The programme aims to provide smallholders with a better understanding and face-to-face exchange of views with their counterparts on Best Agricultural Practices.

In partnership with the Ministry of Agriculture of the Republic of Indonesia and the National Association of Smallholders (NASH) of Malaysia, the Secretariat of Council of Palm Oil Producing Countries (CPOPC) conducted a cross visit of Indonesian smallholders to Negeri Sembilan, Malaysia, from 2 to 3 December 2019. This programme aims to provide Indonesian smallholders with a better understanding and face-to-face exchange of views with their Malaysian counterparts on Best Agricultural Practices, including sustainability and fire suppression.

“… It also encouraged our enthusiasm as oil palm smallholders, to continue to increase knowledge so that later it could have a positive impact on the livelihood of the farmers of the oil palm, ” Arief Budiarto – Cross Visit participant from Musi Banyuasin District, South Sumatera

On the first day of the programme, the delegates visited the NASH Office located in Kuala Lumpur where the participants were welcomed by YBhg Dato ‘Haji Aliasak bin Ambia as the President of NASH. In his welcoming remarks he stated that this programme would be a pivotal platform of smallholder cooperation among Indonesia and Malaysia, and to enhance the bilateral relationship between the two countries in palm oil sector.

The next day, the delegates visited oil palm plantations in Kampung Chuah, Negeri Sembilan and held an interactive discussion with the Malaysian Palm Oil Board (MPOB). The participants also had the opportunity to visit the MPOB gallery. This field and MPOB visits gave the unique opportunity for the participants to gather more knowledge, particular challenges, and cross-fertilizing experiences and creative solutions in managing small-scale plantations.

The Indonesian delegates also had a chance to compare best practices from different regions in Indonesia as they come from various plasma and independent smallholder groups, i.e. the Asahan District (North Sumatra), Kab. Banyausin (South Sumatra), Bungo District (Jambi) and Palangkaraya District (central Kalimantan).

Expressing his viewpoint of this inaugural pogram, Riswanto, a participant from an an independent smallholders’ group, considered that such a program is an essential platform to acquire information and understandings on how palm oil smallholders implement the Best Agriculture Practices. “Sustainable oil palm cultivation with proper gardening techniques would increase farmers ‘productivity and farmers’ welfare. Improving human resources through a direct field visit and exchange of views like this cross visit was considered very useful by another participant, Said. As the Chairperson of the Karya Mukti Village Cooperative Unit (KUD) which has been certificated by ISPO for its 414 hectares of palm oil plantation he also shared his personal and group’s experience.

Another participant, Bambang Gianto, was astonished at the planting techniques used by smallholders in Malaysia from one of the oil palm plantations visited. “Malaysian independent smallholders used permanent water reservoirs to collect rainwater for the spraying of pests and shrubs. Some even used palm fronds and leaves as forage for goats” said Bambang. Some lessons learned from the visit will be shared with his group at the KUD Mukti Jaya in the Musi Banyuasin district of southern Sumatra.

In line with Bambang, Arief Budiarto, a participant from Palembang, South Sumatera, assessed the practice of making palm leaves as goat feed is a form of innovation that could be emulated. “This could further spur us as oil palm smallholders to be able to create the innovations for the welfare of oil palm farmers. It also encouraged our enthusiasm as oil palm smallholders, to continue to increase knowledge so that later it could have a positive impact on the livelihood of the farmers of the oil palm. ” Arief conveyed.

In essence, the visit was considered very useful by the visiting small-scale oil palm farmers from Indonesia and their counterparts in Malaysia. NASH suggested that similar visit from Malaysia to Indonesia should be done in the near future.

The representative of Perennial and Refreshing Crop Directorate of the Ministry of Agriculture of the Republic of Indonesia Mrs. Irmijati Rachmi hoped that the program would increase the capacity of Indonesian oil palm smallholders with  impacts not limited to their welfare. This cross-visit was an effective way to exchange information and insights so that our small farmers are expected to not only increase their level of welfare but also enhance their role in attaining sustainable palm oil,” Said Rachmi who also head the Indonesian delegate.

As improving the capacity and welfare of smallholders is one of fhe priorities for CPOPC, more initiatives and programs will be held on a regular basis with clear targets and outcomes. One of such idea is the plan to have a kind of Smallholder Summit 2020 with the participation of smallholders from some palm oil producing countries. The activitivy is expected to provide a showcase comprehensive supports needed by smallholders, including on sustainability standards, innovative and smart farming, access to finance and high-yielding seeds.