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RBF 2018: Helping smallholders in order to achieve zero hunger SDG


This speech was first presented by Franky Widjaja, Chairman and CEO, Golden Agri-Resources, at RBF 2018 in Jakarta, on 27 March 2018 and has been modified slightly to fit the blog.

The theme of Responsible Business Forum (RBF 2018) was Jakarta is Scaling Collaboration to deliver the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).

The SDGs provide a positive framework – No Poverty, Zero Hunger, Responsible Consumption and Production – these are all things we can agree on. It is honourable that so many of us are dedicating our time and energy to discussing the SDGs and how to deliver them at conferences like this.

But what are we achieving? What are our measures of success? And perhaps the biggest question on everyone’s minds – Why are we not getting the results we want, as quickly as we want?

I know you share my concern for the health of Mother Earth.

We breathe the same air, we have the same red blood, we are born from our mother not our father – there is no difference between us.

Why do we keep talking but make little progress?

I believe the lack of progress is because our expectations are different.

We don’t have a shared guiding principle, don’t have the same measurements, don’t have the same expectations. To make progress we need to change our approach. We need to achieve a shared understanding.

Franky Widjaja, Chairman and CEO, GAR, speaking at the RBF 2018 in Jakarta, on 27 March 2018. Photo via © Global Initiatives.

Sustainability can only be achieved when there is a balance between economic opportunity, environmental protection and social welfare. If you don’t look after the stomachs of the people, then they will not look after the environment.

Big companies can follow government rules and add value through their own initiatives. Smallholders will have a much tougher timethey can meet government requirements but are not empowered or enabled to do more.

This is the main issue we must address. To achieve food security, you must deliver economic opportunity that is focused on enabling smallholder farmers.

Let’s put food security into very practical terms:

By 2050, there will be 10 billion people to feed. Estimates suggest that is an extra 200.25 million tons of vegetable oil which will be needed to help feed these people.

Where does it come from? What you decide will dictate the environmental future you will have.

If you choose soybean oil, you will need 445 million hectares of farmland. Choosing palm oil on the other hand, will only require 40 million hectares of farmland.

That is why palm oil smallholder farmers must be supported to be part of the solution. If they are not yet achieving our expectations of sustainability, what do we do? Do we boycott their product? Is this the right thing to do?

We have an obligation to help smallholder farmers be part of the solution.

We must help our vulnerable citizens – smallholder farmers – so that they can help us feed the world.

I invite those attending to brainstorm how we can create the platform to enable smallholders – through pendampingan (which loosely translates to “hand holding”)

Smallholders are vulnerable in four key areas:

  1. Training in good agriculture practices
  2. Discipline – in applying good agriculture practices and in their business management.
  3. Access to markets
  4. Financial inclusion – access to loans to help them adopt better practices, buy quality inputs like high yielding seeds

The palm oil sector has demonstrated that through pendampingan, smallholders can adopt more responsible practices, deliver better yields and secure better incomes.

At the opening ceremony of RBF 2018 on Food and Agriculture in Jakarta. (From left to right) Shinta Kamdani, President, Indonesian Business Council for Sustainable Development (IBCSD) & Vice Chair, Indonesia Chamber of Commerce & Industry (KADIN); Darmin Nasution, Coordinating Minister for Economic Affairs, Republic of Indonesia; Franky Widjaja, Chairman and CEO, GAR; Tony Gourlay, CEO, Global Initiatives.

At the Jakarta Food Security Summit that took place from 8 – 9 March, and with PISAgro, we have been promoting this model of smallholder support. In January, President Jokowi announced a campaign to distribute millions of land certificates to smallholders – these are essential to securing financial access. In addition, the Oil Palm Fund Management Agency has provided sufficient funds to support independent smallholder replanting in 2018.

Thank you Pak Darmin and the Government of Indonesia for supporting these initiatives to empower smallholder farmers.

My challenge to all of you: Let’s identify a guiding principle so that we can approach things together with a shared and consistent understanding. Let’s be clear how to measure success, so that in 2030 the achievement of the SDGs can be clearly measured.

Unless we are clear what we want to achieve together, with a shared set of expectations and a practical path forward, there will only be more talk.

I am glad so many dedicated people are engaged in this conversation to protect our Mother Earth. Now is the time for action. Thank you

Learn more about how we work with smallholders here.

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