Oil Palm Adaptive Landscapes (OPAL) Online Research Seminar Series

The expansion of oil palm (Elaeis guineensis) plantations is a significant driver of land-use change and deforestation in the tropics. This expansion provides important economic revenues for producer countries, corporations and smallholders, but with costs of negative externalities within and beyond the landscapes in which oil palm is grown. This seminar explores ‘green’ development trajectories that balance better development and conservation goals in an environment with pervasive uncertainties. A better understanding of socioeconomic and ecological processes that shape environmental outcomes and the feedback that such outcomes impose on society will help chart a path towards more sustainable and inclusive future. The Oil Palm Adaptive Landscapes (OPAL) project proposes that the resilience of a socioecological system can be improved by (1) integrated models of the future of biodiversity and ecosystem services at the landscape level over a decadal time span, that are (2) informed by multiple stakeholder perspectives and developed through participatory modelling approaches, and (3) embedded in the decision-making processes at interrelated district, national and international scales to help stakeholders navigate and explore possible alternative futures.

OPAL is a collaborative research project led by ETH Zurich, including international institutions (CIFOR, CIRAD and WWF), universities (Pontifical Javeriana University, IPB University and EPFL Lausanne), a consulting firm specializing in oil palm (NES Naturaleza) and several local grower associations. The project engaged a number of PhD researchers in efforts to help understand the socioecological system and driver of changes shaping landscape transformation associated with oil palm development, and to come up with recommended options to improve the governance of commodity landscapes across producing countries in Asia (Indonesia), Latin America (Colombia) and Africa (Cameroon).


Other relevant project documents and outputs can be found here: https://www.opal-project.org/


The 20% plasma estate provision: Building strong oil palm business partnerships in Indonesia

Republic of Indonesia Law No. 39/2014 on Plantations requires palm oil companies to facilitate the establishment of smallholder estates by setting aside 20% of their plantation area within 3 years of being granted a concession permit. Such facilitation can take the form of credit provision, benefit sharing or other types of financing. This has been the essence of partnerships between companies and communities living nearby, and constitutes a prerequisite for a plantation to be considered equitable and sustainable. However, progress with smallholder estate establishment has been slow, and, for a variety of reasons, some companies have failed to comply with this requirement of meet its targets. Factors deemed responsible for impeding the adoption and implementation of the policy include land availability, disagreements with target communities over terms of partnerships, and a perceived lack of smallholder capacity to manage plantations.

To address the problem, the Ministry of Agriculture has embarked upon a program to revise the policy and has commissioned a taskforce comprising experts and representatives of the Indonesian Palm Oil Association to identify problems, revise the policy and develop guidelines for companies in implementing their obligation to facilitate the establishment of community smallholder estates.

It is important for stakeholders to be aware of this new policy development, and listen to concerns raised by companies and other stakeholders, including academics and civil society organizations, and share their input. Also, now is the right time to discuss the implications of the newly enacted Omnibus law (Law No. 11/2020) – aimed primarily at boosting investment across sectors – for palm oil business partnerships and how it could lead to a stronger palm oil industry.


Michael Allen Brady

Team Leader, Value Chains, Finance, & Investments

Dedi Junaedi

Director of Plantation Product Processing and Marketing, Director General of Plantations, Ministry of Agriculture

Bayu Eka Yulian

Lecturer, Department of Communication Science and Community Development, Head of Politics and Policy, Agrarian Study Center, IPB University

Togar Sitanggang

The Indonesian Palm Oil Association (GAPKI)

Arya Hadi Dharmawan

Senior Scientist, Center for Agricultural and Rural Development Studies, IPB University/OPAL Indonesia Coordinator


Fredian Tonny

Lecturer, Rural Sociology and Community Development, IPB University




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Opening remarks








Agrarian Structure, Governance and Supply Chains

Drawing from their research in East Kalimantan, during this current webinar, Dr. Bayu Eka Yulian, Fakhrizal Nashr and Rizka Amalia, three of the PhD scholars supported by OPAL, wish to share and discuss their key research findings and thoughts on how to enhance the sustainable governance of oil palm plantation development through improved land allocation and agrarian, inclusive independent smallholder supply chain and certification systems.


For more information:
Fitri Heryani, f.heryani@cgiar.org
This online seminar will use Bahasa Indonesia.