In any partnership, give-and-take is important to strengthen an organisations’ capacity for long-term cooperation and collaboration, and to achieve the potential benefits of partnership, organisations must be prepared to build, sustain, and evaluate.
This is true to form with Royal Golden Eagle (RGE) and the relationship they have built with the palm oil farmers under their wing, which they established for a very long time. RGE, founded by Sukanto Tanoto in 1973 and formerly known as Raja Garuda Mas (RGM), now have assets worth USD20 billion, with more than 60,000 employees under its belt, and operations spread far and wide – in Indonesia, China, Brazil, Spain and Canada.
Palm oil is one of Royal Golden Eagle’s biggest sectors, and one of its subsidiary companies engaged in palm oil is Asian Agri. Established in 1979, Asian Agri has now become one of the largest palm oil companies in Asia that produces crude palm oil through plantations that are managed sustainably.
RGE’s relationship with their palm oil farmers is indeed special, to a point where they not only provide infrastructure and management support, and the training needed for these farmers to grow and maintain their palm oil plantations, but they also provide the means for these farmers to have an alternative source of income, during what is known as the replanting period.
The cycle of the palm oil tree is around 20-25 years, after which the old tree is no longer productive and would need to be replaced with a new tree. This palm oil rejuvenation, which is the replanting period, will be experienced by all palm oil farmers and it is during this time that these farmers would search for another source of income, as it takes three years for the newly-planted palm oil trees to be harvested.
During this period, Asian Agri develops various alternative activities and programmes, which can result in substitution incomes, and catfish cultivation is among those on the list. They provide catfish farming training with a biofloc system, and facilitates it by bringing in the expert, the Bang Lele Community, to provide mentoring, guidance and coaching. The company accompanies the farmers from the start of the cultivation, until the end when the catfish can be marketed.
Asian Agri stands by the farmers throughout the whole process. They facilitate their training, equip them with the provision of seeds, and finally, help the farmers with the sale of their catfish farms, and the Bang Lele Community helps with the collection, sales and marketing of the catfish harvest.
In addition to teaching catfish cultivation, Asian Agri also facilitate the farmers with other potential new sources of income, inviting them to a sheep farm in Siak region, owned by H Supatno. Here, they received insights related to sheep farming techniques, the anticipation of any diseases, and the marketing of the sheep.
Thus, farmers who are interested in raising sheep are also able to capture alternative income opportunities from sheep farming. Asian Agri sees these programmes as a way to ensure the independence of the palm oil farmers, providing them an alternative source of income to support their family economy and wellbeing.