About the group
Number of smallholders: 703 (544 Men, 159 Women)
Total Land Area: 1282.97 Ha
Group location: Jl Mayang Huta 1 Boluk Nagori Kec Bosar Maligas Kabupaten Simalungun Sumatera Utara 21183
SUSTAINABILITY JOURNEY STORY
Empowering women through vegetable home gardening
A palm oil smallholder cooperative in the Village of Nagori Boluk in the Simalungun District of North Sumatra has initiated a vegetable home gardening programme that aims to empower women in the area after obtaining RSPO certification.
The Konsumen Bersatu Makmur Jaya Cooperative has formed a new cooperative called Sepakat Mekar Bersama, allowing its members, mostly housewives in the village, to share ideas and experiences about vegetable gardening and other issues such as family health and nutrition.
Ardiansyah Sinto Sirait, chairman of Konsumen Bersatu Makmur Jaya Cooperative, said the new cooperative was formed as a contribution from palm oil smallholders in the area after they had a better understanding of sustainable practices in their plantation when applying for RSPO certification.
“Oil palm farmers of the cooperative have a better awareness of the environment which drives us to expand to wider activities in the neighbourhood by forming the new cooperative to empower women through vegetable home gardening.”
He said the new cooperative wanted to help the members gain self-confidence by engaging in social relationships outside their family and contribute to environmental issues. The Sepakat Mekar Bersama Cooperative now has about 200 members since its establishment two years ago, he added.
“The cooperative provides new skills in expanding production for women in small-scale agribusiness. The members will be able to help the housewives contribute to their family finances.”
The all-women cooperative, he said, was assisted by Unioleo (Unilever Oleochemical) at the beginning, when the members were introduced to several kinds of vegetables suitable for home gardening in the area, including water spinach, pak choi, spinach, chili, tomato, eggplant, cucumber, and lettuce.
In addition to vegetable selection, they were also trained in site selection and preparation, garden layout and design, seedbed preparation, sowing practices, fertilisation, weeding, and insect and disease management without pesticides, Ardi said.
Unioleo also provided a tutorial on a hydroponic system as well as the vegetable seeds for the home gardening, and other inputs like fertilisers and other related information, he said
“The women are encouraged to participate in the programme, no matter how small the garden. Home gardening is the use of an area around the house where various vegetables can be grown year-round for household consumption. If there are more crops, however, they will be able to sell the extra to the cooperative to be supplied to the canteen at Unioleo.”
“So, this is how vegetable home gardening empowers women, that they can increase their economic contribution to the household. We also expect the women to gain self-confidence and play a role in the community,” Ardi said.
As the first body dealing with sustainable practices in the village, the Konsumen Bersatu Makmur Jaya Cooperative was set up as a requirement for the palm oil smallholders to obtain RSPO certification.
According to Ardi, the Konsumen Bersatu Makmur Jaya Cooperative was awarded RSPO Certification in February 2020 and retained it in April 2021, following its success in converting to sustainable practices.
“We knew nothing about sustainable practices. But then we understand about good agricultural practices in the plantation, including fertilisation, fertiliser supply, harvesting, pesticide use, and safety protection tools. It’s not easy, but we eventually converted and have now seen good results. That’s why we can replicate the same spirit in sustainable practices to a larger area in our village, through the vegetable home gardening programme.”
He said that to retain the RSPO Certification, the Konsumen Bersatu Makmur Jaya Cooperative aims to comply with all the procedures and standards, by facilitating continuous socialisation and training for the members.
“We expect to see more farmers joining the cooperative. Hopefully, by next year, we can cover up to 1,000 hectares being certified. In five years, I hope to see the whole Simalungun District receive RSPO Certification.”
Total area covered by the project
Number of smallholders benefitting from this project
Number/percentage of women supported by this project
22.62% women in this project
How you can support
The group members have contributed to the development of women in their area after being RSPO Certified. They need assistance from a third party to strengthen their capacity to retain their ISH RSPO certification. This effort should be appreciated by downstream players such as Consumer Goods Manufacturers or retailers.
Please give us support in the sustainable supply chain by purchasing the RSPO Smallholders Credits. There will be more attention and activities towards women’s development and environmental awareness in the neighbourhood.