Syahmad was still living in his hometown in Tebing Tinggi, Medan in the late 1980s when he first heard from his neighbour about the Indonesian government’s transmigration program.
The neighbour had moved to the area under the program to take up oil palm farming and had enjoyed a significant increase in his quality of life – a stark contrast to Syahmad who, as a paddy farmer, faced unreliable harvests and a fluctuating income.
“Hearing this, I wanted to follow in my neighbour’s footsteps. So, I migrated to Buatan in 1990,” Syahmad says.
Syahmad made the move with his wife and son, Rudiansyah, then aged just two.
“For taking part in the transmigration program, we were given 2.5 hectares of land – 2 hectares for oil palm, and 0.5 hectares for general agriculture, as well as a house,” he said.
Syahmad said that the family was grateful for the wooden house provided by the government, but it was too small.
“I also found the area was too quiet when I first moved. Things were inadequate back then – there were no lamps and lack of transportation,” he said.
Syahmad also faced challenges in the field. As a former paddy farmer, he lacked knowledge and experience of oil palm cultivation.
However, things changed when Syahmad became an Asian Agri partner.
Besides improving infrastructure in Buatan, the company provided continuous guidance and training to Syahmad and other oil palm farmers about best oil palm cultivation practices.
Fertilisers used in the plantations were tested for authenticity in the Asian Agri laboratory, and the farmers learned about pest and weed control, he says.
The company also showed them how to produce palm oil sustainably.
With each passing year, Syahmad and his family’s standards of living began to improve.
“After five or six years partnering with Asian Agri I was able to move to a new house. It felt great to be able to move from the small wooden house to a bigger house.”
The improvement of his quality of life is the reason why his partnership with Asian Agri has lasted for 27 years – and is still going strong, he says.
“I think the condition would be different if I had not partnered with Asian Agri. Not only does the company help with training to develop us into a better and more successful farmers, it also helps us with the sale of our produce,” he says.
For Syahmad his greatest achievement as a father was when he was able finance his children's university education: something he never imagined as the son of a paddy farmer.
“Alhamdullilah, my wife and I have been able to send our two children to university, thanks to Asian Agri. We would never have dreamed of such a thing, before,” he says.
Syahmad says he is grateful that his eldest son, Rudiansyah, has already graduated and now works at Asian Agri as a Plasma assistant, helping farmers like Syahmad who took part in the transmigration program.
“Since joining Asian Agri, Rudiansyah has helped to support the family's financial condition. He helped us and his younger siblings. It is also a gift that we are very grateful for,” Syahmad says.