Changing Systems from the Ground Up: Inovasi Bumi Brings Conservation Training to the Indonesian Smallholder

Changing Systems from the Ground Up: Inovasi Bumi Brings Conservation Training to the Indonesian Smallholder

November 8, 2016

Without transformation at the root of supply chains, sustainable jurisdictions can never be attained. In Indonesia where a significant percentage of agriculture is in the hands of smallholders, achieving sustainable jurisdictions depends on successfully building a conservation mindset among these farmers. Inovasi Bumi (INOBU) is taking its expertise in research and policy innovation into the villages of West Kotawaringin, Central Kalimantan to do just that. A district of Central Kalimantan where most of the farmers hold modest estates of only 25 hectares or less, and yet feed into the global supply chain for oil palm, West Kotawaringin illustrates the grassroots level at which lasting change towards sustainable oil palm is happening.

In October, INOBU carried out high conservation value (HCV) methodology training in West Kotawaringin. HCVs are biological, ecological, social or cultural values which are considered outstandingly significant or critically important, at the national, regional or global level. In the case of forests, HCVs are intact forest landscapes and large ecosystems that contain naturally occurring species. HCV assessment and training among smallholders is a crucial component of changing agricultural practices in Indonesia where smallholder farmers represent a significant percentage of the population, and are an important part of the nation’s economy.

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Over the course of three days, representatives from farmer groups, village leaders, local government representatives, and a team from INOBU worked together to identify focal species in smallholder plots, agreed on a monitoring and management plan for designated HCV areas and established precautionary practices for farmer groups.


Bringing Smallholders into Conservation through HCVA Training in Central Kalimantan

Central Kalimantan has established a bold goal of zero deforestation by 2020, and, as a first step, INOBU is conducting HCV and high carbon stock (HCS) area assessments in the province. These classifications are designed to feed into the development of “Go and No Go Zones,” (areas that can be cultivated and those that cannot), as well as calculating potential deforestation and emissions reductions. INOBU facilitated a stakeholder process among local government, companies and civil society that resulted in a goal for the jurisdiction of 100% certified palm oil. This means that all palm oil should be deforestation and social conflict free, and certified according to RSPO standards. INOBU is coming alongside the stakeholders through research and innovation to facilitate the implementation of this ambitious target.

The overarching goal of this work is to reduce poverty and environmental degradation in Indonesia’s rural landscapes, home to the 26 million farmers classified as smallholders in 2013. A smallholder farmer is one who owns a farm/farms of less than twenty-five hectares (Indonesian Agrarian Law No.5/1960). Indonesia’s smallholders produce food and other agricultural commodities not only for their families and immediate communities, but also supplying global commodity markets. Indonesian smallholder farmers, however, farm with little support from the government, affecting not only their productivity, but also what they can farm and how they can farm it.


Changing Practices, Shifting Mindsets

The results and observations from INOBU’s recent training in Kotawaringin demonstrates that farmers are defying the notion that a smallholder farmer cannot participate in conservation because it is too economically burdensome to do so. The work in West Kotawaringin has resulted in important changes among smallholder farmers, for example:

  • Farmers are showing a keen interest in participating in conservation, embracing the sustainability principles behind identifying HCV areas and protecting them.
  • Smallholder farmers recognize that they are part of a supply chain and that certification is along the entire supply chain is essential.
  • Farmers have begun adopting Good Agricultural Practices (GAP).

An increasing number of West Kotawaringin’s smallholders are now actively engaged in protecting natural resources, recognizing protected and endangered species and working to protect areas along rivers by making them “no fertilizer” zones to reduce the level of toxins entering streams from palm plantations. Smallholders here have completely departed from business-as-usual, and it is important to support these changes to ensure that, going forward, they become embedded in agricultural practices at this level of the supply chain.

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The Process of Change: From Oil Palm Chaos to Sustainable Landscapes

The HCV training and mapping of smallholders underway in Central Kalimantan is the first step in a process towards jurisdictional certification and sustainability.  Importantly, Indonesian regulations require smallholder farmers to have Cultivation Registration Letters (Surat Tanda Daftar Budidaya – STD-B) – a legal document proving their ownership of the land. Due to the absence of accurate data, smallholders have typically faced challenges in obtaining these letters and, consequently, their oil palm plots have not been officially recognised. INOBU’s smallholder mapping is providing local governments with the spatial and household information required to efficiently issue STD-Bs.

INOBU will also be working with smallholder farmers in the sustainability certification process, particularly on gaining certification from the Indonesian Sustainable Palm Oil (ISPO) and Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil (RSPO). In future, the entire process from mapping to monitoring will facilitate the creation of an agricultural facility for smallholder to access finance and agricultural inputs, furthering the overarching goal of improving livelihoods.