Independent Smallholders' Perceptions towards MSPO Certification in Sabah, Malaysia

Mohd Hafizuddin Syah Bangaan Abdullah, Shahida Shahimi, Amran Arifin


In a wake of concern towards sustainable palm oil products, the Malaysian government had continuously formulated various guidelines for palm oil industries in fulfilling the international sustainability requirement. In 2013, Malaysia has launched Malaysian sustainable palm oil (MSPO), which eventually become mandatory requirement in January 2020, including the independent smallholders. However, the numbers of independent smallholders that acquired MSPO was relatively low, stood at 30.66%. Therefore, this study aims to analyse the perceptions of independent smallholders towards MSPO in Malaysia. A structured questionnaire was used for data collection instrument that been distributed among 350 independent smallholders, with a response rate of 74.5%. Results from descriptive analysis showed that independent smallholders have a good perception towards MSPO certification. Furthermore, multiple regression analysis revealed that all three factors were significant to influence the perceptions, where the risk perception became the most important contributor. This study enhances the awareness of sustainability practices among independent smallholders and contributes to the implementation of MSPO certification. Since risk perception has emerged as the primary contributor, regulators or governing bodies must seriously consider risk mitigation concerning independent smallholders about risk exposure such as continuous monitoring to comply environment impact assessment requirement, improve the availability and accessibility of information and aggressive awareness campaign on MSPO.



