​Learning More about Sustainable Palm Oil in North Sumatra - Conservation International South-South Exchange

​​Indonesia​​   English


The production of palm oil has increasingly attracted global attention as a commodity that provides significant economic benefits but that while also has had significant negative environmental and social issues. In Indonesia palm oil has improved the welfare of millions smallholder farmers who currently produce 39% of the Fresh Fruit Bunches (FFB) that flow into a variety of different products throughout the world.

Despite the positive economic benefits there has been significant deforestation, tremendous impact and in some cases loss of biodiversity, as well as contributing to green-house gas emissions (through land conversion, methane emissions from the vast waste ponds). 

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Given these environmental impacts associated with palm oil in some contexts, Conservation International (CI) has prioritized palm oil as a critical commodity for which it is critical to ensure appropriate conservation and broader support sustainable palm oil production. 

This was one of the key reasons for the decision by CI to host a South-South Exchange (SSE) for CI staff from around the world to visit the largest palm oil producer country, Indonesia.

The visit also provided participants with an improved understanding of the benefits of conservation through the application of sustainable production of palm oil with all of relevant stakeholders. Conservation International staff members from Brazil, Peru, Ecuador, Liberia, Europe, the United States, as well as from West Papua, attended the exchange that was conducted between 5-10 June, 2016 in North Sumatra.

The participants were honored by the attendance of Parlindungan Purba, SH, MH, Senator of North Sumatra Regional Representative Council. Senator Purba was very happy and interested to learn about the CI exchange visit because palm oil has significant impact for Indonesia. "Hopefully with this visit will open the view and sight of our friends from other countries of palm oil producers such as Brazil, Peru et cetera. They can also see directly the development of palm oil particularly in North Sumat​ra." 

​Senator Purba said adding that he hopes international people not only concern at the environmental aspect but could work together towards the sustainability.​

The exchange commenced in Medan, with the participants sharing the experiences, program, as well as presentation from respective countries. There was also a presentation and discussion by key palm oil stakeholders from North Sumatera who have been a partnering with the Sustainable Landscapes Partnership; primarily the Joint Secretariat of Palm Oil North Sumatera. Dr. Hidayati, who is the Head of the North Sumatra Environmental Protection Agency and chief representative from Secretariat said that "​this visit is great to show that we are working towards sustainable palm oil, and we collaborate with several NGO including Conservation International.​"​

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Another key speaker from the Joint Secretariat was Timbas Ginting, Secretary of the Association for North Sumatra Palm Oil Producers attended the discussion and invited the participants to visit North Sumatra to learn more about sustainable palm oil. The collaboration between government of North Sumatra and CI, through the SLP program, translated into a “North Sumatra Sustainable Palm Oil Pledge” that was signed in 2015.

The pledge was signed by 16 palm oil companies who committed to sustainable palm oil practices and agreeing to promote Indonesian Sustainable Palm Oil production.

The second day, the participants continued to the District of South Tapanuli, visiting a turtle nestling site called Muara Opu which is a village near nesting sites where three of the seven sea turtles species in the world. The community, local NGOs and CI are working together to conserve these species that is relatively endangered. ​

On the third day the participants visited PT. Perkebunan Nusantara (PN) III with the team having an opportunity to see the cultivation and the processing of FFB. The participants were also able to see the processing of the Palm Oil Mill Effluence (POME) to become bio-gas and electricity energy, including the management of watershed area in their plantation.

The participants were also able to have a discussion with the Mills Manager of the PT. PN III, Hermansyah, on how they implement the sustainability practices. After the visit to PT. PN III, the team took the chance to speak with smallholder farmers and communities who are producing palm oil. The smallholder farmers confessed that the palm oil could increase their welfare compare to their previous livelihood.

The improvement of their live income gained through the cultivation of palm plantation as well the existence of mills in sub district that provides the demand for FFB has really impacted on their livelihoods. Besides the palm oil plantation, the participants also visited a rubber plantation and were able to see the processing of rubber proper tapping. On the last day, the participants and an internal meeting to consolidate lessons learnt, key messages for their respective work in palm oil. Participants stating that this visit has opened their sights about the real condition of the development of palm oil in Indonesia.​ (Bharaty/June, 28​ 2016)​

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