Building the capacity of independent oil palm smallholders is one of the important prerequisites for the success of the government’s four-year-old oil palm replanting program for smallholders, a number of industry practitioners said.
Speaking at a virtual seminar held recently by Auriga Nusantara, Heri Susanto, Chairperson of the Indonesian Sustainable Palm Oil Network (JAPSBI) said that independent smallholders currently lacked knowledge about this government assistance programs and thus had difficulties to join them.
“The lack of oil palm farmers’ knowledge on group management and the legal ownership of their plantations have hampered their participation in government programs such as the smallholder oil palm replanting program and ISPO / RSPO,” said Susanto.
He also added that lack of training and information regarding the smallholder oil palm plantation replanting program (PSR) program presented an obstacle that often prevented these growers from accessing the program.
“We feel that obstacles such as the lack of training on the PSR program for independent smallholders are one of the common obstacles. The farmers often feel that they don’t really know how to get program assistance. What is the procedure like?,” he added.
There were many other obstacles that, according to Susanto, were also faced by farmers in relations to the PSR program, including issues of land legality, access to bank credit and seedlings and many more.
“The problems in the PSR program in general includes weak farmers’ institutions which in turn render the legality of the farmers’ land tenure questionable, also the availability of seedlings, the banks that provide credits and how to get seedlings are also problems,” he said.
Susanto also added that the ability of farmers in submitting and reporting, or implementing databases and mapping was also a recurrent problem.
The PSR program is a government effort to develop smallholder oil palm plantations, especially to increase their productivity by replacing old or unproductive plants with new crops in accordance with the principles of good agricultural practices.
Director for Annual and Beverage Crops at the Ministry of Agriculture, Heru Tri Widarto, told the same session that issuing Cultivation Registration Certificates (STDBs) was one way to help independent farmers through a clear and well-recorded system.
“What is the need for STDB? Statistical data collection and identification of smallholder problems, materials for the preparation of oil palm plantation management policies, the requirements for ISPO certification, and the requirements for the oil palm replanting program for smallholders,” said Widarto.
Widarto, however, agreed that the issuance of this STDB also still faced several obstacles, especially in its implementation at the regional level and also because of the limited availability of the appropriate human resources and financing.
“We are experiencing several obstacles and problems in implementing STDB, such as a good understanding of the different regulations related to the issuance of STDBs at the regional level, the limited availability of human resources, especially for mapping, the limited funding for data collection and mapping facilities, and the delegation of STDB issuance in different districts,” said Widarto.
According to Aditya Adhykasa from Auriga Nusantara, identifying smallholder oil palm plantations using satellite imagery can help the STDB problem because it can provide accurate data on the area of land owned by independent smallholders who had registered for the program.
“Independent smallholders’ palm oil plantations have a maximum land area of 25 hectares, with patterns that tend to not be uniform in structure, shape, and crop age. With satellite imagery we can confirm whether the farmer really owns 25 hectares of land or not,” said Adit.
Independent smallholders’ palm oil plantations are defined as a plantation that is organized or managed by the people / planters which are grouped into small-scaled plantation businesses and homes, with oil palm as a commodity..
Widarto added that the Ministry of Agriculture will be cooperating with Auriga to improve plantation data using Auriga’s technology, but he also will remind regional heads to participate in registering data on people’s plantations in their respective regions.
“We want to improve plantation data so that we can help the right targets, and we will be working together with Auriga. But of course for those with plantations of more than 25 hectares, it would be the responsibility of the head of the local administration to data, because the issuance of plantation business permits within the authority of the regional administration,” said Widarto.
He also said that the main objective of this program was to help farmers who were in need and help the right targets.
“We certainly want to improve all of this, so that these programs aid are rightly, we do not want the recipient of assistance from the PSR program to be farmers who don’t really need it,” concluded Widarto.