Golden Agri-Resources (GAR) is at the forefront of Indonesia’s nationwide initiative to replant ageing oil palm trees. But, implementing the Smallholders Replanting Programme is so much more than just providing the farmers better seeds. It gives us a chance to implement sustainable practices from the planning stage – almost like a ‘fresh start’ for older plantations that were developed before the palm oil industry started its transformation.
A replanting project starts with planning and many assessments. A crucial component in these early stages includes ensuring Free, Prior, and Informed Consent (FPIC) is honoured. This means respecting the smallholders (and the surrounding communities), consulting them on every decision, and considering their needs.
In the first step, we collect basic socio-economic data and information with local communities, such as income level, common employment types, education levels. We also identify the important stakeholders and have the communities choose their representatives to assist in further sustainability assessments.
This is followed by consultation sessions with the community representatives about the Smallholders Replanting Programme project. In this step, we allow communities to voice any concerns and hope to eventually get consent to continue the replanting process.
After that, we proceed with the sustainability assessments and obtaining permits. These include the integrated HCV-HCS assessment, land surveys (including LUCA, peatland study, forest area, etc.), obtaining environmental permits (such as SPPL, UKL-UPL, AMDAL), greenhouse gas calculation, participatory mapping, social impact assessment, and land tenure study.
The importance of close communication
What we’ve learnt from our experience is that close communication is essential in the FPIC process. We need it to educate and convince communities that sustainability assessments are important.
It also helps in managing expectations and timelines. For example, when we first started FPIC processes for the Smallholders Replanting Programme, it coincided with the launch of HCV-HCS Integrated Assessments. It was challenging because the integrated assessments were new and we were one of the first companies to conduct them. The time needed to conduct them took up to a year as they had to be reviewed and approved by HCV-RN. We had to communicate closely with communities to manage their expectations about when replanting would be able to start, due to potential delays from the assessment.
These conversations can sometimes be difficult, especially when the areas are designated by the communities and company as areas that we cannot replant in because of peat depth, or because it is located on a riverbank. But they must be done, and it must be continuous. We ensure a constant exchange of information, to understand community concerns throughout the process and address them accordingly.
Finally, when all assessments are done, a public consultation will be held where the results are shared. These assessments may not be common for smallholders; they take a long time to do and the results sometimes may not be as expected. However, we need to advocate these processes to ensure that the smallholders and community’s social and environmental liability is kept to a minimum in the future.
By enacting these practices with farmers now, we ensure that they can enter certification schemes later on, which benefits the farmers, company, and entire industry.
Read about our Smallholders Replanting Programme here.
 HCV-RN is a member-based organisation that strives to protect high conservation values in areas where the expansion of forestry and agriculture may put important forests, biodiversity, and local communities at risk.
HCV-RN works together with HCSA to review, give feedback, and rate the reports that the company submits.
Rina Estelita is a CSR Officer and is part of the Sustainability Implementation team at Sinar Mas Agribusiness and Food. She is a green-living enthusiast and a person who is always winning the hearts and minds of the communities. She was previously a PSR Sustainability Officer.