Agronomy for Sustainable Development

, Volume 34, Issue 2, pp 501–513 | Cite as

Oil palm smallholder yields and incomes constrained by harvesting practices and type of smallholder management in Indonesia

  • Janice Ser Huay Lee
  • Jaboury Ghazoul
  • Krystof Obidzinski
  • Lian Pin Koh
Research Article


The oil palm industry in Indonesia faces several challenges in its bid to adopt more sustainable practices. These challenges include finding ways to increase smallholder palm oil production and to promote benefit sharing with local communities. However, factors that influence oil palm yield and income among oil palm smallholdings are poorly known. We surveyed 379 households in 15 villages in Sumatra, Indonesia, to identify factors controlling smallholder yield and income. We found that decreasing monthly harvesting rotation of oil palm smallholdings decreases oil palm yield, whereby once-a-month harvesting resulted in the lowest annual fresh fruit bunch yields (14.82 t/ha). We also found that independent smallholder households receive lower gross monthly incomes compared to scheme and managed smallholder households, whereby independent smallholders received the lowest gross monthly income from oil palm cultivation (2.17 million Indonesian rupiah). Our results provide quantitative evidence that harvesting rotation and type of smallholder management are important constraints on oil palm yields and incomes of smallholders.


Elaeis guineensis Smallholders Livelihoods Productivity Agribusiness 



This study would not be possible without the field assistance of Frans Prasetyo, Yusuf Rizal, Alamanda S. Putri, and Umilaela as well as all the oil palm smallholders in Sumatra who patiently participated in our interviews and group discussions. We thank Dr. L.T. Gan, Dr. Afrizal, and Dr. L. Anggraeni for their assistance in the field. This study is supported by the Swiss National Science Foundation (SNF 0-12818-06).


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Copyright information

© INRA and Springer-Verlag France 2013

Authors and Affiliations

  • Janice Ser Huay Lee
    • 1
  • Jaboury Ghazoul
    • 1
  • Krystof Obidzinski
    • 2
  • Lian Pin Koh
    • 1
  1. 1.Department of Environmental Systems Science (D-USYS)ETH ZurichZurichSwitzerland
  2. 2.Center for International Forestry ResearchSitu GedeIndonesia

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