There are as many as 4 million smallholder oil palm farmers in Indonesia – roughly half the total population of Switzerland.
Smallholders are present in most of Indonesia’s 17,000 islands. The number of smallholder oil palm farmers has increased over the past 20 years.
Oil palm farming in Indonesia has:
- Lifted more than 2.6 million farmers out of poverty this century;
- Allowed farmers to improve the education of their children and communities;
- Increased rural household income: oil palm is ten times more profitable for small farmers than other crops such as rice;
- Improved health outcomes in rural households;
- Lowered unemployment across rural communities and
- Improved access to clean water.
Oil palm farming is a lifeline for rural communities across Indonesia that do not have a way out of poverty. It is not – as some NGOs state – a source of labour exploitation. Many oil palm workers deliberately seek work on plantations because there is ongoing and regular employment in the community. Agriculture is a major part of the Indonesian economy. It contributes to 13 per cent of GDP. Estimates for the contribution of oil palm harvesting to GDP are between 3 and 9 per cent. This economic growth funds new roads, schools and hospitals as well as creating well-paying jobs.