Apical and Setara Jambi building capacity through an RSS programme

In 2017 Apical launched a project to pilot the use of the RSS framework with mills in its supply base in Siak District, Riau Province on the island of Sumatra. Apical is working with Proforest, Daemeter Consulting and implementation partner Yayasan Setara Jambi to roll out this project at one of their key supplying palm oil mills. The mill company PT TKWL has recognised the potential value in this project to help them to establish good relationships with independent smallholders, which in turn, benefits both parties.



There have been several stages to the implementation of this project. Once Setara Jambi had been identified as the preferred partner to support field implementation, they and Proforest engaged in preparation and scoping for project implementation. A scoping visit to the mill sourcing area was conducted. Proforest provided training on the RSS framework for 9 Setara field staff team and 3 members of the Apical team.

Then the Setara team were deployed in the field to work with smallholders and their communities to identify and prioritise the risks and needs they face. Methodologies used include questionnaires and focus group discussions. Groups of smallholders interested to join the programme were identified. The project has been working with three groups of independent smallholders from three nearby villages, consisting of 90 participants.

A tailored programme of support for these smallholders was designed and delivered by the Setara team. This TSS Action Plan included classroom and field-based training on best management practices – on subjects such as control of pests and diseases, use of fertilisers, good harvesting standards and FFB quality. Farmers also learned about health and safety practices when harvesting and applying fertilizer, about the issue of child labour and the expectation of buyers that they should never use fire to clear land for planting. 

Through engagement with the targeted smallholders, Apical and PT TKWL are able to better understand the challenges faced by farmers and are able to identify a practical approach to addressing these gaps based on what is realistic and achievable.



This programme has yielded direct impacts by increasing FFB quality and quantity, helping to stabilise market prices and enhance the incomes and living standards of the community. Farmers confirmed that the training and field mentoring provided through the RSS Action Plan have already proved useful to them. Already there is an observable improvement in the quality of FFB sourced from smallholders. With less un-ripe or over-ripe fruit and no stalks left on the fruit bunches, price penalties are avoided.

For PT TKWL, this is helping to ensure a constant supply of FFB to its mill. The Mill Manager, Timbul Sirat is quoted in Apical’s latest sustainability report: “We can now directly engage with the independent smallholders and socialise them with best practice to improve FFB quality. At the same time, this two-way interaction established a good relationship that can secure consistent supply”.

The process for mitigating risks associated with smallholder production requires an iterative process, ensuring understanding and self-evaluation from the smallholder perspective. There are plans for a 2nd cycle of support which would include awareness raising and capacity building to address management of smallholder plantations on peat and financial management in smallholder farming.

The company hopes that this will be the start of a process to enhance its relations with other smallholders, helping to improve the quality and quantity of FFB supplied to their mills. They envisage TKWL’s commitment towards sustainability being cascaded out to other farmers via this initiative. Smallholders have welcomed participation in this programme as it is the first of its kind to be provided by a private company. Apical, in partnership with Setara and has already commenced work on a second RSS pilot with another of the milling companies in their supply chain, in Jambi Province.

This experience has proved once again the value of the RSS framework for stakeholder engagement, especially for actors seeking constructive engagement and support for smallholders in responsible sourcing.

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