With 27 oil palm estates in Riau, Jambi and North Sumatra totaling 160,000 hectares of land of which 60,000 are smallholder estates, Asian Agri together with its smallholder farmers represent...
Editor’s Note: This post was contributed by Rachel Ann Kenyon who was part of the GCNS Youth Forum. Rachel is a 20 year old second year student at the Singapore University of Social Sciences.
On a breezy Monday morning, a small team of Global Compact Network Singapore (GCNS) volunteers took a 40-minute flight to the Indonesian island of Riau to visit Pangkalan Kerinci to learn more about how companies like APRIL empowers local communities. We all had recently attended the GCNS Youth Forum where professionals shared how young people like us could be empowered to collaborate with companies to effect positive change.
Having reached the school, we were greeted with a rousing welcome by the students and teachers. Student councilors gave us a tour of the school and fourth graders performea performance by fourth graders was put up. As RGE’s staff hail from countries as far as South Africa, the U.S.A. and Brazil, they have helped to set up this school to better accommodate to the needs of both their staff and their families. Mutiara Harapan School has special programmes on Earth Day, teaching the school children innovative and practical ways to contribute to sustainability efforts. RGE believes in employing a multi-faceted way to save the planet, which includes educating and empowering the young ones.
More than reaching out to the next generation of people in the community, RGE also seeks to reach out to the oft-forgotten members of society. Visiting the community development village demonstrated how the company actively seeks to improve the quality of life of the community. Training is provided by RGE to various families, empowering them with skills needed to pursue alternative sources of income. Upon reaching the village, we were given an overview of the various socio-economic and entrepreneurship programmes that improve people’s lives. These local startups provide services to APRIL and the community at large.
A recurrent problem Riau has been working hard to tackle is the multitude of forest fires that have caused the haze, prompting complaints from its Southeast Asian neighbours. APRIL seeks to minimise if not negate the occurrence of forest fires, as well as educate farmers about the detrimental effects to their health and the environment. To rectify this, APRIL’s community ambassadors negotiate with different community leaders to decide what incentives they may receive should they refrain from starting any forest fires. Men from the different villages come together weekly to train to put out the fires should they occur. Each fireman carries almost 10 to 15 kg worth of equipment into every fire, and runs up to 10km to reach places that their helicopters that cannot access.
The youth that visited Pangkalan Kenrinci that Monday didn’t just realise the immense potential for good that large companies have; they are now better able to effect change in their environment they are in through the lifestyles they lead.