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Harvesters: The Unsung Heroes of Agriculture


As the upstream part of palm oil production, the harvesters play a crucial role in the manual harvesting of fresh fruit bunches (FFB) from oil palm trees. Starting as early as 7 AM, they are armed with tools like sickles or machetes, skillfully cutting down ripe FFB to ensure the quality of the harvest. With varying employment agreements, some work directly under farmers on a monthly or biweekly salary basis, while others choose project-based work under vendors, receiving compensation per completed project. Their tireless efforts are integral to the palm oil supply chain, contributing to the production of this valuable commodity.

Harvesters play a vital role in the palm oil industry by performing several key tasks. Their primary objective is to harvest ripe fresh fruit bunches (FFB) from oil palm trees, ensuring a continuous and uninterrupted supply to sustain the palm oil production process. To maintain the trust of the farmers who employ them, harvesters must consistently deliver high-quality work. This includes careful and precise harvesting techniques to not only ensure the longevity of their tools but also prioritizeprioritise their own safety in the inherently hazardous environment of the palm oil plantations. In essence, their duties go beyond manual labour; they are custodians of both the palm oil supply chain and their own well-being.

Let's Meet Real-life Harvester: Febri

Let's meet a real-life harvester, Febri, who operates in Afdeling 9, Berumbung Baru, Kabupaten Siak, Riau, alongside his brother and wife. Febri's work encompasses not only the manual harvesting of fresh fruit bunches but also the management of cattle, a testament to the multifaceted nature of his role. Living in close proximity to the estate, Febri's earnings provide a glimpse into the economic aspects of his profession. He receives Rp1.500.000 per lot, amounting to Rp33.000.000 per month when working with a single farmer. Additionally, his income receives a boost from livestock management, particularly when he sells male cows, with earnings ranging from Rp9.000.000 to Rp16.000.000 per year.

Febri's workday starts at 8 AM, allowing him to dedicate his mornings to tending to his cattle. Febri's wife plays a pivotal role in the operation, overseeing the gathered fresh fruit bunches (FFB) and meticulously collecting their fruitlets for sale. Remarkably, the farmer's duties extend beyond the plantation, as he operates independently and relies on trust for the smooth operation of his tasks.

One notable convenience is their access to the internet while on the farm, thanks to the presence of network towers in the area. This connectivity enables them to engage with social media platforms like Facebook and YouTube, highlighting the integration of modern technology into the daily routines of these dedicated harvesters.

He has faced a number of challenges that test their skills and creativity. One of the most prominent challenges is the height of the oil palm trees themselves, making it very difficult to reach the fresh fruit bunches (FFB) located high above. To overcome this issue, Febri uses fiberfibre poles, long sticks used to extend their reach. However, even such simple tools come with his own challenges, especially in terms of cost. When a fiberfibre pole breaks during the harvesting process, it not only hampers his efficiency but also adds an additional financial burden. Moreover, the tools he relies on to cut and collect FFB are vulnerable to wear and tear, often breaking easily under the demands of their strenuous work. These challenges underscore the physical and economic hurdles that must be overcome in his daily efforts.

Despite facing various challenges, there are several motivations that keep him dedicated as a harvester. One significant motivation is the desire to maximise his earnings for not only bolsters their financial well-being, but also supports his family in the economic aspect. Additionally, he has embraced modern convenience by shopping through e-commerce platforms like Lazada, showcasing his adaptability in blending traditional agricultural practices with contemporary technologies to improve quality of life. These motivations not only reflect his commitment, but also highlight the ability to balance economic aspirations with the demands of his profession.

Their Life: Interesting Behaviour

In terms of skills and capabilities, harvesters don't just possess knowledge of harvesting; they also demonstrate muscular strength by handling some heavy tools (callednamed egrak) and fresh fruit bunches (FFB) weighing at least eight kilograms. Nonetheless, they must stay alert to unforeseen accidents that could potentially disrupt their work. These accidents not only result in injuries, but also entail the expense of replacing their tools, since these tools are personal possessions.

Furthermore, pursuing a career as harvesters holds promising prospects, even becoming affluent enough to afford their own cars. Nevertheless, some of them encounter certain difficulties, such as poor financial management and theft of FFB during periods of high prices. Therefore, effective financial management and vigilant oversight of FFB are necessary to mitigate the risk of losses, ensuring the well-being of harvesters and sustaining production of palm oil.

As the unsung heroes of agriculture, harvesters play an intriguing and motivating role through their dedicated efforts. Their journey has been far from easy in contributing to both their families and the sustainable production of palm oil. Therefore, SawitBlog invites you to explore more similar stories. Kudos for the harvesters!

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