Jakarta — Indonesia reaffirmed its commitments to sustainable palm oil plantation as it seeks to highlight the role of palm oil to achieve the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals, or SDGs, through a government-financed course on the issue, an official said on Monday (20/11).
The inaugural Oil Palm Course is a three-week program organized by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and the Collaborative Research Center 990 (CRC990) team, in which participants will attend classes for one week at the Bogor Agricultural University (IPB) and spend the next two weeks in Jambi, where they will receive first-hand insights into the daily practices of local palm oil manufacturers and engage with farmers.
The participants of the program hail from Germany, Italy, Colombia, Malaysia and Indonesia, and are comprised of environmental activists, researchers, diplomats and consultants. The course is funded by the Foreign Affairs Ministry.
“We want to bring them to see palm oil not only as a product, but also as a bridge to prosperity for these poor farmers,” said Siswo Pramono, head of policy analysis and development at the ministry.
He added that the government is currently focused on increasing sustainable practices on the country’s palm oil plantations and fostering cooperation with multi-stakeholders, as part of a national effort to achieve the SDGs.
In particular, Siswo explained how the local palm oil sector has provided jobs for millions across the archipelago and consequently lifted many people out of poverty. Around 17 million Indonesians are employed within the domestic palm oil sector.
Deputy Foreign Minister A.M. Fachir emphasized that palm oil is essential both to Indonesia and the rest of the world during his speech at the program’s opening, and said that the course is a “manifestation of Indonesia’s commitment to sustainable palm oil” and hopes to “give a better picture of the palm oil industry from the perspectives of small holders.”
Indonesia is the largest producer of palm oil in the world. Last year, Indonesia produced more than 35 million tons of palm oil, 25 million tons of which were exported worldwide.
The export value of Indonesian palm oil is around $17 billion, making up more than 12 percent of total exports in the country.
In April, the European Parliament adopted a resolution on palm oil and deforestation, which Indonesia subsequently criticized on the basis that it discriminated against local palm oil manufacturers and disregarded the nation’s efforts to introduce sustainable practices to the industry.
According to the ministry, negative campaigns against Indonesian palm oil begun as early as three decades ago. However, the recent EU Parliament resolution posed a new challenge for the country’s palm oil sector, to which the government has responded by engaging in intensive dialogue with its European partners.
In a meeting with her Italian counterpart, Angelino Alfano, in October, Foreign Minister Retno Marsudi emphasized the importance of “fair treatment” for Indonesian palm oil.
Hungary expressed its support to stop discrimination against Indonesian palm oil products in the European market during a meeting between Retno and Hungarian Foreign Minister Péter Szijjártó on Monday.
The ministry also said that several European countries that are importers of Indonesian palm oil products have received “inaccurate and misleading information” about the country’s palm oil industry. The government hopes that the 2017 Oil Palm Course will serve as an insightful reference for foreign participants.
Established in 2012, CRC990 is a collaboration between IPB, Jambi University, Tadulako University, and Germany’s University of Göttingen focusing on the study of sustainable palm oil.
The research consortium is primarily concerned with the biodiversity, ecological and socioeconomic impacts of land transformations, and has produced around 60 scientific articles.
CRC990 found that young palm oil plantations –those which are around two years old – cause increase in carbon emissions. However, mature palm oil plantations – those that are 10-12 years old – are sources of carbon sequestrations.
Their research also found that palm oil has contributed to increased prosperity and nutrition improvement among local villagers, including higher enrollment in schools among the youth.