News Feature

Forestry partnerships in Jambi help small farmers, resolve conflicts

Forestry partnerships in Jambi help small farmers, resolve conflicts

Forest area in Berbak and Sembilang National Park (TNBS), Tanjungjabung Timur, Jambi. ANTARA FOTO/Wahdi Septiawan/aww.

Many smallholder farmers in Indonesia, who depend on selling fresh oil palm fruit bunches to earn a living, are struggling to survive amid the COVID-19 pandemic, which has affected the country's palm oil exports.

Over the past few years, the prices of palm oil have been declining in the global market, and the trend has continued amid the pandemic, which has disrupted the global supply chain.

ANTARA has earlier reported on the decline in Indonesia’s palm oil exports to China owing to a fall in demand for vegetable oil amid the coronavirus outbreak.

At the same time, the price of a kilogram of fresh palm oil fruit bunches (TBS) has remained below Rp2,000.

According to Info Sawit (Indonesian Palm Oil Magazine), the authorities in Jambi province set the selling price of one kilogram of TBS, harvested from 10- to 20-year-old palm oil trees, at Rp1,489.61 between July 3 and July 9 this year.

Amid this difficult situation, company-forestry community partnerships may offer a solution to improve the livelihoods of affected farmers residing near forested areas.

At the very least, such partnerships can help ease the financial burden on farmers and help them meet their families' basic needs.

Social forestry partnerships can also serve as an option for resolving potential conflicts between a company and local people.

To this end, the Indonesian Government has supported the formation of a conflict resolution team whose members comprise representatives of central and regional governments, communities, and non-governmental organizations.

On their part, forest farmer groups can vouch for the advantages of partnering with companies. The forest farmer groups of Karang Jaya and Wanamitra Lestari in Jambi province are a case in point.

The two farmer groups have partnered with local rubber companies: the Karang Jaya Forest Farmer Group with PT Lestari Asri Jaya (LAJ), and Wanamitra Lestari Forest Farmer Group with PT Wanamukti Wisesa (WW), and both partnerships have been recognized by the Indonesian Environment and Forestry Ministry.

The ministry's recognition and protection of forestry partnerships has been notified in a letter received at an event held in Muara Sekalo village, Sumay subdistrict, Tebo district, Jambi province, on July 24,2020.

“Now, we can cultivate without worry because our farming activities on the plantation areas of these two companies have got a legal basis," head of the Karang Jaya Forest Farmer Group, Hasmon Ovezar, said in Jambi on Sunday.

The partnership that the forest farmer group has built with PT LAJ has, over a period of time, helped farmers to receive training on cultivating food crops and conducting sustainable fish farming. It has also helped them receive seed donations.

Under the partnership, PT LAJ is also purchasing the crops harvested by the farmer group, Ovezar said.

Meanwhile, head of the Wanamitra Lestari Forest Farmer Group, Sugiyo, said partnering with PT WW has enabled farmers save on household expenses as their basic necessities are being fulfilled from the sale of harvested food crops.

"We have benefited from our partnership with the company. When the fresh oil palm fruit bunches are sold at low prices, we can still earn additional sources of income from our food crops and vegetables," Sugiyo said.

Considering its benefits, the company-forest farmer group partnership is expected to continue because it has significantly helped small farmers living near the forest areas, he added.

The management of the rubber companies, which hold an Industrial Timber Plantation (HTI) concession of some 70,000 hectares of land in Tebo district, has vowed to continue supporting the government's social forestry program through the forestry partnership scheme.

The ministry's recognition and protection of forestry partnerships formed by Karang Jaya and Wanamitra Lestari forest farmer groups is the first of its kind for an HTI concession area in Jambi province, Widyarsono, general manager of PT LAJ and PT WW, said.

The companies have so far built forestry partnerships with eight farmer groups, including the Karang Jaya and Wanamitra Lestari, as well as two female farmer groups and a joint farmer group with a total membership of 263 farmers.

"We are committed to maintaining a sustainable partnership and contributing to the improved prosperity of communities around the forest areas," he asserted.

At a recent event, PT Royal Lestari Utama and local farmers cultivating the concession areas were encouraged to have a constructive dialogue as part of conflict resolution measures envisaged under the forestry partnership scheme.

The forestry partnership scheme has helped local farmers gain access to facilities such as training programs, professional advice, as well as donated agricultural equipment and supplies of seeds and baby fish, he said.

Speaking about the forestry partnership program implemented in Tebo district, Jambi Governor Fachrori Umar said he appreciated what PT LAJ and PT WW have done with the two local forest farmer groups.

The endorsement of partnerships between the companies and forest farmer groups by the Environment and Forestry Ministry is expected to improve the quality of local communities' economy, the Governor added.

“Explore the benefits of this nature for positive goals. This is a good example of how a plantation company is just not able to cultivate nature but also able to contribute to the goodness of local people through a sustainable partnership," he remarked. 

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