Thomas Lamit anak Lutek is thankful for the majestic oil palm trees he tends, and for the nutritious, wholesome oil derived from the tree’s fruit. Malaysian sustainable palm oil, often called the golden oil, has improved the quality of life for his family, as well as for his entire community. Lutek says that his smallholder association has provided him property rights and a fair income. These Malaysian palm oil industry groups have also built roads, schools and heath care centers. This will benefit Malaysian families for generations.
Lutek lives in the Sarawak, Malaysia on the island of Borneo. He started his Malaysian sustainable palm oil plantation in 1985. At the time he did not have proof that he owned his land. “It was all handed down generation to generation,” he explains. “We know the boundaries because we keep on farming.” The Sarawak Land Consolidation and Rehabilitation Authority (SALCRA) helped the smallholders by surveying the land and giving them titles. “Now I have in my hand documentary proof that it is mine,” Lutek says proudly.
Lutek picks the fresh fruit bunches from his oil palm trees and sells them to the SALCRA mill which pays him a fair dividend. The organization’s mission is to improve the quality of life for its stakeholders. Since oil palm trees need to be replanted every 25 years, SALCRA maintains a reserve fund to cover the smallholder’s replanting expenses. “So we don’t have to borrow again,” explains Lutek.
Palm oil benefits extend beyond just the farmers
The entire community has reaped the benefits of palm oil. SALCRA has invested in Sarawak’s infrastructure. The association has built education centers, health care centers and roads. According to Lutek, the roads have made a difference in the community: “Whereas last time it may take a day or so to go to the hospital, now it only takes a moment.”
Some smallholders in Malaysia are realizing the benefits of palm oil and converting their struggling rubber plantations to sustainable palm oil plantations. “We don’t destroy forests,” Lutek explains. “We rehabilitate the land that is already planted.”