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Independent Smallholders’ Palm Oil (Plantations) Heading the Challenges of EUDR (Article 1 of 2)

Doc. of Koperasi Perkebunan Belayan Sejahtera for nfoSAWIT/Sustainable palm oil practices.
Independent Smallholders’ Palm Oil (Plantations) Heading the Challenges of EUDR (Article 1 of 2)

InfoSAWIT, JAKARTA - European Union Deforestation Regulation (EUDR) starts implementing in European Union (EU) as part of their efforts to minimize deforestation level in the globe. EUDR would deliver big impacts for palm oil sectors namely for independent smallholders if they cultivate theirs after December 2020. It would be different for those that got certificates, such as, Indonesian Sustainable Palm Oil (ISPO) or Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil (RSPO) as the evidence of commitment to maintain the forest and environment well. EUDR would potentially stop palm oil product exports that have something to do with deforestation.

It is important to understand that regulations, such as, EUDR has impacts not only to the environment but also to social, and economy. As a policy, EUDR influences not only environment but also the people’s behavior, threat to smallholders’ source of living, and deepen conflicts in supply chain which would end in EU countries.

When we discuss about palm oil, we should not separate the natural resources from other aspects of life. Natural resources, such as, tropical forests, cannot be isolated from other territorial modal operations, such as, man, private, and social. Palm oil as commodity that becomes the source of living for many villagers, is one sample. Data showed that independent smallholders contribute 41% of total palm oil production in national level. More than that about 13 million men, including the smallholders’ families, would get the impacts from the regulation.

I believed that the best solution is about to involve smallholders in making decision and cooperate to get the ways to maintain the environment good, and also protect their source of living. The good cooperation among the governments, other stakeholders, and independent smallholders that try to implement sustainable agricultural practices would be the key to realize the goal of sustainability which is balance. The collaborative approach like it, would be confirming that the impacts of (a) policies would be parts of sustainable solution to solve the complex issues.

Independent smallholders that try to implement sustainable agricultural practices fully realize that it is important to get sustainable environment. They want to get part in this. They also hope that the regulation (EUDR) could consider their roles in this industry and get the solution not only to protect environment but also deliver increasing economy.

Allow me to take you to the beauty of tropical forests in East Kalimantan Province in three sub districts that many (outsiders) do not know yet. They are Kembang Janggut, Tabang, and Kenohan. These where the real stories happened. They reflect that commodities, such as, palm oil influences thousands of independent smallholders’ lives in District of Kutai Kartanegara every day. Palm oil plantations in the district laid about 15.000 hectares and about 58% of the plantations are in forest regions. These created complicated challenges because close regulation in EUDR about palm oil.

Koperasi Perkebunan Belayan Sejahtera is in cooperation with development partners that operate in Kutai Kartanegara to lay hand on independent smallholders in facing the challenges. What we do focuses to deliver trainings and insight about sustainable palm oil governance practices. In the past two years, more than 1.000 smallholders got training about best management practices (BAP). This institution also had initiatives to ap and identify smallholders’ plantations. The collaboration between the village and development partners also helped the village to make plans within landscape approach. These are our responses to answer market challenges and the threat potential of living that one of it would be from the new EUDR.

Many independent smallholders face complicated challenges namely in the context of Indonesia for having its own characteristic. I also witnessed how the smallholders that most of them, fully depend on palm oil as their source of living. They have to fight for the change. It is no doubt that almost 90% of the local depend on this commodity. But unavailable infrastructures and the lack of investors’ interests to invest in the regions, created deeper uncertain economy.

The other challenge is that some of smallholders’ plantations in the cooperation are in forest regions. Though the plantations have been developing for more than a decade, and significant parts of the smallholders’ living, there is not qualified regulations about the plantation status. This made the smallholders fight for to get legal enforcement needed.

Koperasi Perkebunan Belayan Sejahtera that got RSPO certificate in 2022 has become one sample to create sustainable practices. We did map and verification on our smallholders (the members of cooperation, created transparent system, and tried hard to make sure that sustainable plantations (cultivation) is really implemented. The uncertain legal and the market pressure that demand fresh fruit bunch (FFB) from other area use, would be harder (for us) because the limited ‘legal’ areas in the villages.

When complicated system and policy happen in Indonesia, what we do to obey sustainability principles is a complex struggle. How would we face the challenges and when would the complex situation remain still by the government? These questions still hang in the air.

The government should actually deliver technical and financial supports for independent smallholders to get sustainable practices by having trainings, selecting more sustainable plant variety, and comprehensive solutions that would help to increase plantation production. Independent smallholders’ empowerment and escalating the quality of organization would be significant to get better access to resources, markets, and knowledge needed.

Deforestation and forest degradation in Indonesia are not internal issues in this country but many countries concern about. That is why ending the two would be the same responsibility for the future of our planet proactively.

By: Chairman of Koperasi Perkebunan Belayan Sejahtera, East Kalimantan Province/ Jamaluddin