A number of stakeholders have set up a Center of Excellence (CoE) for the Sustainable Palm Oil Initiative Program in the Indonesian province of Riau to help smallholders, both from plasma schemes and independent ones, to manage their oil palm plantations sustainably, according to a press release from Asian Agri obtained by the Palm Scribe on Friday.

The CoE was officially opened by the Deputy Head of the Pelalawan District, Zardewan and is a result of cooperation between the Tanoto Foundation, palm oil company Asian Agri and the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP).

Located in the Ukui sub-district of Pelalawan, the center also encourages and helps smallholders to seek sustainability certification under the Indonesian Sustainable Palm Oil (ISPO) scheme.

“I welcome this center of excellence for oil palm farmers. I hope that the farmers can make their best use of this center of excellence, to learn how to implement a sustainable oil palm management, so they can yield an optimal amount of fruits,” Zardewan said while inaugurating the CoE on Wednesday (24/4), according to the press release.

The center had previously existed in a less formal form since 2017 and only provided information and technical cultivation training to farmers who belong to two organizations, namely the Bukit Potalo village cooperative and the Amanah Association of farmers.

Tanoto Foundation Global CEO Satrijo Tanudjojo, speaking at the same occasion, said that quality education was one key factor in overcoming poverty as it could accelerate equality. He said that at the center, oil palm farmers, whether attached to a large plantation through a plasma scheme or independent, could mutually learn from each other so that they can replicate the sustainable practices of successful farmers.

Besides providing technical training on plantation maintenance and assistance in meeting ISPO certification audits for 27 farmer groups, the program also supports the education quality in four local primary schools and improvement in access to health facilities for mothers and children in four villages in Ukui sub-district. The two farmers organizations, Amanah and the Bukit Potalo cooperatives, have already received ISPO certification respectively in 2017 and 2018.

Azis Hidayat, who heads the Secretariat of the ISPO Commission, in his address at the center’s inauguration ceremony, said that the commission was fully in support of constructive partnership programs and hoped that this initiative could be replicated by other palm oil companies in the country.

The head of Asian Agri Corporate Communications Maria Sidabutar said that the center of excellence was a strategic partnership between a number of stakeholders in the Indonesian oil palm sector, and the partnership with farmers was hoped to boost the competitiveness of Indonesia’s palm oil.

“We all share the same goals, which is ensuring the sustainable management of oil palm in Indonesia while at the same time improving the lives of farmers in terms of economy and socio-cultural and in raising the quality of the environment,” Sidabutar said.

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