Our business activities have direct and indirect impacts on the livelihoods and quality of life of our employees as well as neighbouring communities. Given the nature of our business, it is common that we operate in the most remote parts of developing countries.
We recognise our ability and responsibility to improve the quality of life of our neighbours, especially the rural poor. Our approach is to ensure we bring meaningful and lasting benefits to the communities in areas where we operate, while maintaining the viability of our business. We reckon that one of the best means to achieving this is to build open, honest and mutually beneficial relationships that promote harmony with them.
To this end, we are committed to progressive socio-economic policies and programmes in the local communities and economies we operate in, focussing on addressing local needs and encouraging community self-reliance through education and service support such as healthcare and infrastructure provision.
Wilmar provides educational assistance and support to empower the neighbouring, local communities to enable them to build meaningful lives in the long run. We are also supportive of the long-term development and funding of educational infrastructure.
School Redevelopment Programme in Indonesia, March 2017
As part of Wilmar’s endeavour to ensure that the children of our workers, as well as members of the local community where we operate, have access to quality education and share in the benefits of oil palm development, we have embarked on a school redevelopment programme. Modelled after Wilmar funded schools in China, the programme is in progress in Indonesia. We have completed the redevelopment and upgrading of all 15 schools in 2021.
We identified the plight faced by children of immigrant workers in our East Malaysia operations and aimed to provide them with their basic necessities. This included providing them with an education as these children are typically excluded from Malaysian mainstream education due to a variety of factors including their legality status, insufficient space in local schools as well as the remote location of plantations that poses a challenge for them to access schools.
Among our most successful projects involves collaborating with Humana Child Aid Society of Sabah (Humana), which is an independent, non-profit organisation dedicated to providing basic education to children. Together with Humana, we have established ten primary schools.
We have also successfully established Community Learning Centres (CLCs) in both Sabah and Sarawak, in collaboration with the Government of Indonesia. To date, we have seven CLCs providing secondary education in Sabah and two CLCs providing primary education in Sarawak. The educational syllabus is designed based on the Malaysian curriculum, integrated with Indonesia-centric subjects. This will help ease the Indonesian children’s transition to the mainstream societies.
Apart from providing them with free education, we also subsidise uniforms, school shoes and books (including text books, workbooks and exercise books every year.
Wilmar’s team in Cross River State, Nigeria has also kick-started a project to reconstruct primary and secondary schools within surrounding landlord communities of their operational area. In each school, there is provision of a high standard library, science laboratory and a computer lab to boost the interest of the pupils and students in science and information technologies at the young age. We have completed the upgrade for all six schools in 2021. The aim is to improve the quality of school infrastructure and facilities, teaching standard and extra-curricular activities offered to pupils and students.
Besides overseeing the construction and renovation of schools, Wilmar’s staff volunteers also supports the management of the schools. The team found out that one of the reasons the poor standard of education within the surrounding communities was lack of accommodation for the teachers in the school.
Majority of the teacher are residence in the main city of Calabar, which on average is 80km to their place of work. Many of these teachers have transportation difficulties to get to school in the rural areas. While renovating the schools, the team also built and provided accommodation for the teachers within the school campus. Each teacher is provided with a two-bedroom apartment, fully furnished with basic furniture, free water and electricity.
We have also launched a scholarship programme in 2015 to sponsor high-achieving students from local communities to attend university. Since 2015, 151 youths within the surrounding landlord communities have benefited from the program, 20 of the beneficiaries have graduated and 141 beneficiaries are still in school.
Modern infrastructural services play an important role in economic growth and poverty alleviation. This is crucial in developing countries where the acute shortage of basic infrastructure is a major hindrance to development and growth. Private infrastructural support play a vital role in these developing economies, especially when the operations extend into remote areas where the more vulnerable communities are often distant from governmental support.
As such, we undertake to provide such services for our communities and our employees, as well as promote rural development. Our support aims to improve the rural communities’ access to services and markets, as well as create employment. Some of our initiatives include the construction, maintenance and renovation of roads, bridges, places of worship, community halls, sports halls and other communal facilities; as well as provision of clean water supply units to the villages.
Furthermore, Wilmar also builds on-site clinics and sponsors mobile clinics to provide healthcare services to local communities in remote locations. Initially set up to serve its own employees, Wilmar’s medical services were extended to our rural neighbours who in the past lacked regular access to basic healthcare. The suite of free medical treatments provided includes free immunisation, circumcision surgeries and cataract surgeries, amongst others.