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Indonesian RSPO independent smallholder membership up 167%

2020 has been a tough year for many, regardless of the sector. Despite global challenges and uncertainty, the Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil (RSPO) continues to strive to increase smallholder inclusion in the sustainability agenda; to help enhance their livelihoods and provide greater access to international markets. Compared to last year, membership applications from Indonesian independent smallholder groups have increased by 167 percent.

Despite global challenges and uncertainty, the Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil (RSPO) continues to strive to increase smallholder inclusion in the sustainability agenda; to help enhance their livelihoods and provide greater access to international markets. Compared to last year, membership applications from Indonesian independent smallholder groups have increased by 167% (image courtesy Jonathan Perugia / RSPO).

Based on RSPO Market Data, up until October 2020, the total number of RSPO certified Indonesian independent smallholders is 5 914 smallholders across 29 groups, with a total certified area of 14 909 hectares (ha).

We are pleased to see continuous growth in the number of Indonesian independent smallholders joining RSPO this year. Compared to last year, membership applications from Indonesian independent smallholder groups have increased by 167 percent. Out of the 16 new applications, 10 applications have received approval to join the RSPO system and work towards transforming the cultivation of oil palm to make sustainable practices the norm. The new members represent an accumulated total of 2 149 independent smallholders, with a total land area of 5 380.85 hectares, spread across three provinces Riau, North Sumatra, and Central Kalimantan, said Tiur Rumondang, Country Director Indonesia, RSPO.

Independent Smallholders’ an untapped market

Another achievement for Indonesian independent smallholders this year was when they became the first in the world to be certified under the new RSPO Independent Smallholder (ISH) Standard, which was adopted at the 16th General Assembly in November 2019.

It is hoped that this significant milestone will continue to boost the growth of smallholders’ participation in sustainable palm oil practices in Indonesia.

Tiur Rumondang says that smallholders are an “untapped market” and sees leverage points in sustainable palm oil supply from independent smallholders who hold the lion’s share of land control in Indonesia compared to scheme smallholders.

To make the Independent Smallholder Standard accessible to all, the next priority investment is directed at giving life to the standard through continuous adapted training and proactive engagement based on the smallholder heterogeneity within the country, said Tiur Rumondang.

According to Yoyok Kuswoyo, Group Manager of Kelompok Tani Karya Bersama, they learned from a nearby successful group and expect that their newly established group can also implement better plantation management practices while maintaining trust among their own members. The group has gone through various rounds of training in order to join RSPO.

We see the benefit of recording Fresh Fruit Bunches (FFB) and collectively planning for fertilisation as a group, which is much cheaper compared to doing it individually, said Yoyok Kuswoyo.

Greater market demand needed

RSPO hopes to see others inspired by the achievements of certified groups. The lives of smallholders will not change until there is greater demand from markets.

Furthermore, markets also need to broaden their understanding of what inclusive means within the palm oil industry. The smallholder unit understands it is important to align the priorities of all market players while leveraging government initiatives to make the sector more inclusive for smallholders.

The scale of smallholders being certified in Indonesia is a market achievement. The groups were able to achieve certification with assistance and incentives from market players in the supply chain. Our priority is to attract more market players to build a stronger business case for smallholder inclusion through increased support and market links. By buying RSPO Smallholder Credits and by supporting smallholder certification programmes on the ground, we are seeing an excellent demonstration of shared responsibility, said Guntur Prabowo, RSPO Indonesia’s Smallholder Programme Manager.

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