Indonesian smallholder visibility: A major step forward

The Director General of Plantations, along with the Governor of West Papua, launch the new e-STDB system on on 10 December 2018

In Indonesia, 40 million small-scale farmers produce one third of the nation’s palm oil and up to 100% of other agricultural export commodities. Most of these farmers are “invisible” — they are not registered by the government and can therefore not take advantage of governmental programs. They also run the risk of being excluded from some markets that demand traceability. We are happy to report that the Indonesian Ministry of Agriculture has now formally adopted a system for bringing these smallholders into the formal economy, fruit of a four-year investment to develop and refine the e-STDB system.

The agricultural sector in Indonesia employs about 40 million people, or about 33% of the total labor force. Small-scale farmers — i.e., farmers with less than 25 hectares — are significant producers of agricultural commodities, such as oil palm and rubber, and dominate the production of certain commodities, such as cacao and nutmeg (Table 1). Many poorer, small-scale producers in rural parts of the Indonesian archipelago rely on the production of agricultural commodities to support their families and pursue higher living standards. Yet they face many challenges in accessing export markets, especially those that demand traceability, “zero deforestation” production practices, legal compliance and compliance with other international standards.

Addressing these challenges requires knowing where farmers are and how they produce these commodities. Until now, the Indonesian government has not had a system for mapping and registering these farmers. The e-STDB was developed to address these challenges. It evolved out of a collaborative initiative in the province of Central Kalimantan to map and register all oil palm smallholders in three districts, Seruyan, Kotawaringin Barat and Gunung Mas, and issue them with cultivation registration letters.

The e-STDB system provides local governments with a simplified database of farmers’ plots, socio-economic data, and registrations. From this information, the STDB can be issued electronically, where farmers can apply directly for a STDB through a dedicated website or via their village heads. The system will later be integrated with an Android surveying and mapping application that has already been tested in Central Kalimantan and West Papua.

So far, over 5,427 oil palm farmers have been mapped and registered, with 656 STDBs issued in Central Kalimantan.

The system has also been tested in Fakfak district, West Papua, where 575 nutmeg farms have been mapped covering 968 hectares. The e-STDB will also consolidate data from other initiatives and organizations into a centralized database hosted by the Ministry of Agriculture.

Eventually, the system will incorporate data for 126 commodities produced by small-scale farmers, ranging from coconut and palm oil to patchouli and pepper.

The e-STDB is a key instrument facilitating the inclusion of small-scale producers in to legal and sustainable supply chains. It will also support the Ministry of Agriculture in providing better targeted extension services to small-scale commodity producers across Indonesia.

While celebrating Plantation Commodity Day on December 10, 2018, the Ministry of Agriculture, along with the Governor of West Papua and other government representatives, launched the new e-STDB system for mapping and registering small-scale plantation commodity producers in Indonesia. The launch was the result of over four years of collaboration between Yayasan Penelitian Inovasi Bumi (INOBU), Earth Innovation Institute, and provincial and district governments in Central Kalimantan and West Papua.

Public access for the e-STDB website is currently being finalized by the Ministry of Agriculture.

What is STDB and why does it matter?

The cultivation registration letter (surat tanda daftar budidaya or STDB) is the basic legal requirement for small-scale commodity producers in Indonesia. As most farmers in Indonesia are not part of cooperatives or formal businesses, their participation in supply chains is mostly informal and invisible to the state.

Traceability to the farm-level has become increasingly important in global supply chains. As many social and environmental organizations equate traceability with sustainability and equitability; it is assumed that if supply chains cannot be traced to the farm level, then something must be wrong. The unfortunate consequence of such approaches is that independent, informal, small-scale producers are vulnerable to being excluded from sustainable supply chains.

STDB is also a main requirement for accessing government funds. Without the STDB, farmers cannot receive government funds for replanting among others.

Simplifying the process for mapping and registering small-scale farmers, and providing them with an STDB, gives them proof that they are farming in accordance with local regulations, such as farming outside of forest areas. It can also serve as the basis for tracing supply chains to the farm level. This removes a major obstacle to achieving sustainable and inclusive commodity supply chains.

The work is supported through the Norad-funded Forest, Farms and Finance Initiative; the David and Lucile Packard Foundation; and the German International Climate Initiative (IKI).

For more information see:

The launch of e-STDB (in Indonesian)