Asia School of Business

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Insights from GAP Execution for Yield Intensification Among Independent Smallholder Farmer for Oil Palm

By :
Kee En Lim, Vasagi Ramachandran, Asad Ata, Muhilan Ratnam, Rizal Mohamad, Saiful Azahar, Aiman Hashim, Chua Soon Tat, Hanafi Mansor

February 21, 2024

Oil palm productivity today is well below its actual potential worldwide and much more so with Independent Smallholder (ISH) farmers. The national average oil yield in Malaysia remains at the 3 to 4 tons per hectare level, with growth in palm oil production in the last three decades having come mainly from increased area cultivated. The ISH sector contributes a total of 16.8% of the total area of palm plantations in Malaysia. This study looks at encouragement of Good Agricultural Practices (GAP) implementation to drive sustainable yield intensification in ISH farms, leading to better ISH livelihoods that alleviate their cost burden for certification to sustainable production standards that discourage deforestation and opening of new land for oil palm cultivation. In large plantations, decades of field experimentation have led to the development of GAP proven to drive yield improvement, but similar work is lacking for oil palm ISH. The GAP of large growers may also not be directly applicable or easily transferable to ISH whose farms are very small and discontinuous, and who have low capital and limited access to resources and knowledge. In this study, we set out to assess the impact of selected GAP that we considered most relevant for ISH in our project area, as well as the challenges faced by the participating ISH in implementing and sustaining the GAP in their farms. We measured the impact of the implemented GAP on fresh fruit bunch (FFB) yield and sales revenue in a group of ISH farms, called Learning Farms (LeFa), by comparison against a group of similar farms where normal practices of ISH continued. The status of implementation and maintenance of GAP in the LeFa was assessed in periodic field audits. Key insights were gained on the ability of ISH to implement the GAP. While GAP implementation was below par, the impact on FFB yield and sales revenue showed promise.

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