The effects of the COVID-19 pandemic continue to be felt, particularly in poorer rural areas of Indonesia where food security and income are at risk from the pandemic
In response to this problem, the leading palm oil company Golden Agri-Resources (GAR) is increasing its focus on food security and livelihood programmes to support communities where it operates.
“During the COVID-19 pandemic, we found that access to nutritious food was difficult, especially in rural communities. Our programmes to promote alternative livelihoods and integrated organic farming have helped communities plan their own food needs and self-finance and grow food so that they are less dependent on outside supplies. The programme supports farmers in providing for themselves and earning an urgently needed additional income. At the same time, the improved agricultural productivity in these communities means that less new land is required for agriculture, which reduces the risk of deforestation,” explained Anita Neville, senior vice-president, group corporate communications.
New agricultural techniques ensure higher incomes for farmers
GAR works with several partners such as the internationally renowned Wageningen University to implement its programmes to promote alternative sources of income and integrated ecological agriculture.
The programmes include workshops for villagers from different communities, explaining how organic fertilisers can increase soil fertility. Such fertilisers also improve plant health.
Local farmers and smallholders are trained in good agricultural practice and given access to modern agricultural experts. In addition, farmers are encouraged to sell their produce in the local market for income and to help them meet their daily needs.
The programmes have supported more than 40 communities in Sumatera and Kalimantan in modernising their agricultural practices and growing cash crops such as organic vegetables or coffee. It also reduced the risk of more forests being cleared for agricultural use.
Focusing on environmental protection
Improving livelihoods and ensuring stable food supplies are not the only benefits of these programs. GAR shows rural communities, farmers and smallholders how they can practice sustainable agriculture. The aim is to reduce the destruction of forest areas, abolish slash and burn for agriculture, set up optimal water management, and use regenerative agricultural methods to maintain soil health.
“Rural and agricultural communities rely in a unique way on the environment in which they live and work. A healthy environment, along with good techniques result in a healthy harvest. This is an investment in their and our future,” said Neville.
Golden Agri-Resources follows his words with deeds with his considerable nature conservation efforts. The company has received over 178,000 ha of forest area - 78,000 ha of which are GAR’s own concessions. Through its Desa Makmur Peduli Api program for social engagement, the company also successfully contributed to the fact that only 0.5% of the forest area was burned down in 2019.
“COVID-19 has exposed the vulnerabilities in our food system. GAR has been working for years to make the communities more resilient, and we work in their surroundings. We will continue to do so in the future,” concluded Neville.