Sarbiyanto: Discipline is Key to RSPO Oil Palm Smallholders

Pak Sarbiyanto

Sarbiyanto, a Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil (RSPO) certified oil palm farmer, began to change his ways of farming after he realized the importance of sustainability. He has faithfully adopted environmentally friendly practices when growing oil palm trees and harvesting Fresh Fruit Bunches (FFB).

Sarbiyanto is one of the many farmers in Sukorejo Village, Seruyan District, Central Kalimantan Province, receiving RSPO certifications. More than 50 percent of the oil palm farmers in the village are certified and they can enjoy higher sales and higher incomes.

Sarbiyanto moved to Sukorejo Village with his wife in 2003 and worked at a palm oil company for nine years. In 2010, he decided to become an independent oil palm farmer, starting to plant oil palm trees on his land in his free time.

Several years later, smallholders in his village had the opportunity to take part in training sessions, designed to enable them to obtain RSPO certificates, from Kaleka Sarbiyanto and other independent smallholders at Sawit Bangkit Cooperative got the RSPO certificates in 2019.

“The RSPO-certified farmers and I have enjoyed many benefits from the training sessions from the certification team,” said Sarbiyanto. “They were patient and determined, supporting us and teaching us self-discipline in growing oil palm trees and harvesting FFB, in the right ways, in which we have to comply with the requirements and use the PPE (Personal Protective Equipment).”

Among the benefits from these training sessions were the knowledge about applying fertilizer correctly, sustainable palm oil management, and environmentally-friendly pest control methods. Smallholders also enjoy increased sales and profits.

Sarbiyanto has become more thoughtful in his farming practices. He’s organized his farming activities and he’s seen improvement in his harvests.

Pak Sarbiyanto’s palm oil plantations

“The FFB harvest period is well-planned now. I don’t just pick up the fruit again. I select the red and orange fruits for sale and store the green ones in the trunk,” Sarbiyanto explained. “I also apply the fertilizer more often to get the best results. Besides being a palm oil farmer, I also raise cows and goats, and I can reuse the manure for fertilizers in the plantations.”

Sarbiyanto regularly removes weeds in his plantation, turning them into cattle and goat feed. It’s like killing two birds with one stone: raising cattle and growing oil palm trees are both beneficial for Sarbiyanto. “A regular schedule for weed removal has reduced the needs to spray agricultural chemicals in the plantation,” said Sarbiyanto.

Amid the coronavirus pandemic, Sarbiyanto explained, smallholders in Sukerejo Village practice social distancing and have limited face-to-face social interactions. In general, farmers are reluctant to leave the village for fear of contracting Covid-19. They also remember to keep their distance from each other and wear masks when they are outside the house. Small talks when encountering fellow farmers in the plantation or in-person gatherings are rare.

However, social distancing is not a big problem because the RSPO-certified smallholders have a network. The restrictions don’t prevent farmers from exchanging news with each other virtually through WhatsApp chat groups, updating the latest prices of FFB and fertilizer, and telling the conditions about their land.

During the pandemic, Surbiyanto saw stable production of palm oil. “I will remain disciplined in increasing the productivity in the future. And I am sure, as time goes by, there will be many new certified smallholders producing sustainable palm oil” said Sarbiyanto.