Oil palms become less productive as they age, and at around 25 years their yield decreases significantly.
For smallholders this can present a difficult choice: either accept successively smaller harvests and a decreasing income, or replant the trees and wait two-four years until they begin producing fruit.
But replanting cannot be postponed inevitably, and the sooner it is completed the better for both the smallholder’s income and the overall production of the palm oil industry.
To help encourage reluctant smallholders, and to bolster their income while they wait for their new oil palms to bear fruit, Asian Agri provides a range of economic assistance.
Puji Sitompul is the Plasma smallholder coordinator for two plantations in Jambi, Tungkal Ulu and Muara Bulian, which are scheduled for replanting in 2018. He has been working with local communities to prepare them for the coming change for several years.
"Asian Agri has already prepared for the replanting period since 2012," he said.
The company provides new sources of livelihood, such as cattle, poultry, fish and seeds. The resulting produce can be sold to provide income during the replanting period, and has other uses too. For example manure from cattle can be used as fertilizer for oil palms, and can also be used to produce biogas which can be used for cooking to reduce household expenses.
Asian Agri has also been providing training to the smallholders, both on how to use their new resources and to increase their knowledge of farming in general, which will help them further raise their productivity.
Although initially reluctant, the smallholders are now keen to begin the replanting process in order to benefit from the higher yields that will result.
"Now they could send their children to higher school, built a nice house or community, and go on pilgrimage. They are now living a better life," said Puji.