The sustainability of global palm oil supply chains depends on being able to determine who is producing the oil palm, where they are cultivating it and how it is being cultivated. The traceability of palm oil supply chains is complicated when they involve independent, small-scale oil palm farmers. In contrast to plantations, plasma farmers, little is known about independent oil palm farmers, including where their farms are, how they farm and to whom they sell their produce to. Independent farmers cultivate oil palm mostly without support from the government or companies, which affects the quality and quantity of the fresh fruit bunches they produce. Ensuring that independent, small-scale oil palm farmers are cultivating oil palm sustainably and productively is an integral step to in reducing the environmental harm caused by oil palm cultivation. To achieve that goal, we first should study these farmers and where they are.
This study aims to contribute to improving the understanding about independent, small-scale oil palm farmers in Indonesia. For consistency, we refer to independent, small-scale, oil palm farmers as independent smallholders in this report. The study reports on the findings of ongoing surveying and mapping activities of independent, oil palm smallholders in two districts in Central Kalimantan, Indonesia: Kotawaringin Barat and Seruyan. From 2014 until the end of 2015, 1,229 farmers were surveyed and had their lands mapped in the two districts. This included eight villages in Kotawaringin Barat District covering 1,671.61 hectares, and another eight villages in Seruyan District covering 2,182.75 hectares. The figures represent around 6 percent of the total number of oil palm farmers in Kotawaringin Barat District and 9 percent of the total number of oil palm farmers in Seruyan. In Kotawaringin Barat, the farmers were generally from transmigrant communities (87 percent), with a smaller proportion consisting of local farmers (12 percent). In Seruyan District, however, the majority of farmers surveyed were indigenous farmers (81 percent).
The report analyses the main challenges that prevent independent farmers from cultivating oil palm productively and sustainably. Building on previous studies of independent smallholders, we anticipated that the main constraints for farmers to benefit from oil palm cultivation were:
- Legal recognition of their land rights;
- Access to credit, planting material, fertilizers and training; and
- Fair terms and prices for the sale of harvested fresh fruit bunches.