The Palm Scribe

Tanjung Jabung Barat District Pioneers Innovative Approach to Smallholder Legality Problem

Many may have never heard of Tanjung Jabung Barat but this district, located in Sumatra’s Jambi province, has pioneered an innovative approach to help smallholders, especially in the palm oil sector, to sort out the legality problem of their land, a major prerequisite if they are to be embraced into the fold of sustainability.


The Investment Office and One Stop Integrated Services (DPM-PTSP) of the Tanjung Jabung Barat district has since mid-May this year held an ambulant service to reach out to the smallholders to list them and help them straighten up the matter of the legality of their plantation. The DPM-PTSP work together with Yayasan Setara Jambi, a local non-governmental organization and the Indonesia office of the Sustainable Trade Initiative (IDH) to provide the service.

“The ambulant service is a strategy to reach a larger number of farmers in villages. Before the ambulant service, the service had since 2017 only been provided at the Tanjung Jabung Barat DPM-PTSP office,” said Rukaiyah, who heads the Setara Jambi Foundation, that is active in advocating the causes of farmers.

The ambulant service, according to Rukaiyah, was first catered for the Renah Mendaluh sub-district in May and it will be rotated to other mainly agricultural sub-districts in Tanjung Jabung Barat. The next service will be provided in Tungkal Ulu sub-district in July.

It includes promoting the procedures to apply for a Plantation Business Registration (STDB), a legal document accepted for sustainability certification, access to financing and many more. The STDB contains the farmers’ identity and their plantation location, regardless of the ownership status of the land.

“This is a breakthrough for the palm oil industry in Indonesia,” said IDH Indonesia Country Director Fitrian Ardiansyah.

He said that the innovative service helped to achieve a sustainable palm oil.

“This free ambulant service for STDB really helps farmers, especially independent ones, in processing their STDB permit as one of the requirements in the certification process of ISPO/RSPO/ISCC. It is an important factor in the effort to obtain traceability of palm oil,” Ardiansyah said.  He was referring to various sustainability certification schemes —the Indonesia Sustainable Palm Oil (ISPO), the Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil (RSPO) and the International Sustainability and Carbon Certification (ISCC).

The issue of land legality has been named as one of the main stumbling blocks in the country’s drive to reach sustainable agriculture, including in palm oil.

Tanjung Jabung Barat DPM-PTSP Head H. Yan Ery was not immediately available to respond. However, he was quoted on his office’s official website: “We are ready to assist palm oil farmers — independent or of plasma scheme, in processing their STDB. This is because an STDB is not a mere legality but also a tool to build the performance of independent smallholders towards a sustainable palm oil in Indonesia.”

According to the Regulation of the Indonesian Minister of Agriculture No. 98/2013, STBDB is only given for plantation of fewer than 25 hectares.  It contains information on the landowner and the plantation, such as the owner’s domicile, the plantation operator and location, the land ownership status, the type of crop planted, the production, the source of the seeds, the number of crops, the cultivation pattern, processing partners, type of soil and year of planting.

The service also accepts documents submitted by farmers to apply for the STBD, hands over issued certificates, and helps the farmers conduct their land mapping.

Verification of the documents, which includes a verification of the farmer’s data and those of their land and on-site visits, is conducted separately. The certificates are issued by the DPM-PTSP district office. The service only hands over certificates issued by the office.

Yayasan Setara Jambi provides the data on farmers that it has gathered for years.

“Setara Jambi also makes sure that the data is accurate, that the land really belongs to the farmer, and that it is located in APL areas (land that can be used for cultivation). Setara Jambi also helps farmers in conducting their land mapping using the polygon system. The data is gathered online by using the android system and it can be accessed directly by the Tanjung Jabung Barat district administration,” Rukaiyah said.

Rukaiyah said that to her knowledge, the ambulant service is a first for Indonesia.

“For palm oil farmer STDB, it is a first for Indonesia. The strategy of going around is also a new and innovative way to reach the farmers,” she said.

Ardiansyah said that there were already expressions of interest to use the same ambulant service mode from a number of regions, including districts in Jambi.

“It should be replicated in other districts so as to accelerate the program of legalizing the assets of Indonesian farmers, including palm oil farmers,” Rukaiyah said.

Having STDB in hand will open the doors to many benefits such as financing, technical and organizational assistance, as well as sustainability certification.

Rukaiyah said that after all sub-districts in Tanjung Jabung Barat were visited, the free-of-charge service would be taken over by the respective sub-district administration and the farmers would be able to apply for the STDB at the sub-district level.

“In 2019, it is expected that the service will be directly provided at the sub-district level and be conducted online,“ Rukaiyah said, adding that the district administration is currently preparing the server.

She concluded by reminding that the service was not only limited to palm oil but also for other commodities.

“Since palm oil is currently the main priority and it is important for independent smallholders to have the STDB for a sustainable palm oil implementation, the service is therefore prioritized for palm oil,” she said.

Smallholders account for about 42 percent of the total surface of palm oil plantation in Indonesia, the world’s top palm oil producer. Indonesia and Malaysia, the second-largest producer, are responsible for about 85 percent of the world’s palm oil supply.

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