The Indonesia Palm Oil Development for Smallholders Project is an initiative by PT Musim Mas, a palm oil producer and processor, and the International Finance Corporation (IFC) to support independent smallholders and to ensure that women get equal opportunities in training and increase their involvement in palm oil production.

Since 2015, the programme has successfully trained over 30,000 independent smallholders in Sumatra, on a variety of topics, from good agricultural practices that increase productivity, and occupational health and safety, to environmental management, and access to markets. 

The Indonesia Palm Oil Development for Smallholders Project also provides financial management training to the wives of independent smallholders to help strengthen their role as the person who holds financial control over production activities in independent smallholder plantations.

Nur'Annisa was one of the trainees. She and her husband own 15 hectares of land in the Rambah Muda Village of Rokan Hulu District of Riau, Indonesia. Nur’Annisa's husband works in the field and supervises their workers, while she records the income and expenses of the family, related to their oil palm plantation in the logbook provided by The Indonesia Palm Oil Development for Smallholders Project. These records include details such as the output, how much is spent on fertiliser and wages of their farm hands, as well as other expenses.

"Money used to just come in and then get spent without any calculation. Now I know how to the manage money properly and correctly," said Nur'Annisa, who also serves on the board of the village’s Tabulampot Smallholders Group.

Gender equality in the Indonesia Palm Oil Development for Smallholders Project is also apparent in the involvement of women field officers assisting farmers and villagers. “As many as 30-50% of the Indonesia Palm Oil Development for Smallholders Project field officers are women recruited by IFC from the local area, thus making interactions and building trust and good relations with the local communities easier,” said Rob Nicholls of the Independent Smallholder Division at PT Musim Mas.

"This really is a positive change, because usually young women won’t be given such opportunities to travel to areas and speak with smallholders, and serve as role models that women can do this," Rob explained. "They are the key to this programme."

Increasing women's involvement in palm oil production makes sense not only for gender equality, but also economically. The United Nations’ Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) estimates that women could increase yields on plantations by 20-30%, if they had access to the same productive resources as men. This could raise agricultural output in developing countries by 2.5-4%.

“Making sure women were involved both as smallholder facilitators and advisers, as well as in training and smallholder groups did take time. But in the end, it’s a successful strategy," said Rob.

For more information on how RSPO is supporting smallholders and working to improve gender equality in the sustainable oil palm sector, visit 

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