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Indonesia, 14 October 2020 – Earlier this week, Musim Mas established a Smallholders Hub in Aceh Tamiang, in collaboration with key stakeholders, as they rolled out a series of training for government agricultural officers.

The Smallholders Hubs equips government agricultural officers with knowledge on good agricultural practices and NDPE (No Deforestation, No Peat, and No Exploitation) to train and upskill oil palm independent smallholder farmers in the areas they administer.

Musim Mas’ Smallholders Hub is part of a larger landscape project that aims to reduce deforestation, promote sustainable agricultural production, improve livelihoods, and create a Verified Sourcing Area (VSA) in Aceh Tamiang. The Smallholders Hub sits within a Center of Excellence or PUPL (Pusat Unggulan Perkebunan Lestari), a multi-stakeholder platform that manages Aceh Tamiang’s sustainable crops, beyond palm oil, in the VSA.

This landscape project, led by Yayasan IDH (Inisiatif Dagang Hijau [The Sustainable Trade Initiative in Indonesia]), involves the Government of Aceh, palm oil producers, civic society organizations such as FKL (Forum Konservasi Leuser / Leuser Conservation Forum), and consumer goods companies such as Unilever and PepsiCo.

(From left to right) Representatives from IDH, Aceh Tamiang Agricultural Agency (Dinas Perkebunan), PUPL, and Musim Mas addressing the agricultural officers during the Smallholders Hub launch.

Musim Mas would be training 75 agricultural officers in total for the Smallholders Hub in Aceh Tamiang. Due to COVID-19 safety measures, training would be conducted in a series to different and smaller groups of agricultural officers in the following months.

While this is the first Smallholders Hub established by Musim Mas, smallholders programs are not new to the palm oil corporation. It runs Indonesia’s largest independent smallholder program for palm, collaborating with local government, Indonesian banks, Rainforest Alliance, and IFC (International Finance Corporation), a member of the World Bank.

Through a train-the-trainers approach, Musim Mas trains agricultural officers on the curriculum of their smallholders program, so that agricultural officers can train independent smallholders in their area.

“The Smallholders Hub approach is one of Musim Mas’ strategies to engage as many independent smallholders as possible. There are smallholders that fall in our supply chain, but we are unable to reach them via our commercial connections, such as via our mills or our suppliers,” said Rob Nicholls, General Manager of Programs and Projects of Musim Mas. “Having the government’s support will accelerate and expand our efforts to empower smallholders to adopt sustainable practices and maintain a deforestation-free and conflict-free supply chain.”

“Equipping government agricultural officers and empowering smallholder farmers with knowledge on good agricultural practices is absolutely critical to deliver a deforestation-free supply chain,” said Martin Huxtable, Sustainable Sourcing Director at Unilever. “We support this initiative from Musim Mas and hope it can build on the work Unilever has been developing with the Aceh Tamiang district government to achieve a successful production-protection-inclusion model and a Verified Sourcing Area (VSA) readiness pilot.”

“We are happy to share similar visions and values with committed private sector such as Musim Mas, on how collaboration can contribute to leverage sustainable sourcing capacity at landscape level, specifically through VSA approach in Aceh Tamiang. In a wider scale, we hope this also supports the National Action Plan for Indonesia’s Sustainable Palm Oil and relevant efforts while improving independent smallholders’ capacity and protection of important ecosystems,” said Fitrian Ardiansyah, Executive Chairman of Yayasan IDH.

“FKL welcomes the establishment of the Smallholders Hub in Aceh Tamiang, considering the importance of increasing land productivity for independent smallholders in Aceh Tamiang. Increased productivity in community plantations will benefit their livelihoods and have a direct impact on decreasing illegal activities in the Leuser Ecosystem, a landscape that must be protected if the sustainable development of Aceh Tamiang – and Aceh province as a whole – is to be successful into the future,” said Hendra Syahrial, FKL Sustainability Project Leader.