The Effect of RT15thfor the Sustainability of Independent Smallholders

The Effect of RT15thfor the Sustainability of Independent Smallholders

InfoSAWIT, JAKARTA -November has come. The 15th Annual Roundtable Conference on Sustainable Palm Oil meeting is ready to go. But could RT 15th  in this year vocalize and take the smallholders’ right be clearly heard?

November is like “Lebaran Month” for palm oil industries whole over the world. In every year in November, the representatives from companies, buyers, NGOs, civil organizations, smallholders in palm oil sector would gather in the name of Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil (RSPO). The goal is to discuss the role of RSPO to the sustainability of independent smallholders. In 2017 the international conference of RT 15th would be on 27 November - 30 November 2017 in Grand-Hyatt Bali.

Since it was founded inn 2004, at least, there have been important solutions in RSPO. One of them is the making of Task Force on Smallholders (TFS) in 2006. The mandates of TFS are: the first, to ensure the adjustment of Principles and Criteria (P&C) of RSPO for the smallholders, and the second, to propose the best ways to harmonize the proposal, both nationally and or generally to involve the smallholders in sustainable palm oil production.

By 2010 at least, the group had got key points to influence the people’s lives and the smallholders’ role in palm oil sector, such as, the guidance of P&C of RSPO for the independent smallholders.


Field Challenge

To have RSPO certificate, the smallholders should follow 8 Principles and 39 Criteria. Though RSPO keeps improving the P&C in every single year to take more smallholders to involve in, but there are some issues to fulfill the P&C to the smallholders’ level.

The first is the legal aspect. It is the crucial point for the smallholders. Based on data and experience of SPKS (Serikat Petani Kelapa Sawit), many smallholders do not have area certificates published by National Land Agency or area documents published by the village, Cultivation Document or surat pernyataan pengelolaan lingkungan (SPPL). This is the entry point aspect for them who dream of having ‘sustainable label’. Unfortunately many of them do not fulfill the aspect.

The second is the minimal knowledge to do good agriculture practices. It is a challenging aspect. Having no development both from the government and the private makes them have ‘minimal knowledge’ about the fertilization, pesticide, nursery, and  good handling practices.

The third is the minimal smallholders’ institution (smallholders’ group, the association of groups), and the financial institution (union) in the independent smallholders’ level. Having group, both through the union, groups and other forms is the formal condition for every smallholder who wants to get RSPO certificate. Unfortunately, the good and solid smallholders’ group is the challenges that Team SPKS found in the field. Based on the observation, not every smallholder in the district and village level has or wants to join a group. If it exists, the capacity of the organization is weak and tends to be ‘pigeon group’ or kelompok merpati. This makes them reluctant to join a group.

The fourth is the minimal access of info. It is different from the plasma smallholders who get the full support from the companies, the independent smallholders tend to cultivate their areas individually. The minimal information they get, both from the counseling team, the government and the private influences their understanding to develop palm oil, implement the sustainable practices, hard to get the challenge and the opportunity in the domestic and global market by having the certification, and their roles to conserve the environment.


The Same Commitment

In Indonesia, palm oil industries are the ones involving lots of workers from the villagers and give US$ 20 milliar per year from the exports.

Knowing the independent smallholders contributing to the domestic exchange, it is time for the government to be serious to run its authority and responsibility to protect and fulfill their rights. Besides it is hoped, the government could empower them to fulfill the P&C in the world certification through the regulation and the cultivation that take side to the smallholders.

The next is that in the future, the companies are committed to increase their capacity beyond the main and plasma in the circumstance so that the independent smallholders could compete and would not be the actors having loss in the chain of stock of the industries.

(Written by: Program Manager Serikat Petani Kelapa Sawit (SPKS), Dian Mayasari Nasution)

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