TEMPO Interactive, Jakarta:The Merauke Integrated Food and Energy Estate (MIFEE) Program has been accused of disenfranchising local farmers in Papua. Berry N. Furqon, director of the Indonesian Forum for the Environment (Walhi), said that more than 100,000 ha of forest had been cut down for the project, including the sago forest on which the locals depend upon.
Abet Nego Tarigan, executive director of Sawit Watch, called on the United Nations to cancel the project. Abet said the MIFEE could endanger Indonesia as it allows companies rather than farmers to control the food supply.
The MIFEE project was inaugurated by Agriculture Minister Suswono on August 11 last year. The program sees plantations in Merauke managed by companies that also manage the local farmers. One million ha, divided in five clusters, has been allocated for the program.
As many as 32 companies have obtained principle licenses and will operate in a range of plantation sectors, namely palm oil, sugar cane and corn among others. Companies that have invested in the program include Wilmar, Sinarmas, Bakrie Sumatera Plantation, Medco, Bangun Cipta Sarana and Artha Graha.
2) Indonesia Turns Back on Papua Food Bowl Plan
Faisal Maliki Baskoro | August 15, 2011
After two years with little progress, the government is considering shifting the location of its planned food estate to East Kalimantan from Papua because of the availability of land.
Suswono, the agriculture minister, on Monday said there was 200,000 hectares of land in East Kalimantan that could be used as an agriculture cluster. Under its plan, the Merauke Food Industrial Estate would have about 2 million hectares.
“The principle of the food estate is finding enough land for an agricultural zone. It doesn’t have to be in Papua,” he said. “[The East Kalimantan site] may not as big as Merauke, but it is more feasible. It has been two years since we floated the plan, but there has been no progress at all.”
Suswono said land clearance regulations were partly to blame for the slow progress.
“The construction of the Merauke food estate was obstructed by lack of regulation to clear necessary land,’’ Suswono said.
The government annually imports 2 million tons each of rice and soybean, and the nation needs to be able to feed its people without importing food, he said.
He said the government and potential investors would seek suitable areas for producing the two crops.
“The land in East Kalimantan is good for planting rice,” he said. To grow soybean, the ministry would need at least 500,000 hectares, and the government was still looking for land in Kalimantan.
While East Kalimantan has 200,000 hectares of land free, the West Kalimantan administration said it could provide 100,000 hectares of land, he said.
Suswono said farmland would not interfere with the preservation of forests. “We will be using open land, and probably convert production forests to farms. We will also empower local people to get involved in the program.”