PANGKALAN TIGA, Central Kalimantan – West Kotawaringin, an Indonesian district on Borneo island, is ready and gearing up, for a jurisdictional approach to attain a sustainable palm oil status thanks to the role of champions in at least three of its stakeholders — the local government, smallholders and non-governmental organizations.
The jurisdictional approach, covering a regional unit overseen by an authority with regulatory power and involving the broad engagement of the other concerned stakeholders, is an approach championed by the Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil (RSPO) which is currently in the final phases of completing the details of this approach.
“We are ready. the moment RSPO says go, we can start immediately,” said Kamaluddin, who heads the West Kotawaringin district office for food, horticulture, and agriculture.
Under the jurisdictional approach, the RSPO Principles and Criteria (P&C) is applied at the level of the jurisdiction, meaning that in theory, when the approach is used, all palm oil produced in the district should have been produced sustainably.
“The government of West Kotawaringan sees the Jurisdictional Approach as the most suitable approach,” said Kamaludin, who has been among the staunchest proponents of the jurisdictional approach in his district and has welcomed and encouraged the participation of other stakeholders, including NGOs and corporations.
“My way is to ask them first how do they want to assist us, then I will tell them this is what we need. I will then leave them to work in the field but if there was any problem, they should come and inform me immediately and we will sit down and try to find a solution together,” he said.
RSPO Indonesia Director, Tiur Rumondang said that in a jurisdictional approach all stakeholders were equal and decisions should be made together. The local government’s role is to come up with legislation that backs up the decisions and make them binding to all.
“Why a jurisdictional approach? We hope that under this concept, all producers can take part, where non-RSPO members can also join… Under the Jurisdictional approach, all concerned sides must be involved,” said Tiur, adding a lot of local elements would also be taken into consideration.
The other advantage Tiur said, was that the approach allowed greater efficiency as all stakeholders were involved, and both the government and development can be more transparent, including in its spatial planning.
Meanwhile, Kamaludin’s hands-on approach has encouraged RSPO, as well as NGOs such as Earth Innovation Research institute (Inobu), to work to promote the approach in the district. Inobu has been assisting groups of smallholders to prepare for and obtain RSPO certification.
One of such groups is the Tani Subur Village Cooperative Unit in Pangkalan Tiga village in West Kutawaringin which took just one year to get RSPO certification, the first for farmers’ group in Kalimantan, the Indonesian part of Borneo.
The relatively fast time to obtain the certification was an amazing feat mostly attributable to the presence of an able local champion, Setiyana, who has led the cooperative for more than 15 years. Setiyana, who is currently on his second term as a member of the district legislative council, said that he was first approached by Inobu and found the idea of sustainability appealing in that it provided an avenue for farmers, especially independent ones, to gain better cultivation practices as well as guarantee and access to markets for their products.
“The most difficult challenge was to convince other farmers, members of the cooperative, to subscribe to the sustainability concept,” Setiyana told The Palm Scribe during a media trip to the area held by RSPO and Inobu to learn more about the jurisdictional approach and what is being done to that effort in Central Kalimantan, particularly in the districts of West Kotawaringin and neighboring Seruyan.
Under his leadership, the cooperative has not only been able to obtain certification for its products but has also been able to flourish and develop into a multi-billion rupiah diversified and business-oriented cooperative that counts a huge agro-tourism center replete with swimming pools, man-made lakes and host of other facilities in the middle a sprawling oil palm plantation, a cattle ranch, a supermarket and a lending cooperative.
“We are lucky to have a local government that supports and facilitates us,” Setiyana said, adding that, for example, the head of the district has simplified the procedure, delegating authority to issue Registration Document for Plantation Cultivation (STBD) a land legality document required for RSPO sustainability certification.
“It only makes sense that to simplify matters, instead of officials from the district town to go to the regions to verify the planted area for issuance of the STDB, that the office nearest to the concerned area, that is the head of the sub-district, go and verify the land and consequently issue the document,” Kamaludin said explaining why the district authority delegated the power to issue the STDBs to sub-district heads.
It also helps that most of the areas planted with palm oil were former government-sponsored transmigration areas and therefore there were not many problems of land legality concerned, one of the main problems faced by smallholders in many other Indonesian regions in accessing sustainability certification.
For Heni Martanila, a sustainability staff with Inobu who has been instrumental in getting the certification of the Tani Subur cooperative, one positive factor in Central Kalimantan was the formation of a jurisdiction platform towards sustainability, backed with the commitment of the Central Kalimantan governor and the heads of the West Kotawaringin and Seruyan districts.
“In this platform, there are a number of components, including companies, NGOs and representatives of farmers,” she said that this platform facilitated interactions between the various shareholders.
“What Inobu is doing is focused more on assisting independent smallholders, from mapping their land, to obtain land legality or the STDB,” Michael “Nobo” Padmanaba, research managers with Inobu said. He said that under the jurisdictional approach, the RSPO P&C is combined with the government’s development principles.
Kamaludin said that the local government was not busy trying to formulate an appropriate jurisdictional entity to manage and coordinate the implementation of the approach in the district as government.
He said that most likely the entity would be led by a district government-owned company since the government itself was prohibited from leading such entity because of the equality principle.