In the 1980s, Ekoyono’s parents were struggling to raise their young family. With limited skills and education, the chances of providing a better life for their three children looked slim in their native area of Ciamis, West Java.
Then they heard about the Plasma Transmigration Program (also known as PIR-Trans) that the government was establishing, offering Indonesians from rural areas the opportunity to become oil palm farmers.
In 1990 the family moved to Pelalawan, Sumatra to work with PT Inti Indosawit Subur, part of Asian Agri. Under the terms of the PIR-Trans program, farmers were given two hectares of land and were partnered with a company. The company would help them to develop the land and teach them the skills they would need, and in return they would sell their produce to the company.
At first things were not easy. There were challenges with integrating the influx of new migrants, and many of the new farmers had little experience with growing oil palms. But through hard work and perseverance, the family was able to improve their income.
Today at the age of 41 Ekoyono has taken over running the family’s oil palm plantation, which has grown significantly from its original two hectares.
“I am very grateful that both of my parents decided to participate in the PIR-Trans program. Now we are much more prosperous. We have employed 18 people to manage our 40 hectare oil palm plantations,” said Ekoyono.
His monthly income is significantly higher than the regional average, but the most important thing for Ekoyono is the opportunity to help the community. “As an oil palm farmer, I can create a jobs opportunity for the people around me and help them,” he said.
After his father passed away, Ekoyono became the backbone of his family, and decided to continue their legacy by joining a growing band of second generation oil palm farmers.
“My parents have never told me to become an oil palm farmer,” he said. “This is purely my own decision. My parents did teach me how to be a good farmer.
“My father started out with just a hoe, and he became a successful farmer and helped our family. I realized I wanted to become a successful farmer like him.”
While many of his friends aspired to work in offices, Ekoyono is proud to be a farmer. “The point is not about the prestige. Because being an oil palm farmer is very profitable.”
The family has certainly benefitted. Ekoyono’s youngest sister is currently studying, while his middle sister is happily married. Ekoyono meanwhile continues to work hard on the plantation that has given so much to him and the local community.