The Palm Scribe

The Jurisdictional Approach in Palm Oil Production: The Case of Central Kalimantan

Pangkalan Bun, Central Kalimantan – The Indonesian province of Central Kalimantan is carving itself a distinction in the world of sustainability, by hosting one of three regions across the globe that have been picked as pilot projects for a jurisdictional approach in attaining palm oil sustainability, and also the first oil palm farmer group on the island to be certified in sustainability.

Joining Sarawak in Malaysia, and Ecuador, Central Kalimantan’s Seruyan district has been designated for a pilot project for the jurisdictional approach to palm oil certification in 2015 under the framework of the Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil (RSPO).

A jurisdictional approach to certification means making sure that all stakeholders in a jurisdictional territory work together on an equal footing, to ensure that production and processing of a particular commodity in the jurisdiction are done sustainably.

Zaenuddin noor, second assistant to the Seruyan District Chief, said that the district government is committed to a jurisdictional certification for its palm oil sector, meaning that if it gets the sustainability status, all palm oil produced within that territory has to be sustainable.

“This is indeed a necessity….. the development in the global economy requires specific requirements if we want to be active in it and one of these, is that palm oil should clearly be ISPO or RSPO certified,” Zaenuddin said. ISPO is the Indonesian sustainable palm oil scheme. He added, however, that the certification process was a difficult one for individual smallholders who account for a major part of palm oil producers in Indonesia

“The district government wants the people to also participate, and abide by the agreed requirements,” he told visiting journalists at the Hanau sub-district office in Seruyan. The jurisdictional approach, he said, was a way to ensure that smallholders embrace sustainable oil palm cultivation practice.

Speaking at the same occasion, the head of the district food resilience office, Ilyas said that efforts to move towards a jurisdictional certification were begun in 2015-2016, while Sugian Noor, who heads the Seruyan District Communication and Information Office, said a commitment to the jurisdictional approach had been made, under the RSPO initiative, to the Earth Innovation research institute (INOBU).

Sugian said the district had established a working group to prepare for the jurisdictional certification, composed of eight district institutions, representatives of eight major palm oil companies operating in Seruyan and eight representatives of social or community organizations.

Through the jurisdictional approach, Seruyan district seeks to not only improve productivity, open wider market access and improve the livelihood of farmers, but also “to reduce deforestation rate, to map and protect high conservation value areas, to reduce social conflicts, to map and assist farmers, to protect the rights of customary communities and inventarize land with cultural sites,” he said, adding that mapping had been completed for eight of the 10 existing sub-districts.

However, almost four years afterward, things appeared not to have moved as swiftly as was hoped, among others, because of land legality issues.

Tiur Rumondang, RSPO Indonesia Director said that in the face of such problems, the district could seek a gradual certification, “Begin with the few sub-districts that are ready, and expand the coverage as the problems are fixed in the others.”

Although not designated as a pilot project, the neighboring district of West Kotawaringin is equally determined to use the jurisdictional approach to oil palm certification. It is already home to the first farmer cooperative to have received RSPO certification in Kalimantan as well as that of the Indonesian Sustainable Palm Oil (ISPO).

Unlike its neighbor Seruyan, West Kotawaringin does not have too many issues with land legality problems. The district was one of the main destinations for government-sponsored transmigration schemes that took millions from densely-populated Java and Bali islands to the outer islands. Under such programs, the land distributed to the transmigrants came with the proper land title.

But like in Seruyan, the West Kotawaringin district government boast of committed champions to the cause. Besides the District Chief, Nurhidayah, who has publicly aired her full support for the jurisdiction approach, the head of the district’s Food, Horticulture and Agriculture Office, Kamaludin, is the main engine behind the sustainability drive.

“The government of West Kotawaringan sees the Jurisdictional Approach as the most suitable approach,” Nurhidayah told the journalists taking part in a media visit to the district to see what is being done in promoting both the approach and sustainability.

To facilitate farmers in obtaining Plantation Cultivation Registration Document (STDB) that is a prerequisite for certification, the district head delegated the authority to verify on-site and issue the documents to the local sub-district chief, a first in the country.

Kamaludin said that the district had already made a lot of preparation and was actually ready to implement the jurisdiction approach and was awaiting that RSPO completes the formulation of the institutional side required to be responsible for the implementation of the approach. The district had already completed the required environmental carrying capacity analysis and even had a spatial plan ready ahead of the provincial one.

“The Jurisdictional Approach is the answer to the problems faced by corporations and farmers. It will reduce social conflicts and land fires, and improve the welfare of farmers, the main actors in the palm oil sector,” he said.

He said the authorities were also trying to determine the most appropriate form of the jurisdictional institution that would be responsible for the implementation of the approach and added that most likely it would be in the form of a district-owned enterprise. Governments are barred from sitting on the executive board.

Meanwhile, the Tani Subur Village Cooperative in Pangkalan Tiga, in the Pangkalan Lada sub-district of West Kotawaringin, which in 2017 obtained RSPO certification and also that of ISPO, continues to promote sustainability to neighboring villages. The village of Pangkalan Dewa is currently awaiting the issuance of RSPO certification.

“My hope is, once all plantations in Pangkalan Lada are certified, then the West Kotawaringin district should get certified,” said Setiyana, the head of the Tani Subur cooperative.

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