Smallholders in Jambi, Indonesia have something to “SMILE” about – in January 2022, a total of 168 independent palm oil smallholder farmers of the Asosiasi Putra Tunggal cooperative in Jambi signed a Memorandum of Understanding together with RSPO members Apical, Asian Agri and Kao Corporation, forging a partnership to carry out the Smallholder Inclusion for Better Livelihood and Empowerment (SMILE) programme.

SMILE is a joint initiative among the three companies which will provide the smallholders critical training on best sustainable farming practices, with the goal to increase their incomes through enhanced productivity and eventually pave the way for them to achieve RSPO certification. The MOU marks the first step in enlisting nearly 5,000 Independent Smallholders, alongside their downstream and smallholder associations, to take part in the programme.

Once certified, the smallholders will be eligible to receive certified palm oil premiums averaging 5% higher than non-certified palm oil. SMILE includes initiatives that promote greater smallholder inclusion and improved livelihoods through empowerment initiatives for communities, which are aligned with RSPO’s objectives as well as the companies’ commitment to help the communities collectively reach the UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).

Since its inception, SMILE has gained much ground in improving smallholders’ livelihoods, through activities that include workshops and training for smallholder groups, sessions on the procedures required for RSPO certification, polygon mapping for smallholder estates, gap analysis with consultants, and training on implementing safety measures.

All Smiles – voices from smallholders

“With smallholders making up about 45% of the palm oil production in Indonesia, it is imperative that we help facilitate their inclusion into the global sustainable supply chain,” said Fitria Kurniawan, Sustainability Manager of Apical. “With the support of partners such as Asian Agri who have rich experience in working with smallholders for years, we are committed to bridging the knowledge gap of independent smallholders to improve their livelihoods.”

Smallholders from the Asosiasi Putra Tunggal cooperative who took part in the SMILE programme were asked about their participation, including Abdul Hamid, who shared, “We have received huge benefits, especially related to the knowledge of plantation management.”

“Without this SMILE programme, we realise it’s not easy to achieve RSPO certification,” added smallholder Zuliah Hasanah.”

“We gain more results when harvesting after implementing what we learned from this training,” shared Sambra.

Unlike Scheme Smallholders who are contracted and supported financially and technically by plantation companies, Independent Smallholders are self-financed and often challenged by limited resources and expertise to sustainably produce palm oil. Through capacity building on technical know-how, the SMILE programme helps them increase their yields and incomes, priming them for RSPO certification. Since its inception in October 2020, the SMILE programme has benefitted around 600 Independent Smallholders.

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