AlertNet: Indonesia re-thinks Papua food project – report

http://www.trust.org/alertnet/blogs/alertnet-news-blog/indonesia-re-thinks-papua-food-project-report

By Thin Lei Win

A member of the Koroway tribe walks up a ladder to his house at a forest near Merauke city in Indonesia's Papua province in this May 18, 2010 handout photo.A member of the Koroway tribe walks up a ladder to his house at a forest near Merauke city in Indonesia’s Papua province in this May 18, 2010 handout photo.

BANGKOK (AlertNet) –Indonesia’s government is considering moving its controversial food security project from Merauke, on the island of Papua, to East Kalimantan province, on Borneo island, due to lack of progress in the past two years, the Jakarta Globe reported.

Under MIFEE (Merauke Integrated Food and Energy Estate) plans, 1.63 million hectares of forest which form the basis of life for some 200,000 indigenous people in the Merauke area would be used to grow rice, palm oil, soya bean and corn among other crops.

Earlier this month, AlertNet reported criticism from rights activists that MIFEE threatens indigenous people and the forests and ecosystems in the area.

They also said the government has failed to sufficiently consult the native residents over the impact, which will include losing their customary lands, an influx of migrants from the rest of Indonesia and decreased quality of the ecosystems which people rely on for food and for their livelihood.

The minister of agriculture, Suswono, said on Monday that 200,000 hectares of land available in East Kalimantan could be used for agriculture, according to the Globe.

“The principle of the food estate is finding enough land for an agricultural zone. It doesn’t have to be in Papua,” the Globe quoted the minister as saying.

“[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.”

Indonesia annually imports 2 million tonnes each of rice and soybean, and the nation needs to be able to feed its people without importing food, he added

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