Oil palm smallholders drive availability of cattle manure compost

Cattle are fed with grass

Amid the oil palm plantation, Sartono and several of his oil palm smallholders friends who are members of BUMDes (village-owned enterprise) Karya Mandala Makmur (KMM) are feeding cattle in a barn located in Lada Mandala Jaya Village, Pangkalan Lada Sub-district, Kotawaringin Barat. They seem to be very enthusiastic in raising livestock and taking care of cattle manure into the manure pit. It turns out that these cattle are not raised as beef cattle or dairy cows, but to collect their manure. This cattle manure will be processed into organic fertilizer and can be used in their oil palm plantations.

So far, oil palm cultivation still uses chemical fertilizers and pesticides. The long term and excessive use of chemicals may cause soil quality to decline . Organic fertilizers can be a solution to restore soil fertility and quality, as is currently being developed by a group of oil palm smallholders who are members of the BUMDes KMM. Sartono and his fellow smallholders started independently producing compost from cattle manure.

This initiative also supports their existence as a group of smallholders who have participated in sustainable palm oil certification, namely the Indonesia Sustainable Palm Oil (ISPO) and the Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil (RSPO). “Smallholders have difficulty in accessing organic fertilizer. With this composting business, it is expected that all smallholders can apply fertilizer at least once a year in order to increase nutrients and improve soil structure,” said Sartono.

This compost production business plan has been carefully prepared by the village business management since last November 2020. Sartono, who serves as the group manager in the Internal Control System (ICS) of BUMDes KMM, has long wanted to build an agricultural business that can increase the income of rural communities. Armed with knowledge from his education as a livestock paramedic and his experience as an agricultural extension officer for more than 30 years, Sartono uses his knowledge and experience to advance agriculture in his village, both in terms of cultivating agronomic and horticultural crops, plantation, and breeding livestock.

The limited funds did not dampen the intentions of BUMDes KMM management. They prepare and send proposals to several parties to seek funding sources. The struggle paid off: Bambang Purwanto, ST, MSi, member of Commission IV of the House of Representative of Republic of Indonesia, provided financial assistance to buy cattle, build barns, procure machines and equipment needed for compost production. BUMDes KMM also received a grant from Bank Indonesia, which was intended to build a microorganism production laboratory for fermenting compost (MA-11), along with complete laboratory equipment.

BUMDes KMM utilizes half a hectare of land to build a cattle barn adjacent to a compost fertilizer production building in the form of two permanent fermentation pits and processing machines, as well as a laboratory building for MA-11 production. The location is far from community settlements, so it is expected that this fertilizer production activity will not disturb the community. Sartono explained that processing cattle manure into compost requires a long process. The stages of the process that need to be passed are the preparation of manure, fermentation, filtration of cattle manure, decomposition, weathering to drying, and subsequently milling into compost fertilizer that is ready to use.

They have carried out a trial of compost fertilizer production in December 2020. Sartono conveyed that the fertilizer produced is of good quality, not inferior to the compost fertilizers produced by large producers on the market.

“Although currently BUMDes is still preparing for the production of this fertilizer, potential buyers have responded quickly,” said Sartono. “There are already several potential buyers who want the BUMDes fertilizer, and they even asked to prepare up to 100 tons per month.”

The main obstacle in the production of this fertilizer is obtaining raw material for cattle manure. In addition to cattle manure from their own livestock, BUMDes KMM also receives it from independent cattle farmers. BUMDes KMM stated that it remains optimistic that it will be able to meet market demand and has prepared various plans to obtain the raw materials.

Cattle manure pit for fermentation

“Before it is sold, the production of the first BUMDes fertilizer will be reserved for all BUMDes KMM members, who also participate in the sustainable palm oil certification program,” explained Sartono.

He expects that the use of organic fertilizers will show a real difference in yields so that more smallholders will join in using organic fertilizers in their plantations.

This livestock and compost fertilizer production business will employ workers from local youth and be accompanied by the BUMDes ICS management itself. Meanwhile, the role to perform health checks and cattle artificial insemination will be carried out directly by Sartono who has the expertise in this field. Specifically for laboratory workers, Bank Indonesia will bring in experts to initiate the production of MA-11 microorganisms in the laboratory and provide training to local youth so that they can continue producing MA-11 independently.

Sartono stated that his village still needs a mixer machine for cattle feed production. Meanwhile, livestock feed is still produced manually and has not been able to produce evenly mixed feed ingredients. As this business continues, BUMDes KMM will continue to strive to complete production needs so that they can produce optimally and meet smallholders’ demands.

Sartono also expressed his hope that this business can be sustainable and have impacts on the community in the long term.

“Currently, those of us who become the initiators are old and physically not as strong as before. We have high hopes that in the next few years it can be continued by future generations,” he concluded.