The potential to create a sustainable rubber supply chain from the project area is high. However, there are challenges.
The Batin Sembilan are not skilled farmers – having no history of cultivation – resulting in poor quality and low yields. In addition, the historic supply chain was opaque, making it difficult to trace the rubber back to sustainable sources, a key aim.
The Living Rubber project is addressing these issues with carefully constructed programmes of training and quality control that meet the GPSNR guidelines. It has also set up a database to make administration easier and more efficient and to improve rubber traceability.
The target is to train farmers on their own land in good rubber tapping and storage techniques, disease identification and treatment, pest control and the ideal spacing of trees to maximise yields. Following a launch that failed to address poor technique and quality control, specialist agri-tech training consultancy Koltiva was hired to help change behaviour and increase quality.
“One difference between the traditional way of rubber farming and the Koltiva way is the technology we use,” says Adrio Juliardi, Koltiva regional project manager in South Sumatra. “We give farmers topics based on their needs and after coaching them we put it all in an app for them and give them a video to watch.”
Farmers are now following storage advice and avoiding impurities such as rocks, improving the quality of their rubber. In addition, best practice tapping techniques along with the new farmer co-operatives have helped lift the amounts of rubber collected.
Looking to the long term, the aim is to have 45 Batin Sembilan families develop a total of 45 hectares of new rubber agroforestry over three years. Interestingly, some of these families are from groups that haven’t yet signed Forest Partnership Agreements, indicating that the Living Rubber project is attracting new supporters.