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The skipped chapter of the sustainable palm oil story: Women smallholders

Eco Business 4 March 2024


Women are often the forgotten link in the sustainable palm oil value chain.

Female oil palm farmers typically work in low-pay jobs, weeding, spraying fertiliser, tending to seedings or collecting loose fruit on plantations in Indonesia, the world’s biggest producer of the edible oil.


According to the International Labour Organisation, less than a third of palm oil workers are female. But data on exactly how many women work in the trade is unreliable, because many women work informally, helping their husbands in the fields, dividing their time between the sweaty labour of plantation life and domestic work at home.


Farm life is hard for women, who work long hours in remote parts of the archipelago, often doing other unpaid work, such as childcare or managing the family warung or store, after spending all day on the plantation.


 

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