The Key Characteristics Of Independent Smallholders in the context of Sustainable Palm Oil

Palm oil plays a pivotal role in supporting Indonesia’s economic growth - as an export commodity, it’s the largest source of
foreign exchange reserves in the country. Indonesia today is the largest palm oil producer in the world and the development of
the sector is driven to a great extent by independent smallholders who have contributed significantly to increasing the productivity
of the sector.
 
However, regardless of their positive impact, independent smallholders continue to face challenges that must be immediately
addressed by the government and other relevant stakeholders. Firstly, due to the lack of data on independent smallholders,
government aid is distributed poorly and often does not reach smallholders in need. Secondly, scarcity of data also leads to the
potentially inaccurate assumption that independent smallholders have yet to adopt sustainable palm oil plantation practices, which
is allegedly the leading cause of their lower productivity levels. In response to the above-mentioned issues, the SPKS team has
carried out a research projectto identify the key characteristics of independent smallholders in 5 districts spread across 3 provinces
within Indonesia. The districts covered by the project include Siak District and Bengkalis District in Riau Province, Kubu Raya District
and Ketapang District in West Kalimantan Province and North Konawe District in Southeast Sulawesi Province.
The research has collected primary data using direct observation and interview methods, as well as secondary data through the
review of various government documents and other relevant literature. The data gathered has then been tabulated and
classified according to different themesand analyzed based on quantitative descriptive methods.
 
The Key Characteristics of Independent Smallholders in The Context of Sustainable Palm Oil Profile: Bengkalis and Siak District, Riau, Ketapang and Kubu Raya District,
West Kalimantan, and North Konawe District, Southeast Sulawesi The Key Characteristics of Independent Smallholders in The Context of Sustainable Palm Oil
Profile: Bengkalis and Siak District, Riau, Ketapang and Kubu Raya District, West Kalimantan, and North Konawe District, Southeast Sulawesi
 
The research identified specific characteristics applicable to independent smallholders, including the average size of their land,
their typical place of residence, average educational level, main job function as well as the number of dependants they tend to
have. The research indicated that independent smallholders in the researched area hold land of an average size of below 4 ha and
reside around their plantation. Their work focuses on fulfilling dayto day farming activities and needs, they have an average of 3 – 5
dependents, and have typically finished Elementary School (SD), Junior High School (SMP) or Senior High School (SMA).
The evaluation of palm oil plantation practices was conducted based on the principles and criteria set out in the Ministry of
Agriculture’s Regulation No. 11 of 2015 on Indonesia Sustainable Palm Oil (ISPO) Certification System. These include business
legality, plantation management, environmental management and monitoring and sustainable business process improvement.
The research concluded that the legal position of independent smallholders in the research area remains low due to the incomplete
documentation or registration of their palm oil plantation business The quality of maintenance carried out around the plantation
varies from district to district: some have implemented an adequate degree of maintenance, while other districts have room
for improvement in their maintenance practices. The research has also revealed that the level of environmental
management and monitoring undertaken by smallholders continues to be low. Though most smallholders have made plans
for replanting to increase their productivity levels, these efforts have not been fully implemented or documented.
The findings of this research also been employed as the verification to the SPKS’ proposed formulation of independent smallholder
definition, thus the proposed definition has valid justification/basis, not only depend on theories/desk study but also factual condition
in the field research. 
 
In addition, the government and other relevant agencies should appoint qualified experts to educate and train independent
smallholders on the importance of sustainable palm oil and on how they can adopt such practices in their plantation businesses.