Unilever joins IDH coalition in backing Aceh Tamiang in its bid to become a sustainability leader

Unilever and IDH have committed a combined investment of over 1.5 million euros to support the district of Aceh Tamiang in its goal to become one of the greenest commodity-producing regions in Indonesia. Last year, stakeholders from Aceh Tamiang established a production, protection and inclusion (PPI) compact. The compact’s three-year program will increase forest protection and reforestation, improve monitoring, support smallholder farmers to increase its sustainable palm oil productivity by 30 percent, and finally to protect an area within the Leuser Ecosystem.

© Bea Wiharta

Forest in Leuser ecosystem / copyright Bea Wiharta

“Unilever’s commitment will bring us one step closer to our green vision for Aceh Tamiang. We are committed to protecting the forest, increasing the productivity and yield of sustainable palm oil and improving smallholders’ livelihoods. The support from Unilever, as well as from PepsiCo and Musim Mas, shows that this is not only important for our district, but also to the international community,” said Head of Aceh Tamiang District, H. Mursil.

Together with a coalition of stakeholders from Aceh Tamiang, Unilever will assist in improving sustainable production for 13,000 hectares of agricultural land, conserve 100,000 ha of high conservation value (HCV) / high carbon stock (HCS) forest and enhance the livelihoods of 1,500 independent smallholder farmers and 100 community members, based on the SourceUp approach for sustainable sourcing. This will help palm oil companies to supply buyers cost-effectively with 100% responsible palm oil.

“We are very proud to support this initiative,” said Dave Ingram, Chief Procurement Officer at Unilever. “This investment is testament to our commitment to support smallholder farmers – the true stewards of the land – and to protect and restore natural habits in urgent need of protection – such as the Leuser Ecosystem.”

The Aceh Tamiang landscape covers an area of more than 214,699 ha in which 30 percent of that intersects with the Leuser Ecosystem (~79,500 ha). In this district, oil palm plantation covers approximately 71,000 ha, consisting of 50,000 ha of private concessions and 21,000 ha of areas cultivated by smallholder farmers. This is unusual for palm oil-producing areas, as the smallholder farms cover a large area appropriately to private concessions. The project area where Unilever will be focusing in is in the sub-district of Semadam, Aceh Tamiang District.

“Aceh Tamiang plays an increasing role as a sourcing area for many palm oil companies and traders. Sustainability has become a critical issue to ensure palm oil is produced sustainably with good agricultural practices (GAPs) and leave no threat to the Leuser Ecosystem. On the other hand, more than 30% of palm oil in the district is produced by independent smallholder farmers, leaving it more challenging as they possess limited knowledge on good agriculture practices, sustainability and own land with unclear legal statuses,” said Fitrian Ardiansyah, Chairman of Yayasan Inisiatif Dagang Hijau (IDH), which facilitates the Aceh Tamiang PPI compact.

Lack of knowledge of GAPs and limited access to high-quality agricultural inputs are some of the biggest barriers commonly identified in smallholder farming practices. The current productivity for a smallholder farmer is approximately 14 tons of fresh fruit bunches (FFB)/ha, which is far below the average national FFB production per hectare (around 20 – 22 tons FFB/ha). This low productivity results in insufficient livelihoods and incentivises expansion into forested areas.

To ensure forest protection, especially the buffer zone of the Leuser Ecosystem, Unilever and Leuser Conservation Forum, locally known as FKL, facilitated by IDH, will implement a restoration pilot project. This project will use agroforestry-based models to offer local communities alternative livelihood options to oil palm farming, in order to prevent encroachment into the forest and Leuser Ecosystem. The model would advocate for a social forestry model to ensure local communities obtain appropriate land tenure for this area.

At least 500 hectares are planned to be rehabilitated through an agroforestry approach. Continuous training on agroforestry, planting seedlings and GAPs will be provided to communities living around the restoration areas. It is expected that at least 100 community members will receive training and continuous assistance for the agroforestry approach. The training will be conducted at a nursery facility and aims to reach at least 50 women.

“We are very pleased that Unilever’s involvement as a major global company is supporting Aceh Tamiang in achieving sustainable development, especially in the plantation sector. This is the reward for the persistence of the government, NGOs and the people of Aceh Tamiang to maintain the remaining forest. This program will certainly help improve the community’s economic livelihood, improve good governance of plantations and of course increase forest protection and forest cover in Aceh Tamiang,” said Rudi Putra, Head of Board Trustees FKL.

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