Abazue, C., Choy, E., & Lydon, N. (2019). Oil palm smallholders and certification: Exploring the knowledge level of independent oil palm smallholders to certification. Journal of Bioscience and Agriculture Research, 19(1), 1589–1596.
Ador, S. F, Siwar, C., & Ghazali, R. (2016). A review of palm oil impact on sustainability dimension: SPOC initiative for independent smallholders. International Journal of Agriculture, Forestry and Plantation, 2, 104–110.
Alam, A. S. A., Er, A. C., Begum, H. & Siwar, C. (2016). Smallholders the prominent contributor towards sustainable oil palm sector. International Journal of Advanced and Applied Sciences, 3(2), 20–24.
Arshad, F., Ahmad, S. M., Salleh, K. M., Hashim, K., Rahami, M. S., Nambiappan, B. & Ismail, A. (2020). A comparative analysis of agricultural practices, costs and yields of pre- and post-Malaysian sustainable palm oil (MSPO) certification for independent smallholders in Malaysia. Oil Palm Industry Economic Journal, 20(1), 36–44.
Ayompe, L. M., Schaafsma, M., & Egoh, B. N. (2021). Towards sustainable palm oil production: The positive and negative impacts on ecosystem services and human wellbeing. Journal of Cleaner Production, 278, 123914.
Aziz, N. F, Chamhuri, N, & Batt P. J .(2021). Barriers and benefits arising from the adoption of sustainable certification for smallholder oil palm producers in Malaysia: A systematic review of literature. Sustainability, 13(18), 10009.
Barreiro-Hurlé, J., Espinosa-Goded, M. & Dupraz, P. (2010). Does intensity of change matter? Factors affecting adoption of agri-environmental schemes in Spain. Journal of Environmental Planning and Management, 53(7), 891–905.
Barrett, C. B., Bachke, M. E., Bellemare, M. F., Michelson, H., Narayanan, S. & Walker, T. F. (2012). Smallholder participation in contract farming: Comparative evidence from five countries. World Development, 40(4), 715–730.
Bjørnshagen, V. & Ugreninov, E. (2020). Labour market inclusion of young people with mental health problems in Norway. ALTER, European Journal of Disability Research, 15(1), 46–60.
Brandi, C., Cabani, T., Hosang, C., Schirmbeck, S., Westermann, L., & Wiese, H. (2015). Sustainability standards for palm oil: Challenges for smallholder certification under the RSPO. The Journal of Environment & Development, 24(3), 292–314.
Ching, J. Y. L., Yaman, I. C., Khoon, K. L., Hong, C. K. & Melayong, G. (2019). A case study into the sustainability journey and biodiversity conservation projects in Sarawak by Sarawak Oil Palms Berhad. Journal of Oil Palm Research, 31(3), 489–495.
Coakes, S. J., & Ong, C. (2011). SPSS: Analysis without anguish: version 18.0 for windows. Milton, Queensland: John Wiley & Sons
Daloğlu, I., Nassauer, J. I., Riolo, R. L., & Scavia, D. (2014). Development of a farmer typology of agricultural conservation behavior in the American Corn Belt. Agricultural System, 129, 93–102.
Daniel, A. N. A. (2019, October 10). Crucial for all to be MSPO-certified. New Straits Times.
[DOSM] Department of Statistics Malaysia. (2020). Selected agricultural indicators, Malaysia, 2020.
Dey, S., Reang, N. M., Das, P. K., & Deb, M. (2020). A comprehensive study on prospects of economy, environment, and efficiency of palm oil biodiesel as a renewable fuel. Journal of Cleaner Production, 286, 124981.
Fairhurst, T. & Hardter, R. (Eds.). (2003). Oil palm: Management for large and sustainable yields. Singapore: Potash & Phosphate Institute.
Field, A. (2016). Discovering statistics using IBM SPSS Statistics (4th ed.). California: SAGE Publications Ltd.
Ghadim, A. K.A., Pannell, D. J., & Burton, M. P. (2005). Risk, uncertainty, and learning in adoption of a crop innovation. Agricultural Economics, 33(1), 1–9.
Hafizuddin-Syah, B. A. M., Shahida, S. & Fuad, S. H. (2018). Sustainability certifications and financial profitability: An analysis on palm oil companies in Malaysia. Jurnal Pengurusan, 54, 143–154.
Haghjou, M., Hayati, B., & Momeni-Choleki, D. (2014). Identification of factors affecting adoption of soil conservation practices by some rainfed farmers in Iran. Journal of Agricultural Science and Technology, 16(5), 957–967.
Hair, J. H., Black, W. C., Babin, B. J., & Anderson, R. E. (2014). Multivariate data analysis (7th ed.). Harlow, UK: Pearson Education Limited.
Hidayat, K. N., Glasbergen, P., & Offermans, A. (2015). Sustainability certification and palm oil smallholders’ livelihood: A comparison between scheme smallholders and independent smallholders in Indonesia. International Food and Agribusiness Management Review, 18(3), 25–48.
Higgins, V., & Richards, C. (2019). Framing sustainability: Alternative standards schemes for sustainable palm oil and South-South trade. Journal of Rural Studies, 65, 126–134.
Januchowski-Hartley, S. R., Moon, K., Stoeckl, N. & Gray, S. (2012). Social factors and private benefits influence landholders’ riverine restoration priorities in tropical Australia. Journal of Environmental Management, 110, 20–26.
Jerneck, A., & Olsson, L. (2013). More than trees! Understanding the agroforestry adoption gap in subsistence agriculture: Insights from narrative walks in Kenya. Journal of Rural Studies, 32(1), 114–125.
Kadir, A. P. G. (2020, November 17). MSPO certification the key. New Straits Times.
