SustainPalm: Indonesia and the Netherlands cooperation on sustainable palm oil

Indonesia is the world’s largest palm oil producer with a total production of 49,7 million ton with a total value of USD 28.5 billion in 2021. Among that number, the Indonesian palm oil filled 50% of EU and 31% the Netherlands palm oil import. This fact shows the strategic role and huge impact of palm oil business on Indonesian and the Netherlands economy.

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Problems arise from the (mis)management system and production in forest areas. There are concerns with respect to environmental and social aspects in oil palm production particularly on forest conversion leading to GHG emissions, loss of biodiversity and fires in drained peatlands.

To address the environmental and social aspects of palm oil production, Indonesia has made big steps in improving sustainable production of palm oil. Most of oil palm producers (smallholders and commercial estate companies) have made a big movement to comply different sustainability standards.

Sustainable production of palm oil is an aim of both Indonesia and the Netherlands. The countries collaborate in different ways to achieve this. The “SustainPalm” program is a 3-years program funded by the Dutch government implemented under collaboration of Dutch (Wageningen University & Research and Van Hall Larenstein University of Applied Sciences) and Indonesian (IPB University and Universitas Lambung Mangkurat) universities. This consortium will be working together with local governments, companies, and communities to improve sustainability practices in smallholders and companies building on existing practices and results from research in Indonesia and The Netherlands.

The launching event of the SustainPalm program was attended by the Director General of American and European Affairs of Indonesian Ministry of Foreign Affairs, representatives from Indonesian governments (Coordinating Ministry for Economic Affairs, Ministry of National Development Planning, and Ministry of Agriculture), Dutch Embassy in Indonesia, Dutch Ministry of Agriculture, Nature, and Food Quality, MVO Netherlands, and more than 100 people attending ranging from companies (such as Sinar Mas and Golden Agri Resources), Amsterdam Declaration Partnership country members, universities, and NGOs.

The SustainPalm program aims to increase land use and biomass use efficiency, retain biodiversity and other ecosystem services, reduction of Greenhouse Gas (GHG) emissions, and support smallholders' food security and income resilience. In addition, this program would strengthen the long-term cooperation between the relevant leading stakeholders in the field of palm oil in Indonesia and The Netherlands. SustainPalm program also aligns with the Indonesian Action Plan for Sustainable Palm Oil (RAN KSB), including resolving oil palm on peatland and in forest areas under "Jangka Benah Strategies" (SJB).

To start “SustainPalm” program, a visit to palm oil field in Riau was conducted on 20-21 February 2023 and a launching event was successfully held in Jakarta on 23 February 2023.

Mini workshops were carried out before the main launch event. During the launch, the Dutch Ambassador (H.E. Lambert Grijns)  and Deputy Minister of Indonesian Coordinating Ministry for Economic Affairs (give the name) delivered speeches highlighting Indonesia - Netherlands cooperation in the field of sustainable palm oil. The event also included panel discussion on sustainable palm oil from the perspective of Indonesia and The Netherlands government, business, universities, and civil societies.

As the SustainPalm program has been launched, we look forward to seeing its implementation and how the impact unfolds in the future. Thank you to all parties involved during this event.