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Growing Greener Commodities – One District at a Time

It’s often said that it takes a village to raise a child. What does it take to raise the sustainability of agricultural commodity production? As it turns out, something similar. 

Research by the Center of International Forestry Research and World Agroforestry (CIFOR-ICRAF) shows promising results from taking a jurisdictional approach to increasing the sustainability of palm oil plantations in four districts/regencies in Indonesia: Pulang Pisau (Central Kalimantan Province), Kutai Kartanegara (East Kalimantan Province), Pelalawan (Riau Province), and Sintang (West Kalimantan Province). 

A jurisdictional approach engages actors across different levels. It fosters collaboration by facilitating dialogue among stakeholders such as communities, the private sector, NGOs, academia, and government. The approach seeks to draw out these parties’ voices and find synergies between their interests, whilst taking the local context and its particular challenges into consideration. Local government – especially its leadership – also plays a central role. “The willingness and policies of the local government are critically important, since they are the ones who have the budget and create regulations,” said CIFOR-ICRAF senior scientist Herry Purnomo. 

The research also provides input to district action plans for boosting palm oil sustainability, and emphasizes ways to reduce deforestation and emissions across the supply chain. It offers a roadmap to transform and increase the productivity of oil palm plantations and improve smallholder farmers’ incomes. 

According to Purnomo, the key to successfully conducting a jurisdictional approach lies in a sense of trust between stakeholders and local government, as well as having a shared goal. In the case of palm oil sustainability, the stakeholders in the study areas shared a common interest in complying with the European Union’s new regulation on deforestation-free products (EUDR) to ensure they can continue to export their products to the EU market. 

Hendrik Segah, a senior researcher at the University of Palangkaraya, shared promising progress in Kutai Kertanegara, where there has been an increase in certification for smallholder farmers submitted by district leaders. “The local government is also trying to speed up the certification process to protect peatland conservation areas,” he said. “This is supported by communities, local NGOs, and the private sector.”

Despite the challenges, Purnomo and Segah expressed optimism that the local governments involved in the study are on the right path toward sustainability in agricultural commodity production. Their work going forward—to strengthen data and coordination, facilitate dispute handling, and increase farmers’ capacity—is more urgent than ever, said Purnomo. “Indonesia is the world’s leading producer of palm oil. Now, we need to work to make sure Indonesia is taking the lead in sustainability as well. It is also mandated in our constitution,” he said.


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