Five female leading farmers’ thoughts on sustainable palm oil production

Story: Sustainable and Climate-Friendly Palm Oil Production and Procurement in Thailand Project

It is undeniable that discussions over women’s roles have picked up steam in recent years. The Sustainable and Climate-Friendly Palm Oil Production and Procurement in Thailand (SCPOPP) project is a part of a larger initiative to develop methods for producing palm oil without negatively impacting the environment. It also includes a wide range of activities in which farm women take part, whether as professional trainers or volunteers participating in a committee on group management or offering suggestions to enhance the project’s activity.

The initiative regularly sees 40 percent of female farmers engaging in the activities, which is quite a high figure for oil palm growers. The activities range from field visits to events and chats with various groups of farmers to encourage them to take part in the action. Their participation has inspired and informed the project of the primary concepts that female oil palm smallholders have contributed to the development of sustainable palm oil.

“Brave” – uncompromising like a southern farmer who must adapt daily

Ms Renu Phusuwan
In southern Thailand, oil palm plantation management have usually been passed down from generation to generation. The majority of the oil palm smallholders owning the land are the elderly. However they are forced to keep up with the existing sustainable oil palm guidelines and adapt themselves to the systems and market developments.

“I know that running an oil palm plantation as I used to is sufficient to make a living. Sustainability necessitates a significant amount of change, particularly greater attention, and cannot be accomplished alone. We need to gather a small group of farmers and collaborate as a group. We must have the fortitude to abandon the traditional methods of doing things. Even if, you are concerned about, whether it would be beneficial and whether you can earn more money than before, there are no options. I never hesitated to give my entire cooperation. If there is an issue, it will be resolved gradually. There is a solution for everything.” says Renu Phusuwan, a farmer from the Thai Indo Lam Thap community entrepreneurship organisation, RSPO.

“Dedication” – when obligations go beyond farming

Ubonrat Phueakdaeng

The initiative has frequently observed that the farmer submitting an application to join the project uses the male pronoun, but female farmers would join the training activities and were taught in their place. Conversations with them reveal that oil palm plantations are typically run by families. The husband works a full-time job outside the house, such as in the government. The stay-at-home wife has more time to participate in the activities. In order that their families can live well, eat well, sleep well, and live happily, female farmers must shoulder more obligations than their spouses, kids, or mothers. However, if it was not for the commitment to upholding the responsible actions to the best of abilities, the management of oil palm farms would never be sustainable.

“My mother is aging and suffers from a congenital condition that requires care but when my partner asks me to take part in project-related activities, I’m prepared to give it my all. I may occasionally request that the group study and train online at home if I am unable to attend the session,” said Ubonrat Phueakdaeng, a farmer from Khaotor Oil Palm Grower Community Enterprise, Plaipraya District, Krabi Province.  Even though her face appears sad, she has a resolute expression and a smile, and when the elderly mother, who is seated on the floor, smiles and returns the welcome, the memory becomes even more unforgettable.
Sureeporn Chaiyot
“Life earnings” that increase longevity but are not derived only from palm oil revenue. What matters, though, is your own resolve and motivation to grow and improve.

The mix of “profit” and “pleasure” is more nuanced and effective.

“Para rubber and oil palm were my sole first plantings. But in order to educate oneself and breed cows thus increasing the production of compost and other items, hens and ducks that lay eggs may be sold separately.Today marks the beginning of making palm oil in a sustainable manner. Consider these suggestions as you move forward so that you can help us achieve our goals. It’s entertaining to cultivate oil palm grove throughout the years with the hopes of making it self-sustaining. Get money by buying and selling eggs. Then it grew all by itself.” One of the farmers in the Khao Tok Sub-District, Ban Kiansa in Suratthani province, who produces high-quality palm oil is Sureeporn
Chaiyot. This 50-year-old oil palm smallholder is determined and does her best to manage her oil palm plantation with respect to the nature and the environment. Undoubtedly, health, well-being and joy are what Sureeporn and her community receive in return.   
Nantiya Koratamee
“Opinion Leader” the unsung heroes who guide their fellow farmers to a sustainable future Mobile application is usually designed with an aim to encourage farmers to keep records and administer palm groves. Still, it’s not something that most farmers can adjust to overnight. It needs someone with keen insight and original thinking. Because of this, it will guide farmers to reach their final goal.

“I like the i-Palm app simply because it’s useful. It is really useful in overseeing our oil palm plantations. I encourage all team members to use i-Palm. Training sessions are provided so that they can get familiarise themselves with the mobile app. Thanks to i-Palm, we can keep track of our earnings, records of how the plant develops to identify what’s missing and what needs to be added. At first, many refuse to use it. I keep insisting them to use the mobile app and monitor them regularly. It is evident that our team has a better data management. All evidence is consolidated here and easy to follow.”
Nantiya Koratamee, farmer member of  Community Enterprise Group in the Tha U-Tae Sub-district, Suratthani province,
emphasised that learning new technological skills requires time and persistence. Most importantly, there must be a leader who can inspire and convince farmers to change and adopt new skills to better their sustainable palm oil production.

“Be Open-Minded”    

For Sudarat Nurod, a membe of Sri Charoen Community Enterprise Group Green Palm Oil in Krabi province, all round knowledge is crucial for better oil palm management.

Ms Sudarat Nurod
“I am constantly up-to-date on the latest events. And then I bring it here to share with the rest of the members and modify as necessary. Europe takes environmental preservation extremely seriously. As a result, resources that won’t harm the planet must be used. They have spent a lot of time getting ready. We can aim high and prepare ourselves in terms of oil palm production from upstream to downstream. That said, we are well aware of the situation. We anticipate that our efforts will have far-reaching consequences. We gave it our all, but we never gave up on the mission, no matter what stood in our way or the new technologies that aid agriculturalists. There is a high price tag attached to everything. I just never considered these to be needless expenditures. As an investment, it yields profits in the form of long-term worth.”

Sustainably managing the oil palm plantation requires commitment, lifelong education and improvement. All involved in the value chain should have a complete understanding of all aspects, and apply what has been taught to strategic management analysis and planning. SCPOPP project is proud to enhance motivation to keeping agricultural development going, and be proud to support these oil palm smalholders and many more.

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