First group of independent Oil Palm smallholder farmers in North Sumatra certified

A group of oil palm smallholder farmers were the first in North Sumatra to receive RSPO (Roundtable of Sustainable Palm Oil) certification.

A group of oil palm smallholder farmers in North Sumatera received RSPO (Roundtable of Sustainable Palm Oil) certification in a ceremony held today (20 September), attended by Unilever, PTPN III, the Sustainable Trade Initiative (IDH), De Guru Consulting and the Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil (RSPO), who partnered to conduct the certification program for those farmers.

Among those farmers around a third are women farmers, and the total land area certified is 207 hectares. The smallholder farmers have formed a group (UD Lestari) and are the first RSPO independent smallholder farmers to be certified in North Sumatera.

This RSPO certification means higher incomes for the smallholder farmers, who are now eligible to sell their fully traceable palm oil and their certificates at the international market at a premium price.

The farmer group aims to maintain its certification and add new members. As one palm oil smallholder leader in Medan, Ibu Supini puts it” “Becoming RSPO certified is important because we want to increase our income. It’s important that other farmers also become certified, so we can balance preserving the environment and farming palm oil.”

She said during the ceremony: “We are very pleased with the partnership, and have already had requests for new members. We hope that the partnership continues in the future.”

The certification process included training, mapping and application for legal land certificates and licenses. Six training modules were provided to the farmers, including Internal Control System, Good Agriculture Practices and requirements on High Conservation Values. This has helped farmers to ensure that they can maximize yields in a safe, sustainable way, while giving them greater tenure security and also ensuring that the fruit they sell is fully traceable to field level.

Attaining a sustainable palm oil industry is a shared responsibility between governments, the private sector and civil society. Therefore, to become certified the smallholder farmers worked in partnership with Unilever, PTPN III, the Sustainable Trade Initiative (IDH), De Guru Consulting and the Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil (RSPO).

Unilever Chief Supply Chain Officer, Marc Engel said: “As one of the world’s largest palm oil end users in the consumer goods sector, Unilever is committed to leading the transformation of a sustainable palm oil industry. A key guiding principle in our Sustainable Palm Oil Sourcing Policy is to support the inclusion of smallholder farmers in our supply chain. The certification of UD Lestari farmers is an important milestone on that journey. We believe that the transformation of a profitable and sustainable palm oil sector must achieve the right balance between social, environmental and economic objectives.”

With the rapid expansion in oil palm plantations owned by smallholder farmers who supply to Unilever’s suppliers, particularly in Indonesia and Malaysia, smallholder farmers are a key part of the company’s supply chain.

IDH Indonesia Director Fitrian Ardiansyah said: “IDH congratulates the farmers of UD Lestari on achieving the certification, which is a challenging process. We are pleased to partner with Unilever, PTPN III, the RSPO and De Guru Consulting to support UD Lestari in the development of sustainable palm oil in Indonesia and we hope that the group can act as an inspiration to others. The journey of sustainability starts from farmers and this hopefully can create a momentum that will lead to better productivity of palm oil and other commodities as well as protection of the environment and increased welfare of rural communities”.

PTPN III SEVP Production, Alexander Maha said: “One of the main commodities produced by PTPN III is palm kernel oil; and we believe that introducing sustainable agriculture practices to independent oil palm farmers is an important aspect to drive sustainable palm oil. We are happy to be the part of this collaboration, which is aligned with our mission to develop a sustainable agro-based upstream industry.”

RSPO Country Director Indonesia Operation, Tiur Rumondang said: “To achieve our vision of transforming the market to make sustainable palm oil the norm, smallholders’ inclusivity is a must. The commitment from stakeholders to support smallholders to implement sustainability principles and help them to get access to technical and market access as well as financial support is crucial to ensure the norm is adopted by all actors in the palm oil industry. The collaboration amongst players in the palm oil supply chain to bring UD Lestari becoming the first RSPO certified smallholders group in North Sumatera province shows an exemplary action to motivate others to do the same.”

UD Lestari ICS Manager, Jumadi said: “The RSPO certification is very beneficial for our farmers, as it equips them with in-depth knowledge of  Good Agriculture Practices (GAP), including the application of fertilizer and pesticides and on good harvesting techniques. Furthermore, the certification also allows the farmers to sell their fresh fruit bunches (TBS) at a premium price, thus increasing their income.”

UD Lestari is a group organized and supported by a local palm fruit trader, and involvement of traders in group certification is a new approach that could help to accelerate smallholder certification for RSPO.