similar to the urban poor, they struggle to cope with the development occurring around them.

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Palm oil plantations have experienced rapid growth, and after over 111 years of commercial cultivation in Indonesia, they now play a significant role in driving regional development and progress.

Also Read: SPKS, Oxfam, and Konawe Utara Advocate for Sustainable Palm Oil Action Plans

Many palm oil plantation centers get developing civilization in Indonesia, such as, the cultivation which depended on the seeds got from the neighbors, now everyone can directly purchase from superior seed producers.

Many smallholders are difficult to get (purchase) superior palm oil seeds because they do not have groups, not being registered in the local plantation agency and these would be the issues. To reinforce their position, it needs to reinforce their groups, organizations, trainings about the best and sustainable cultivation practices, get cooperation with many parties.

By establishing groups or unions, it would definitely change smallholders’ weak position by having multi-party cooperation which supports one to another.


Smallholders Established Groups or Unions

The smallholders basically need to establish group(s) and or organize themselves in an association. That is why it would be the base for them to get cooperation with others.

Then, it needs to reinforce their capacity with multi-party supports. The smallholders’ organization, civil organization, central and regional governments would cooperate to do trainings to make independent smallholders realize the best and sustainable practices.

After that, the best cultivation practices started from the beginning – from zero fire to maintain environmental ecosystem, no deforestation to maintain high conservation value and wild life. By having cooperation with smallholders’ organizations and other parties, the independent smallholders would implement te best and sustainable practices together.

Also Read: General Director of Plantations Stresses Collaboration as Vital for the Progress of Indonesia’s Palm Oil Sector

As the basic, the smallholders would simultaneously implement their best cultivation, maintain the environment, welfare the people around. Their existence that tends to have boundaries, could be helped by others with the goal, to develop sustainable palm oil plantations.


Sustainable Certificate Would Deliver Profits for Smallholders

ISPO certification that would be mandatory for the plantations in Indonesia should be the estuary of multi-party cooperation to develop sustainability. In fact, the planters, including smallholders have big interests to continue their plantation business.

Their plantations that might have issues in governance, need to get the roots of the problems and get the solution to the issues. Of course, by implementing the best and most sustainable practices, the smallholders’ plantation productivity would be increasing.

On the other hand, the smallholders could get cultivation cooperation with the plantation companies. By having it, the smallholders’ group or union would be stronger and equal by having a memorandum of understanding.

The equal position of smallholders with plantation companies would be part of multi-party cooperation which will need one to the other in the future. May it be!

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