Golden Agri-Resources provides sustainable food supply amid COVID-19

The palm oil company has collaborated with several partners, including Wageningen University, The Netherlands, to implement the Alternative Livelihood Programme through Integrated Ecological Farming.

The COVID-19 pandemic’s impact continues to be felt, especially among vulnerable parts of in rural Indonesia where food security and income generation have been put at risk by the pandemic. In response, Golden Agri-Resources (GAR), a Singaporean palm oil company, has increased focus on food security and livelihoods programmes to support communities where the company operates.

Anita Neville, senior vice-president, group corporate communications, GAR, said: “During COVID-19, we saw that access to nutritious food was an even greater challenge for rural communities. Our Alternative Livelihood and Integrated Ecological Farming Programmes have been helping communities plan, fund, and grow their own food, allowing them to be less reliant on supplies from outside the village. The programme helps farmers feed themselves, plus earn much needed extra income. As a bonus, improving farmer productivity in these communities reduces the need to open more land for farming, reducing the risk of deforestation.”

GAR has collaborated with several partners, including Wageningen University, to deliver its Alternative Livelihoods and Integrated Ecological Farming Programmes. The programmes provide workshops for villages in different communities to increase soil fertility using organic fertiliser, resulting in healthier crops.

Local farmers and smallholders are taught food agricultural practice and given access to modern agriculture experts. Farmers are also encouraged to sell in the local market to generate income and helping them fulfill their daily needs.

To date, the programmes have helped more than 40 communities in Sumatera and Kalimantan upgrade their agricultural practices and grow cash crops, ranging from organic vegetables to coffee, GAR said. At the same time, reducing the risk to forests from deforestation to open up more cropland.

Improving livelihoods and ensuring a stable food supply are not the only benefits of these programmes. GAR has further taught rural communities, farmers and smallholders how to farm with sustainable practices in mind – reducing pressure on forest lands, eliminating the use of fire to open areas for cropping, focusing on water management and implementing regenerative agriculture techniques to maintain healthy soils.

“Rural and farming communities are reliant on the environment in which they live and work. A healthy environment, couple with good techniques, equals a healthy harvest. This is an investment in their and our future,” Neville added.

GAR claimed it has conserved more than 178,000 hectares of forest area – 78,000 hectares of which are within the company’s own concessions. Through its community engagement programme, Desa Makmur Peduli Api, the company has also prevented fire to only 0.5% area impacted in 2019, it added.

She concluded: “COVID-19 has shone a light on the vulnerabilities in the global food system. GAR has been working for several years on building the resilience of the communities in which we work and will continue to do so.”