Field visit to palm oil plantation in Riau, Indonesia

Prior to the SustainPalm launch event, the whole SustainPalm team (consisting of Wageningen University & Research, Van Hall Larenstein University of Applied Sciences, IPB University, Universitas Lambung Mangkurat, Dutch Embassy, Dutch Ministry of LNV, Indonesian Coordinating Ministry of Economic Affairs) had a field visit to a palm oil plantation in Siak Regency, Riau Province on 20-21 February 2023.

Field Visit Sustainplam 1

Visit of the SustainPalm team to a palm oil plant

Head of Plantation Agency of Riau Province, Mr. Zulfadli, welcomed the delegates during the dinner in Pekanbaru. The next day, the delegates had the chance to visit one of the Sinar Mas’s oil palm plantation in Siak, Riau to see the sustainability practices implemented by the company. Sinar Mas is a palm oil company with the largest revenue in Indonesia. During this visit, JP Caliman (director SMART Research Institute) and team provided explanation on several activities related to sustainability palm oil and oil palm practices. Further, the delegates visited the smallholder farmers nearby the Sinar Mas plantation that implement intercropping under collaboration with SMART Research Institute. In this location, the delegates received some explanation about the program and had a very interesting discussion with the representative of smallholders. The next point of the visit was the station to monitor N2O/NH4. This monitoring station aimed to measuring N2O/NH4 emissions from N-fertilizer to support the efficient use of fertilizer and prevent the environmental pollution.

The delegates also visited an area where the company applied solid waste (empty fruit bunches) and liquid waste from the palm oil mill as an organic fertilizer (substitute for inorganic fertilizer). In addition, the company built a biogas facility that process sludge waste from the mill processing. The resulting biogas is harnessed as an alternative energy source to generate electricity for their mill operations. The delegates were impressed and inspired by the circularity implemented in this company.

In this program, the delegates not only visited large oil palm companies, but also smallholders in Koto Ringin Village, Siak District, Riau Province. The head of the Beringin Jaya farmers' cooperative, Mr. Aswaldi, explained their story in acquiring RSPO certification. The process took about 2 years with intensive assistance of several NGO. This farmer cooperative is now become the first RSPO certified on peatland. To gain the field experience, the delegates were also visited the smallholding palm oil on peat land.

The last stop of the trip was Mengkapan Village where the delegates visited the area of oil palm intercropping with pineapple. In this location, the farmers get additional income by practicing intercropping, while the women group produces and sells pineapple’s derivative products, such as juice, cookies, pineapple dodol, chips, and others. This has become an additional source of income for smallholder families.

This visit was very insightful and really opened our horizons, we were able to learn from companies and smallholders in practicing sustainable oil palm and palm oil management, and how this practice could  generates income for the community while in the same time remains in harmony with nature. The knowledge, experience, and connections gained from this field visit will be very useful as a foundation in the implementation of the SustainPalm program going forward.

Much appreciation for the efforts of all those involved.