General Mills joins Musim Mas to tackle deforestation in Indonesia with on-the-ground activities aimed at smallholders

By Gill Hyslop

- Last updated on GMT

Smallholdings represent around 40% of Indonesia's oil palm area, hence the duo's joint initiative to target that sector. Pic: GettyImages/slpu9945
Smallholdings represent around 40% of Indonesia's oil palm area, hence the duo's joint initiative to target that sector. Pic: GettyImages/slpu9945

Related tags General mills Musim Mas Palm oil deforestation Indonesia regenerative agriculture

General Mills is collaborating with Musim Mas Group to launch a programme designed to integrate independent smallholders from villages neighbouring the Leuser Ecosystem in Aceh Singkil into the sustainable palm oil supply chain to reduce deforestation by improving livelihoods.

The programme is part of Musim Mas’ vision to establish Smallholder Hubs that serve as a pre-competitive platform where companies can pool resources and share their expertise to train farmers.

The primary objective is to develop sustainable extension services that benefit communities and the local government.

The Rawa Singkil Wildlife Reserve in Southern Aceh is home to the densest population of orang-utans found anywhere in the world.​ It spans an 82,000 hectare area of the Leuser Ecosystem peat swamp forest, an area teeming with biodiversity that’s at risk. Most of the deforestation has been attributed to small scale encroachment – less than five hectares – outside the concession areas, according to Earthworth Foundation. Hence the efforts to focus on smallholders.

General Mills has pledged to fund the first year of the two-year programme that aims to reach 1,000 smallholders.

The programme’s curriculum includes Good Agricultural Practices (GAP), business management and NDPE (No Deforestation, No Peat, No Exploitation), which will help smallholders improve their sustainability standards, increase their land productivity and better manage their finances.

To expand the programme’s reach, Musim Mas will train governmental agricultural officers in targeted villages, who then will train the independent smallholders in their respective villages.

High-risk production landscape

“As part of General Mills ongoing commitment to protecting forests and peatlands, we see an increasing need to support on-the-ground activities that address the drivers of deforestation within high-risk production landscapes such as Indonesia’s Leuser Ecosystem,” ​said Kevin O’Donnell, global director of Sourcing and Operations Sustainability at General Mills.

“This is especially the case with smallholder farmers who can benefit greatly from better access to technical expertise. We’re excited to leverage our experience advancing regenerative agriculture and sustainable sourcing innovation across a growing list of commodities with Musim Mas’ proven track record of success driving improved livelihood and forest positive results through smallholder extension hubs.”

Musim Mas is no stranger in developing and implementing smallholder programmes, having engaged over 31,000 independent growers through various programmes across Indonesia, including a partnership with the International Finance Corporation (IFC) – a member of the World Bank Group – which has successfully facilitated market access for growers.

Last year, a spokesperson from Musim Mas told BakeryandSnacks the company takes its commitment to sustainability very seriously.​ It was the first with major operations in Indonesia to join the Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil​ in 2004.

“Smallholdings represent at least 40% of Indonesia’s oil palm area and still need to progress in terms of sustainability and productivity,”​ said Olivier Tichit, Musim Mas director of Sustainable Supply Chain.

“The extension services provided through our Smallholders Hubs deliver better agricultural practices that directly benefit farmers' livelihoods and landscape sustainability.

“Our collaboration with General Mills will scale up our outreach to smallholders and integrate them into sustainable supply chains.”

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