Kadir, A. P. G. (2021, March 26) Demand for sustainable palm oil increasing. Bernama THOUGHTS.
Kalcic, M. M., Frankenberger, J. & Chaubrey, I. (2015). Spatial optimization of six conservation practices using SWAT in tile-drained agricultural watersheds. Journal of the American Water Resources Association, 51(4), 956–972.
Kannan, P., Peng, T. S., Ahmad, S. M., Seman, I. A., Ayatollah, K. A. R., Hashim, K., ..., & Omar, W. (2017). Knowledge assessment of basal stem rot disease of oil palm and its control practices among recipients of replanting assistance scheme in Malaysia. International Journal of Agricultural Research, 12(2), 73–81.
Kannan, P., Hanani, M. N., & Peng, T. S. (2021). A review on Malaysian sustainable palm oil certification process among independent oil palm smallholders. Journal of Oil Palm Research, 33(1), 171–180.
Kaur, D. (2020, July 7). Up to 96% of oil palm estates in Malaysia MSPO-certified. The Malaysian Reserve.
Keeble, B. R. (1988). The brundtland report: “Our common future”. Medicine and War, 4(1), 17–25.
Knowler, D. & Bradshaw, B. (2007). Farmers’ adoption of conservation agriculture: A review and synthesis of recent research. Food Policy, 32(1), 25–48.
Kolandai, S. K, Seng, C. J. & Nambiappan, B. (2021). Moving forward with mandatory MSPO certification standards. Oil Palm Industry Economic Journal, 21(1), 1–12.
Krejcie, R. V., & Morgan, D. W. (1970). Determining sample size for research activities. Educational and psychological measurement, 30(3), 607610.
Kumaran, S. (2019). The dynamics for mandatory MSPO certification scheme to be successfully implemented. Journal of Oil Palm, Environment & Health, 10(148), 1–7.
Kuntom, A. (2014). Malaysian sustainable palm oil. Palm Oil Developments, 60, 1–4.
Lapple, D. & Hennessy, T. ( 2015). Exploring the role of incentives in agricultural extension programs. Applied Economic Perspectives and Policy, 37(3), 403–417.
Lee, R. G. (2005). Resources, rights, and environmental regulation. Journal of Law and Society, 32(1), 111–130.
Liu, T., Bruins, R., & Heberling, M. (2018). Factors influencing farmers’ adoption of best management practices: A review and synthesis. Sustainability, 10(2), 432.
Lubell, M., & Fulton, A. (2008). Local policy networks and agricultural watershed management. Journal of Public Administration Research and Theory, 18(4), 673–696.
Majid, N. A., Ramli, Z., Sum, S. M., & Awang, A. H. (2021). Sustainable palm oil certification scheme frameworks and impacts: A systematic literature review. Sustainability, 13(6), 3263.
[MPOB] Malaysian Palm Oil Board. (2021a). Malaysian palm oil industry. Retrieved from
[MPOB] Malaysian Palm Oil Board. (2021b). About the Malaysian palm oil board. Retrieved from
[MPOC] Malaysian Palm Oil Council. (2020). Palm oil-based product manufacturers asked to display MSPO logo on packaging. Retrieved from
[MPOCC] Malaysian Palm Oil Certification Council. (2021a). MSPO certification scheme. Retrieved from
[MPOCC] Malaysian Palm Oil Certification Council. (2021b). The 7 principles of MSPO standards. Retrieved from
[MPOCC] Malaysian Palm Oil Certification Council. (2021c). Why sustainability certification needed for palm oil. Retrieved from
Martin, S., Rieple, A., Chang, J., Boniface, B., & Ahmed, A. (2015). Small farmers and sustainability: Institutional barriers to investment and innovation in the Malaysian palm oil industry in Sabah. Journal of Rural Studies, 40, 46–58.
McNamara, D. J. (2010). Palm oil and health: A case of manipulated perception and misuse of science. Journal of the American College of Nutrition, 29, 240S–244S.
Meijer, S. S., Catacutan, D., Ajayi, O. C., Sileshi, G. W., & Nieuwenhuis, M. (2015). The role of knowledge, attitudes and perceptions in the uptake of agricultural and agroforestry innovations among smallholder farmers in Sub-Saharan Africa. International Journal of Agricultural Sustainability, 13(1), 40–54.
Meyers, L. S., Gamst, G., & Guarino, A. J. (2013). Performing data analysis using IBM SPSS (1st ed.). John Wiley & Sons, Inc. Retrieved from
[MoF] Ministry of Finance. (2021, May 28). Budget 2021 touchpoints. Retireved from
Mukherjee, S., & Mitra, A (2009). Health effects of palm oil. Journal of Human Ecology, 26(3), 197–203.
Ng, M. (2019). Malaysian sustainable palm oil (MSPO) to be made mandatory by 2019. Retrieved from
Ni, L. X., Ali, F., & Zainudin, Z. H. (2016). Factors influencing the implementation of Malaysia sustainable palm oil (MSPO) among oil palm smallholders in Malaysia. International Journal of Academic Research in Business and Social Sciences, 6(12), 272–284.
Nordin, I., Hassan, Z., & Razali, N. A. M. (2021). Malaysian palm oil sector performance in 2020 and market opportunities. Retrieved from
Nur, H. M., Nazirah, C. J., Ainul, S. S., Mohamad, A. J., Amran, A., Nursuhan, D., …, & Hamdan, A. B. (2016). Penerimaan guna amalan pertanian baik (GAP) di kalangan pekebun kecil sawit persendirian di Malaysia. In Prosiding Persidangan Pekebun Kecil Sawit 2016: Memperkasakan peranan, memperjuangkan harapan (pp. 169–183). Lembaga Minyak Sawit Malaysia (MPOB). Retrived from
Odgaard, P., Stoustrup, J. & Kinnaert, M. (2013). Fault-tolerant control of wind turbines: A benchmark model. IEEE Transactions on Control Systems Technology, 21(4), 1168–1182.
