In our continuing series on SDGs and the GSEP, we’re taking a look at SDG17: Revitalise the global partnership for sustainable development. At GAR we have a long history of partnering with many of our key stakeholders in order to achieve sustainable palm oil. Partnership is a core tenet of the GSEP and a critical strategy for sustainable development because the issues are often complex, multi-layered and involve multiple stakeholders.
Partnering with smallholders to achieve sustainable palm oil
One of the longest partnerships we have is with the smallholders in our concession areas. We have been involved in the plasma smallholder scheme since 1990. This is a scheme where we help smallholders in our concession areas manage their plantations and they enter into a contract to sell their fresh fruit bunch (FFB) to our mills.
Currently, there are around 67,000 plasma smallholders across our concessions in Indonesia. Their smallholdings make up 21 percent of our total plantation area and they supplied 22 percent of our FFB intake in 2015.
Through our partnership with the smallholders we are able to help them improve their productivity. This is because they can enjoy the benefits of our R&D efforts such as access to our high-yielding Dami Mas seeds. In 2015, our plasma smallholders achieved a CPO yield of 4.9 tonnes per hectare, which is among the highest in the industry in Indonesia.
Aside from providing them with good seeds, we also help train our plasma smallholders in good agronomy practices including how to use fertilisers correctly and how best to deal with pests. We are able to share with them the latest in best agricultural practices and our SMART Research Institute plays a leading role in spreading this knowledge through regular training sessions.
SMARTRI conducting a training session for smallholders.
The high yield achieved by our plasma smallholders is a very clear indicator of the success of this partnership. Independent smallholders in Indonesia who are not partnered with large companies in a plasma scheme generally only achieve a CPO yield of two to three tonnes per hectare. This is because they do not have access to guidance and training from the big estates, and they are unable to use good quality high-yield seeds.
Noting this, GAR is now also focused on helping independent smallholders. We are doing this through the Innovative Financing Scheme, where we help independent smallholders get subsidised loans so that they can start replanting with good quality seeds. It takes four years for the oil palm tree to mature and these loans will help support the livelihoods of the farmers during that time and give them the confidence to take the crucial decision to replant. We also offer them the same sort of training that we give to our plasma smallholders so that they can manage their estates better. The hope is that this will help double or even triple the current low yields of the independent farmers.
How does all this contribute to sustainable development? Boosting yields and productivity can raise incomes and living standards for millions of palm oil farmers helping to eradicate poverty – another SDG. There is also a direct link to environmental sustainability. If we can get more yield out of each hectare that is already planted, the pressure to open more land for palm oil development can be reduced. This in turn can help save forests and peat lands from being developed and help reduce the occurrence of forest fires, haze and GHG emissions.
The collaboration with smallholders is one of the central partnerships for GAR, but it’s not the only one. In the second part on partnerships, I’ll take a look at the other partnerships we are involved in and how they contribute to sustainable palm oil.