Palm Oil Farmers Union (SPKS) in the West Kalimantan District of Sintang submitted an academic draft for the District Regulations Draft on Plantation Business Partnerships and Facilitation of Community Plantation Development, as part of their efforts to improve cooperation between farmers and plantation companies.
The document, handed over to the Sintang District Head Jarot Winarno on Thursday (27/3) at the district’s agriculture and plantation office, was the result of a study by SPKS.
“We have received many complaints from farmers and seen it on the field, matters related to this partnership issue. What needed is a clear regulation and assistance from the local administration so that it can be well implemented, to have a good impact on the empowerment of farmers and the productivity of oil palms,” said Kornelis, head of the Sintang Chapter of SPKS who was quoted in a press release.
Kornelis further explained that regulation at the district level was urgently needed in order to improve the business partnership pattern between plantation companies and small farmers, as well as ensuring good implementation from companies to assist the development of people’s oil plantation covering an area equivalent to 20 percent of their plantation area.
According to SPKS, the study was undertaken in response to an expressed commitment of the District Head to come out with such regulation.
The release also quoted Yustinus Laud, an independent oil palm smallholder in Telaga Dua village, in the Binjai Sub-District of Sintang, as saying that so far, farmers did not sell their Fresh Fruit Bunches (FFBs) under any partnership with companies and instead remained heavily dependent on intermediaries.
The use of intermediaries resulted in a cut in the prices received by the farmers who also have minimal access to programs that might empower them.
Therefore, Laud said, the local government needed to soon come up with the promised regulation so that it can assure the continuity in the business of independent oil palm farmers in the future.
According to Gunawan, an expert in Agrarian Constitution from the Indonesian Human Rights Committee for Social justice (IHCS) who drafted the academic document, there was this perception that facilitating the development of people’s plantations meant providing the land and credits under a plasma scheme partnership with a large plantation company.
“The thing is, the development of people’s plantation is an obligation for plantation companies besides engaging in plantation partnership and honoring its socio-environmental responsibilities,” Gunawan said.
He said the obligation was stipulated by Law Number 39 of 2014 on Plantation that had already been reviewed by the Constitutional Court and thus, could be used to prepare the regulation on this obligation which under that law needed to be regulated by government regulation (PP).
“Unfortunately, this government regulation does not exist yet, so the obligation to develop people’s plantation falls to the government through Joint Regulation of the Agriculture Minister and the Agrarian and Spatial Planning Minister, and this does not provide a guideline and standard for the facilitation of developing people’s plantation but only covers the requirements for a permit and land tenure,” Gunawan added.
Marselinus Andri, Head of SPKS Advocacy Department said that his organization really threw its support behind the commitment of Sintang District to come out with a district regulation on the partnership and the facilitation of the development of people’s plantations.
“So that there is a legal basis for the practice on the field and its implementation at the plantations is more participative, under a direct supervision by the government,” Andri said, adding that the momentum provided by the government’s moratorium on new oil palm concessions, could also become an important part of the evaluation of the partnership between plantation companies and smallholders, and the implementation of their obligation to help develop people’s plantations. The implementation of those obligations could be part of the permit evaluations’ process.
He said that SPKS will continue to push for the Sintang district administration to follow up the draft.
“This will provide a good example for other districts in their efforts to find a legal breakthrough in relations to the implementation of the partnership and the facilitation of the development of people’s plantation at the district level,” Andri concluded.