Qijun, J. & Batt, P. J. (2016). Barriers and benefits to the adoption of third-party certified food safety management system in the food processing sector in Shanghai, China. Food Control, 62, 89–96.
Pannell, D. J., Marshall, G. R., Barr, N., Curtis, A., Vanclay, F., & Wilkinson, R. (2006). Understanding and promoting adoption of conservation practices by rural landholders. Australian Journal of Experimental Agriculture, 46(11), 1407–1424.
Pannell, D. J., Llewellyn, R. S., & Corbeels, M. (2014). The farm-level economics of conservation agriculture for resource-poor farmers. Agriculture, Ecosystems & Environment, 187(1), 52–64.
Prokopy, L., Towery, D. & Babin, N. (2014). Adoption of agricultural practices: Insights from research and practice. Purdue Extension: FNR-488-W.
Rahman, S. (2020). Malaysian independent oil palm smallholders and their struggle to survive 2020. ISEAS Perspective, 144, 1–16.
Reimer, A., Thompson, A., Prokopy, L. S., Arbuckle, J. G., Genskow, K., Jackson-Smith, D., …, & Nowak, P. (2014). People, place, behavior, and context: A research agenda for expanding our understanding of what motivates farmers’ conservation behaviors. Journal of Soil Water Conservation, 69(2), 57A–61A.
Rolfe, J. & Gregg, D. (2015). Factors affecting adoption of improved management practices in the pastoral industry in Great Barrier Reef catchments. Journal of Environmental Management, 157, 182–193.
[RSPO] Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil. (2020a). About sustainable palm oil. Retrieved from
[RSPO] Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil. (2020b). From farm to plate: how sustainable is the palm oil in your food? Retrieved from
[RSPO] Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil. (2021). RSPO smallholders. Retrieved from
Saunders, M., Lewis, P., & Thornhill, A. (1997). Research methods for business students. London: Pitman Publishing.
Senaviratna, N. A. M. R., & Cooray, T. M. J. A. (2019). Diagnosing multicollinearity of logistic regression model. Asian Journal of Probability and Statistics, 5(2), 1–9.
Senawi, R., Rahman, N. K., Mansor, N., & Kuntom, A. (2019). Transformation of oil palm independent smallholders through Malaysian sustainable palm oil. Journal of Oil Palm Research, 31(3), 496–507.
Shahida, S., Hafizuddin-Syah, B. A. M., & Fuad, S. H. (2019). Does MSPO certification matter for profitability of Malaysian palm oil companies? International Journal of Economics and Management, 13(2), 357–369.
Sun, Y., Neelakantan, N., Wu, Y., Lote-Oke, R., Pan, A., & van Dam, R. M. (2015). Palm oil consumption increases LDL cholesterol compared with vegetable oils low in saturated fat in a meta-analysis of clinical trials. Journal of Nutrition, 145(7), 1549–1558.
Taber, K. S. (2018). The use of Cronbach’s Alpha when developing and reporting research instruments in science education. Research in Science Education, 48(6), 1273–1296.
Ulrich-Schad, J. D., Babin, N., Ma, Z., & Prokopy, L. S. (2016). Out-of-state, out of mind? Non-operating farmland owners and conservation decision making. Land Use Policy, 54, 602–613.
[UN] United Nation. (1987). Report of the world commission on environment and development: Our common future. Oxford: Oxford University Press.
[UNDP] United Nations Development Programme. (2021). What are the sustainable development goals? Retrieved from
Vignola, R., Klinsky, J., Tam, J., & McDaniels, T. (2013) Public perception, knowledge, and policy support for mitigation and adaption to climate change in Costa Rica: Comparisons with North American and European studies. Mitigation and Adaptation Strategies for Global Change, 18(1), 303–323.
Wang, N., Gao, Y., Wang, Y., & Li, X. (2016). Adoption of ecofriendly soil-management practices by smallholder farmers in Shandong Province of China. Soil Science and Plant Nutrition, 62(2), 185–193.
Ward, P. S., Bell, A. R., Parkhurst, G. M., Droppelmann, K., & Mapemba, L. (2016). Heterogeneous preferences and the effects of incentives in promoting conservation agriculture in Malawi. Agricultural Ecosystem Environment, 222, 67–79.
Welch, E. W., & Marc-Aurele, F. J. (2001). Determinants of farmer behavior: Adoption and compliance with best management practices for nonpoint source pollution in the Skaneateles Lake Watershed. Lake Reservation Management, 17, 233–245.
Yap, P., Rosdin, R., Abdul-Rahman, A. A. A., Omar, A. T., Mohamed, M. N., & Rahami, M. S. (2021). Malaysian sustainable palm oil (MSPO) certification progress for independent smallholders in Malaysia. IOP Conference Series: Earth and Environmental Science, 736, 012071. Retrieved from
Zakaria, Z., Rahim, A. R. A., & Aman, Z. (2020). Issues and challenges of oil palm cooperatives towards greater sustainability: A proposal of conceptual framework. International Journal of Academic Research in Business and Social Sciences, 10(1), 46–69.


Mohd Hafizuddin Syah Bangaan Abdullah (Primary Contact)
Shahida Shahimi
Amran Arifin
AbdullahM. H.-S. B., ShahimiS., & ArifinA. (2022). Independent Smallholders’ Perceptions towards MSPO Certification in Sabah, Malaysia. Jurnal Manajemen Hutan Tropika, 28(3), 241.

Article Details

Risk Management Literacy Level among Oil Palm Smallholders in Malaysia

Mohd Hafizuddin Syah Bangaan Abdullah, Amira Azmi, Rubayah Yakob, Hendon Redzuan
Abstract View : 171
Download :216