By: Ian Lifshitz
This article is sponsored by Asia Pulp and paper.
Agus Suryono was a struggling oil palm farmer in his Indonesian village where the economy wasdependent on palm plantations. He earned $150-200 a month (converted from Indonesian rupiah).
Five years ago, he joined a locally operated social economy program to educate farmers on bestpractices for community agriculture and forestry. He learned environmentally friendly methods to improve fertilizer, grow seeds and use equipment.
Since his time in the program, Suryono switched from farming oil palm to vegetables and live stock. Today, he’s grown his chilli pepper farm to earn $3,000 a month and employs 15 fellow villagers. He even speaks internationally, including at United Nations events, about supporting local farmers in taking up eco-friendly, forest-based livelihoods.
This is just one of many stories about how supporting local farmers can lead to lasting change for both the individual and the environment as a whole.
The program Suryono participated in was Asia Pulp and Paper’s Integrated Forestry and Farming System (IFFS) Program. You might ask, "Why is a forestry company teaching farmers to grow vegetables?"
Subsistence farming is important to us in the business of growing trees for pulp and paper.Conversion of crop land to pasture, while separate from pulp and paper production, is the single largest direct cause of tropical deforestation. Agriculture drives 80 percent of tropical deforestation and generates as much as 25 percent of global greenhouse gas emissions. As neighbours, it is vital to establish shared sustainability values.
Smallholders are the base of the pyramid of agricultural producers and companies with a majorstake in the world’s ecosystem should care, even if it seems outside of the commodity of their supply chain.
Revolutionizing sustainable farming
We need a new "green" revolution in agriculture that does not pit forests against crops or peopleagainst plants. We can take the following steps to build community engagement programs that address social issues impacting deforestation:
It will take time to achieve the next green revolution where forests, businesses and agriculture work together to mitigate deforestation. Along the way, corporations must think beyond their own supply chains to address risks across the landscape.