People, Planet and Prosperity are the three impact pillars at the heart of RSPO Certification. Two smallholders in South Sumatra, Indonesia are embodying this synergy — after reaping the rewards of RSPO Certification, they are giving back to their communities through rural rehabilitation activities, increased school facilities, Covid health and safety measures and food distribution for the underprivileged
The Kencana Sari Village in South Sumatra, Indonesia is home to a smallholder cooperative of 125 oil palm growers who, since obtaining RSPO certification in 2018, have been implementing sustainable agricultural practices and seen positive changes in their livelihoods. Since reaping the rewards, the farmers of the KUD Permai Jaya are now giving back to the community and have become significant drivers of socio-economic progress.
Trio Saputro, RSPO Division Head of the Cooperative, said, “We want to show that a village that accommodates palm oil to grow and produce, particularly after joining RSPO, can become prosperous.” He shared that the Cooperative had a tough start when the farmers initially paid little attention to the efforts in socialising sustainable practices. “It was challenging when we first asked the members to join RSPO. At first, it was very difficult for them to believe and do things related to the RSPO P&C, but we kept on…then some members eventually voluntarily agreed to participate. After we shared transparently that they got the premium benefits, they became very supportive and more enthusiastic.”
Following a training series prepared by PT London Sumatra, the farmers began adopting new methods in their plantations and eventually noted that they were spending fewer maintenance costs. “Their yields increased while preserving the environment at the same time.”
As soon as the cooperative became certified, it joined the Indonesia Sustainable Palm Oil Independent Smallholders Forum and according to Saputro, it received assistance to negotiate with buyers of its RSPO Credits. “The sales, partly supported by Fortasbi, are getting better. Furthermore, the Cooperative and the members get decent premium values. The condition enables the Cooperative to grow which allows prosperity improvement for the members.”
After seeing better productivity, the smallholders were determined to bring positive impacts to the village community.
“On behalf of the Cooperative, the farmers have taken part in several activities to improve community welfare in the village,” shared Saputro. “We supported the annual programme of rural road rehabilitation. Some parts of the road were muddy especially in the rainy season; it was very hard for cars and even motorbikes to get through. We repaired the road and made ditches so that it can function normally. Other social activities include humanitarian assistance for disaster-affected people in neighboring areas and other places nationwide.”
In addition, the Permai Jaya Cooperative also prepared an employment plan, which led to several job opportunities for the local community. The Cooperative’s goal is to have more members next year.
“We can now say that sustainable palm oil production following the standards set by RSPO is a good thing, and the growers have a key role in good and responsible agricultural methods,” said Saputro. “Besides, oil palm cultivation with no negative impact in social and ecological aspects has provided better livelihoods to the smallholders and welfare to the community.”
Improving community welfare — KUD Sumber Rejeki
The KUD Sumber Rejeki is a smallholder cooperative of 79 oil palm growers in the Air Bening Village, in South Sumatra, Indonesia. Since applying good agricultural methods dispensed by RSPO, the cooperative has experienced the multiple benefits of sustainable practices.
Group Manager of the Cooperative, Surianto, shared that the KUD is in better shape, and now that the members are enjoying improved livelihoods, it is time to pay back to the society and village where palm oil cultivation is permitted.
“Oil palm is now cultivated in a socially and environmentally responsible manner, helping the farmers earn sustainability certification and have several benefits,” said Surianto. “They agreed to get involved in the rural development programme. Through the Cooperative, the members have extended various activities for the village and community.” These activities include village road rehabilitation, worship facility construction, and rewards for the best students in the area.
Sumber Rejeki was established in March 1985 and was initially meant for rubber and oil palm cultivation for farmers and workers. Eleven years later, in collaboration with PT PP London Sumatra Indonesia Tbk, it developed an oil palm schemed plantation through the Members Primary Credit Cooperative (KKPA) programme. “Thanks to the RSPO Certification we got in 2018, the farmers have seen increased incomes. The KUD has since allocated funds for social activities. The contributions included two mosques and a mushola (small-sized mosque) constructions in the village. We also pay attention to students who excel in their schools — we provided gifts or rewards to three students in the village each at elementary, junior high, and high school levels.”
Local kindergartens were also upgraded, with more school desks and chairs, playing and learning equipment, and other facilities.
“During the coronavirus pandemic, we donated masks and hand sanitizers at several points for the community in the village. At the end of Ramadan fasting month, we traditionally provided staple food packages for the underprivileged in the neighbourhood.”
He added that the KUD had also participated in the improvement of rural roads leading to and from the plantation, which are now being used by the public, including farmers who are not part of the RSPO. “This is certainly beneficial for everyone including harvest transportation, fertiliser supply, and also for transportation of other commodities like rubber.”
Short and long-term sustainability goals
According to Surianto, the oil palm cultivation for the then schemed plantation began in 1996/1997 which means most trees are aging now and that the replanting period is approaching. “The KUD has set short- and long-term goals which will hopefully make oil palm production in this village even more sustainable, grown in a much better manner that is ecologically responsible and socially beneficial.”
To reduce replanting costs, Sumber Rejeki is preparing a seedling program that will purchase and use high-quality seeds. “There’s already an allocation plan for this program and we will use only the good standard of certified, traceable seeds. This is about sustainability, and we want our next generation to experience the same good things from oil palm cultivation.”