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Hendriyono, a transmigrant who became an independent oil palm farmer in Suka Maju Village, Seruyan Regency, Central Kalimantan Province. Through training and certification programs, Hendriyono learned how to manage oil palm plantations sustainably, which minimizes the negative environmental and social impacts of the palm oil industry.
Hendriyono, 49, was born and raised in South Barito Regency, Central Kalimantan Province, from the Dusun Maanyan Dayak sub-ethnic group. He moved to Seruyan District as a transmigrant when he was young.
Through the transmigration program, the government attempted to develop the rural economy in remote areas in Lampung and Kalimantan. Hendriyono, who was around 25 years old at the time and single, were interested in joining the transmigration program. He wanted to challenge himself. So he migrated and started a new life in Suka Maju Village in Seruyan Regency, roughly 300 km away from his hometown. The village is relatively isolated from the uptown crowd. It took around 8 hours, either by land or river, to arrive at the village from the district center.
In the transmigration community, Hendriyono had to build a new life from scratch. There, he met and married his wife, Ranisi, a daughter of a transmigrant family couple. The couple has three children.
Meanwhile, many transmigrants in his village struggled to adjust to changes in their new life there, largely for the fear of being perceived by others as poor transmigrants. In the end, many of them returned to their hometowns out of shame. However, Hendriyono remained determined to become a successful transmigrant. “Maybe only about 40 percent of the people remain here,” said Hendriyono. “I was aware that to move here as a transmigrant means that I had to change my previous life.”
Since he started living in Suka Maju Village in 1995, Hendriyono has always worked in the oil palm plantation sector. His first job was mapping land and creating blocks for oil palm plantation clearing projects. Then, he moved to a palm oil company and worked as a fruit weigher.
Since 2015, Hendriyono has stopped working for a palm oil company and has focused on being a full-time independent smallholder.
In Seruyan District, oil palm is indeed the main commodity with high production of palm oil and a high number of oil palm plantation companies.
Farmers in Seruyan District have also received training and coaching on sustainable palm oil from non-profit group Kaleka, which was supported by Unilever. Hendriyono realizes that independent farmers like him need to keep learning, especially about the sustainability and legal compliance of palm oil production.
“It is important to know about sustainability so that we also know how to protect the environment around us,” said Hendriyono, who has been appointed as the manager of a local farmer group that has over 170 members.
Hendriyono and local farmers learned many things from these training sessions. For example, after understanding that agricultural chemicals could damage water sources, local farmers there changed their way of growing oil palms. They no longer plant new oil palms on riverbanks because the plantation chemicals can pollute the rivers. Farmers who have already planted oil palm trees on the riverbank have stopped using fertilizers or pest control containing hazardous materials. Farmers are also encouraged to remove weeds manually, by slashing or using a hoe.
“During the rainy season, our wells are full, but during the dry season we get water from the springs,” said Hendriyono. “We need to protect our water sources.”
Through training on High Conservation Value (HCV), farmers are also taught about the dangers of burning land and that they must protect the wild animals, such as root tigers and pythons.
In addition, Hendriyono also received technical training on how to harvest fresh fruit bunches properly. The quality and maturity of the fruits will affect the price. That means farmers can increase their income if they know the right harvest methods. Hendriyono and other farmers there also received training on occupational safety and health.
This mentoring program aims to help independent oil palm farmers like Hendriyono to obtain a certificate of sustainable palm oil from the Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil (RSPO). The certificate will introduce sustainable practices of the oil palm sector and provide additional incomes for independent smallholders. Last year, Suka Maju Village received a sustainable palm oil certification credit worth around IDR 400 million, which was distributed to RSPO-certified farmers in the village.