Demonstration plots to convince oil palm smallholders
In Indonesia, oil palm smallholders typically never receive training on good practices to grow palm oil fruits. Many use too much pesticide, leading to high costs, while being thrifty with fertiliser, hindering growth. As a result, harvest yields and quality are low. In Indonesia, SNV is establishing demo plots under the South Sumatra Green Partnership project to stimulate and train farmers to use best management practices (BMP) on their own plot, as for most “seeing is believing”.
Simpang Tungkal Village
Pak Purnomo, like many others, came to South Sumatra as a migrant smallholder in the 1990s. He settled in for oil palm farming after a few short-lived attempts in growing various cash crops. He agreed to work with SNV to set up a demo plot on his two hectare plantation. As a respected local leader, working with him would help to convince other farmers to adopt BMPs.
“I really appreciate SNV teaching us new skills. I will replicate them if they are successful,” Pak Purnomo said confidently. When he and several other members of the farmers’ group tested out a 10-days harvesting rotation for a few months, the results were better than he expected. “My harvest went up from about 8–9 tonnes to 10–13 tonnes per month! And because the quality of the fruits has improved, the price we get has increased by 21%.” The results that came out of his demo plot were more than enough to convince 275 other smallholders and their families to also learn and replicate the BMP approaches.
Similarly, Pak Nanang Kosim has been cultivating oil palm for fifteen years. He also implemented the BMPs he learned during the training from SNV. He was surprised by the good results. A neighbouring farmer was impressed by the large number of oil palm fruit bunches. Pak Kosim told his neighbour that all this is because of SNV’s support. “If you don’t believe me, take a look at my yield record”. His record shows an up to 40% increase in production since the start of 2018. The impact was predictable: As word spread out, many farmers in Pak Kosim’s village also started implementing the new practices. Next, SNV plans to bring them together either under a farmers’ group, or within a legal cooperative so they could get more benefits and increase their access to markets and agro-inputs.
Banjar Sari Village
A few hours away by car, in Banjar Sari Village, the smallholder farmers are only just recovering from a recent infestation by nettle caterpillars of their oil palms. The infestation was a result of the overuse of herbicides, which led all ground vegetation to die. As a result, the foraging ground of caterpillar’s natural enemies disappeared, leading to outbreaks during which waves of caterpillars would attack multiple plantation blocks.
Pak Syaibani’s oil palm trees were not spared and he had to bear the damage as well. Following a series of training-of-trainer workshop, Pak Syaibani took part in establishing a demo plot. On the plot, he changed his field maintenance to include manual and selective-control weeding. Apart from improving ground cover, this new approach has cut his herbicide use in half, decreasing costs and increasing profits. Pak Syaibani also experimented with planting flowers on roadsides and in drains to attract the caterpillar’s natural enemies, and convinced a local community organisation to do the same.
Showing the practical value of BMPs
The above stories illustrate how applying BMPS on model plots shows their practical value. Demo plots are a key component to SNV’s methodology to professionalise value chains and an effective tool to convince farmers to adapt new practices.