Engaging community in the development of palm oil plantation through Participatory Conservation Planning

Learning experiences from Sinar Mas Agribusiness and Food (SMART) in Indonesia to engage the communities around concessions through Participatory Conservation Planning.



Source: www.smart-tbk.com


Sinar Mas Agribusiness and Food (SMART), established in 1962, is a subsidiary of Golden Agri-Resources, one of the largest oil palm plantation companies in the world.

Certainty of land ownership and permits is crucial in carrying out the business of SMART palm oil plantations covering more than 138,000 hectares (including plasma plantations).

If SMART has a piece of land or concession permission from the district government to operate in the area, does SMART have the full right to decide what will be done with the land? In reality, land ownership can be a gray area when local people claim customary ownership on the overlapping area they live in.

“A dilemma often occurred when high carbon stock forests need to be protected, but the community use these resources to fulfil their economic needs.” SMART Free, Prior and Informed Consent (FPIC) team explained the issue of land dispute.




Free prior informed consent without forced eviction

FPIC is one of SMART’s solution to clarify concession, conservation, and community areas. This policy is a practice developed to respect indigenous peoples’ land rights.


“Because our actions impact the community, we ensure their Free, Prior and Informed Consent (FPIC) through consultation and discussion before developing plantation or conserving the land.



FPIC is part of Social and Community Engagement Policy, that has existed since November 2011. As stated on the SMART website, “Because our actions have impacts on the community, we ensure their Free, Prior and Informed Consent (FPIC) through consultation and discussion before developing or conserving the land.”

“The principle of FPIC is not only in the form of rejection or approval of a plantation project, but also in the process of providing complete and adequate information about the economic, social, cultural and environmental impacts that may be caused by the existence of the project,” explained the SMART FPIC Team.


Bridging perceptions: starting Participatory Conservation Planning until becoming a Village Regulation

In 2015, SMART accompanied by The Earthworm Foundation has introduced Participatory Conservation Planning (PCP) in Penai Village and 11 other villages in West Kalimantan. PCP is a mapping process and consultation with surrounding communities to determine which areas can be used for SMART businesses, conservation, or can be used by the community.

Source: Sinar Mas Agribusiness and Food


The PCP process begins with mapping High Carbon Stock (HCS) for forest conservation areas. Then, Participatory Mapping is conducted to determine which areas have social, spiritual and economic values for the surrounding community. The community, SMART, and the village government then sat together to approve plans for concession, conservation, or for community.

“A draft report will be prepared, a draft map of spatial planning as well as a draft conservation map that will be delivered through a Public Consultation involving village communities and related parties such as Local Government (Bappeda, BPN, Related Offices), academic representatives and NGOs suggestions from the PCP activity process. ” SMART FPIC Team explained.

According to Fahreza Hidayat, Senior Management Team at The Earthworm Foundation, the company must also understand the needs of the village. “For example, villagers might need support in developing sources of livelihood or agriculture,” Fahreza added.

In Penai Village in West Kalimantan, the results and the process of PCP have turned into a Village Regulation (Perdes). Fahreza stated “Perdes institutionalized PCP. The Perdes is important to budget village funds to carry out the planned activities for the PCP results. “


Source: Tribunnews


“The purpose of the village regulation is for our children and grandchildren to still be able to see the forest, and still be able to depend on this sustainable forest.” said Paulus, the head of Penai Village.

SMART hopes that the PCP results can be incorporated into the Village Medium Term Development Plan. “The goal is that the village community has an environmentally conscious village development plan. So that pay attention to aspects of sustainability in managing the use of village natural resources,” said the SMART FPIC team.


An achievement from a long process

The participatory mapping process does not always run smoothly. “Sometimes some people don’t want to participate in the mapping process because they feel the company stole their land,” Fahreza said. The Earthworm Foundation plays role in bridging the interests of the company and the community when conflict happens.


“We must find a balance of representatives from various factions and interests in the community.”

 – Fahreza, Senior Management Team of The Forest Trust


“We must find a balance of representatives from various factions and interests in the community. For example, despite the fact that the majority of village officials are men, we must think about how to give a broader voice to the female population. ” said Fahreza.

More support from the government is also needed to provide incentives for companies to implement PCP. “It is necessary to give financial incentives so that small and medium enterprises, which do not have as much resources as SMART, can also implement PCP,” Fahreza added.


Parties involved in this story

Free Prior Informed Consent Team and Wirendro Sumargo, as Head of FPIC Department.

Fahreza Hidayat, Senior Management Team, The Earthworm Foundation



This story captures experiences and opinions from various perspectives on a particular situation, and is designed to share lessons learned on some of the issues involved. It is not intended to be a comprehensive case study nor does it claim to give a definitive account of a specific case or perspectives on that case.


[1] http://pontianak.tribunnews.com/2018/09/28/sinar-mas-inisiasi-perdes-pengelolaan-sumber-daya-alam-kawasan-hutan-di-desa-penai


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