New study highlights the need for building farmer groups and providing land certificates to improve the sustainability and profitability of smallholder farming

A new study highlights the need to ensure that smallholder oil palm farmers receive support to ensure they are farming legally, productively and sustainably. The report was published by Institut Penelitian Inovasi Bumi (INOBU), the Indonesian sister organization of Earth Innovation Institute and member the Forests, Farms and Finance Initiative, a global initiative promoting sustainable supply chains. The work is funded by the Norwegian Agency for Development Cooperation (Norad) with support from the David and Lucille Packard Foundation and The International Climate Initiative (IKI) of the Federal Ministry of the Environment, Nature Conservation, Building and Nuclear Safety (BMUB), Germany.

The report presented the results of a comprehensive study of independent, oil palm smallholders in the districts of Kotwaringin Barat and Seruyan, in Central Kalimantan. The study was conducted as part of an ongoing effort of the provincial and district governments of Central Kalimantan, with the support of the Ministry of Agriculture, to map and monitor all independent oil palm smallholders in the province. The broader goal of the initiative is to ensure that all palm oil in Central Kalimantan is being produced sustainably and benefitting smallholders.

As part of the study, 1,229 oil palm smallholders were surveyed and had their lands mapped. This study is the most comprehensive survey of independent oil palm smallholders in Indonesia to date. In Kotawaringin Barat district, 76 percent of the farmers surveyed were transmigrants. In Seruyan district, in contrast, the majority of the farmers were indigenous, with around 55 percent identifying as Dayak. Although indigenous farmers had, on average, far larger lands, they were less likely to have land certificates than transmigrant farmers. Indigenous farmers were also more likely to have their farms located in forest areas than transmigrant farmers, a result of historical processes of land classification that overlooked the land rights of indigenous peoples.

The authors highlight that most independent smallholders farm without government support, affecting their productivity and the sustainability of their farming practices. The report recommends the government, in conjunction with the private sector, more effectively target interventions at independent smallholders. These recommendations include clarifying the legal status of the lands of indigenous farmers, especially those with lands in forest areas, supporting farmers to join or establish farmer groups and cooperatives, and more systematic interventions for improving  farmers’ access to fertilizers, credit and agricultural training.

Read the full study here