Since the RSPO Board of Governors approved the Smallholder Standing Committee proposal to provide to Independent Smallholder Group members in September 2021, in light of the COVID-19 pandemic, smallholders in Indonesia have been able to use the funds to help alleviate the impacts of the health crisis.
As part of the assistance, membership fees have been waived for active Independent Smallholder Groups with Ordinary membership within the RSPO system, and were awarded to all existing Independent Smallholder Group members and new Independent Smallholder Group members joining within the one year fee waiver period. Moreover, a hardship allowance of 1.2 million Malaysian Ringgit was allocated to the RSPO Smallholder Support Fund as a further mechanism of financial support.
RSPO spoke with two Indonesian smallholder groups in South Sumatra and Central Kalimantan to find out about how they have adapted to crises and tackled some of their critical challenges with the help of RSPO financial aid.
From medical supplies to food distribution
Members of the KUD Mekar Sari, a smallholder group in Indonesia’s South Sumatra province, have been benefiting from RSPO certification by gaining a better understanding of the importance of group formation. “Our organisation highlights the value of RSPO sustainability standards,” said Ibu Prihati, Internal Control System member of KUD Mekar Sari. “Prior to RSPO certification, we had no interest in any organisation, but today our members have gained an understanding of the importance of forming groups after obtaining the certification.”
Ibu Prihati shared that the restrictions of the pandemic, however, had led them to postpone a number of training sessions. When training resumed, they needed to align with mandated health protocols. RSPO’s financial assistance helped them purchase health supplies for these sessions.
“This assistance helped KUD Mekar Sari members by supplying masks, hand sanitisers, and other medical equipment during the training. Additionally, the funds are also used to purchase food staples also for distribution to members.”
“Through the RSPO Credits incentives, we are able to contribute to the local community, and reward elementary school students who excel during grade advancement,” he added.
Another Indonesian smallholder group, the Koperasi Sawit Bangkit in Central Kalimantan, had been leveraging RSPO certification by undergoing training in various aspects of sustainable oil palm cultivation, including fertilising, harvesting, and waste management.
Bapak Agung Mujiono, Group Manager of the Cooperative, reported that the group’s surveillance audit preparations were affected by travel restrictions as a result of the COVID pandemic. “We had to delay some training in order to prevent the spread of COVID-19 in our village. When the situation improved, we resumed in time for the surveillance audit in December.”
Asked how the RSPO hardship fund has assisted the group, he said, “We were indeed surprised and grateful of RSPO's initiative. This fund is important to bear the costs in preparing for the surveillance audit scheduled for December. Additionally, we used a portion of the funds to provide food staples to the group members.
Mujiono underscored the role of consumers in supporting certified smallholders especially at this critical period. “We hope that more consumers become aware of the fact that they use palm oil on a daily basis. Consumers have the power to request that their favourite products be made using environmentally and socially responsible palm oil,” he said. “It is also important to source from certified RSPO Independent Smallholders — that way, we can get the support of more individuals or partners.”