From our hardworking partners at AwasMIFEE
April 30, 2015
West Papua Oil Palm Atlas:
The companies behind the plantation explosion.
-a comprehensive investigation into the oil palm industry in West Papua,
published by awasMIFEE and Pusaka, together with local Papuan
organisations Belantara Papua, Bin Madag Hom, Jasoil, SKP KAME and Jerat
Papua, and Sawit Watch.
Available for download: https://awasmifee.potager.org/?p=1205
Indonesia’s oil palm industry is moving east. With large tracts of land
increasingly difficult to find in Sumatra and Borneo, plantation
companies are now focussing their attention on Indonesia’s eastern
frontier: the small islands of the Maluku archipelago and especially the
conflict-ridden land of West Papua.
In 2005 there were only five oil palm plantations operating in West
Papua. By the end of 2014 there were 21 operational plantations. This
rapid expansion is set to continue with another 20 concessions at an
advanced stage of the permit process, and many more companies that have
been issued with an initial location permit. If all these plantations
were developed, more than 2.6 million hectares of land would be used up,
the vast majority of which is currently tropical forest.
Almost without exception, these plantations have caused conflict with
the local indigenous communities who depend on the forest – lowland
Papuans are mostly hunters and gatherers to some degree. The conflicts
have centred around community’s refusal to hand over their land, demand
for justice in the cases where they feel the land has been taken from
them by deceit or intimidation, horizontal conflicts between
neighbouring villages or clans, action by indigenous workers who feel
they are exploited, or aggression by police or military working as
security guards for the plantation companies.
The West Papua Oil Palm Atlas, published by awasMIFEE, Pusaka and six
other organisations, is an attempt to provide a picture of this
developing industry. Who are the companies involved? Where are they
operating? Which areas will be the next hotspots? The aim is to be part
of a process to push for more open and accessible information about
resource exploitation industries in West Papua – currently local
administrations and companies are often reluctant to share information
about permits, meaning that communities often know nothing of plantation
plans until a company shows up, trying to acquire their land.
Indonesian law does recognise communal land rights for indigenous
customary communities, but in reality those communities often face
considerable pressure to give up that land, and are rarely given more
than US$30 per hectare in compensation. It is hoped that this
publication can become a tool for indigenous peoples and social
movements who wish to understand the oil palm industry and defend their
forest against these land grabbers, as they themselves should be the
ones to determine what kinds of development will benefit their communities.
For environmentalists and supporters of indigenous struggles around the
world, we hope that this will also be a useful insight into the dynamics
of the plantation industry and the threats it is causing in the third
largest tropical forest in the world. Using the excuse of the conflict
around the independence movement, the Indonesian government makes it
very difficult for international observers to access West Papua, and
this has probably also resulted in a lack of awareness internationally
about the ecological threats. Yesterday (29th April) human rights groups
throughout West Papua, Indonesia and in over 22 cities around the world
held demonstrations for open access to Papua, which has long been a
demand of many Papuan movements. Publishing this Oil Palm Atlas is also
an attempt to break the isolation of Papua, by focussing attention on
the issue of indigenous land rights, in a context where local
communities which choose to oppose plantation companies often feel
intimidated by state security forces which back up the companies.
Direct download link: