After eight years with Asian Agri, Yudiansyah is today the Assistant Head of the company’s oil palm plantation in Bungo Tebo Regency.
Yudiansyah’s journey with Asian Agri has not been without its challenges but, through sheer determination, he has managed to overcome them all.
Before embarking on a career at Asian Agri, Yudiansyah had never left his hometown of Bandung. He grew up in the mountainous area of West Java, and studied at Padjadjaran University in Bandung, where he graduated from the Faculty of Agriculture.
“Before joining Asian Agri, I had never even left my family or Bandung,” he says.
After graduating from university in 2011, Yudiansyah received an offer to join Asian Agri and work in oil palm plantations.
“I received a call from Asian Agri’s management. I was happy of course, as I knew from university that Asian Agri is one of the largest palm oil companies in
Indonesia. Despite the happy news, there were some major concerns,” he says.
The main issue was his parents’ reluctance about him having to migrate to Sumatra to work.
“My parents were overwhelmed with worry: they were afraid that I wouldn’t feel at home in other people’s villages. They also considered the differences in culture and mannerisms, which can be major,” Yudiansyah explains.
“However, I dismissed all the concerns. I had my own, especially at that time when I didn’t know anything about oil palm plantations. I’d never even seen palm trees or how palm fruit is processed into palm oil!” he laughs, adding that his university studies had focused on horticultural crops.
Despite the worry about his limited knowledge about palm oil, Yudiansyah decided to forge ahead.
“I was aware that I would be living in a place which was really different from my hometown, with people from different cultures. This is in addition to the work on oil palm plantations, which is known to be hard,” he said.
Yudiansyah soon left for Sumatra to join Asian Agri. As expected, he faced difficulties as soon as he arrived.
“I had difficulty adapting when I first got to Sumatra. The language used and the way of communicating there was very different from my hometown, and I also had to adapt to the regional food,” Yudiansyah smiles as he recalls the early days following his migration.
In Sumatra, Yudiansyah had to undergo basic training at the Asian Agri Learning Institute (AALI) in Pelalawan, Riau, before he could begin work as a planter at Asian Agri.
AALI training is designed to equip new recruits with the skills and knowledge they will need to work in oil palm plantations.
“This is when I formed my current mentality. For six months, I was trained to become more resilient. I was quite spoiled in university, and I left that behind. I was really prepared to become a planter who can not only take care of myself but also care for my fellow colleagues in the plantations,” Yudiansyah says.
The six months of training at AALI helped Yudiansyah learn what he needed to know about oil palm plantations.
“At AALI, I received good guidance. Not only was I trained in physical agility and mental endurance, I was also given a lot of knowledge about oil palm plantations,” he said.
Upon completion of AALI training, Yudiansyah was finally ready to go into the field. His first placement in an oil palm plantation was as a quality control officer in Asahan Regency in North Sumatra.
He worked there for six months before he was entrusted with the position of Assistant Afdeling (a departmental assistant) at Asian Agri’s oil palm plantation in Rantel Village in Jambi.
“This particular oil palm plantation has quite challenging topography, but I knew I would learn some valuable lessons if I was able to overcome it.
“After a long period of successfully increasing the plantation’s productivity, I was then entrusted by the company with more responsibility when I was made Assistant Head in the Bungo Tebo regency in Jambi,” Yudiansyah says.
Yudiansyah explained that when he first transferred to the Bungo Tebo plantation, its condition was not as good as it is today.
“In fact, back then, this plantation in Bungo Tebo was well-known for being the most difficult plantation to work at in Asian Agri,” he says.
“But I don’t think the oil palm plantation in Bungo Tebo is as bad as people think. There were several challenges at first, such as coordination of the team. But this has slowly improved with better communication,” Yudiansyah adds.
Yudiansyah says that new challenges are inevitable, but that he is always ready to face them because he is able to trust his team.
“There is a sense of closeness between those working on an oil palm plantation. I am constantly exchanging ideas with my team members, as well as my supervisor. That’s very helpful when it comes to dealing with any issues we might have,” he says.
From a cultural perspective, Yudiansyah – who still has a thick Sundanese accent – says that he now considers Jambi his second home.
“Everyone here has become my new family. I have learned to coexist with people of different backgrounds, from living in plantations. Plus, we often hold sports activities to further bolster our close relationships,” he says.
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