Tuesday, June 9, 2015

1) Is oil palm the answer for rural poverty in Papua?

2) In Indonesia, promising steps on Papua access but more work needed
3) Papuan activist doubts President's promise on migration

1) Is oil palm the answer  for rural poverty in Papua?
Agustina YS Arobaya and Freddy Pattiselanno, Manokwari | Opinion | Tue, June 09 2015, 6:25 AM - 
Indonesian oil palm plantations have now reached more than 10 million hectares, making the country the world’s largest palm oil producer with an annual output of around 23 million tons.

In Papua, the oil palm industry started in the 1980s — when state-owned PTPN II started an oil palm business in Arso and Prafi.

The oil palm plantation was firstly intended to facilitate the transmigration program from other parts of Indonesia. A large part of the plantation is designed for a smallholder scheme allowing transmigrant families, mostly from Java and West Timor, together with Papuan customary land owners, to be allocated 2 hectares of oil palm per family and to sell their produce to the company.

Presently as space becomes limited in western Indonesia, investors are increasingly looking to the east for new land. Data from the West Papua Oil Palm Atlas show that currently there are 21 companies starting operations in Papua. Twenty other companies are in an advanced stage of the permit process and appear to be almost ready to start land clearing whilst dozens more are still applying for the permits they need.

Despite the negative impact of forest conversion into plantations, there is no doubt that oil palm also brought significant economic benefits to the region and in many cases improved the livelihoods of rural communities.

The oil palm sector, particularly crude palm oil (CPO) production, is an important source of government revenues. In 2008, CPO generated US$12.4 billion in foreign exchange from exports while about $1 billion in export tax was earned by the government at the same time.

The job-generating potential is another issue that fits the role of oil palm for poverty alleviation in Papua. A report by the Central Statistics Agency (BPS) said that until March 2013, West Papua was among eight provinces with the highest poverty rate (26.67 percent), second after neighboring Papua (31.13 percent). Oil palm allows poor people to have a job and earn an income for their family.

Referring to the money earned by the government from oil palm, we have an impression that smallholders or farmers can achieve incomes that enable them to improve their livelihoods significantly.

The most recent study by the University of Papua (UNIPA) and the Center for International Forestry Research (CIFOR) reveals that in terms of socioeconomic effects, oil palm estate development under the Nucleus smallholders estate (PIR) scheme has not been able to satisfactorily benefit local communities, who hold land rights. PIR schemes that rely on immigrant workers are prone to creating horizontal conflicts, injustice and envy among local communities toward immigrants.

Krystof Obidzinski — a senior scientist from CIFOR and also a researcher of the study — explained that “locals who have a lack of skills and knowledge to effectively engage in modern agriculture productions may not benefit economically from oil palm.”

The production systems — cultivation, harvesting, transportation and marketing — of palm oil products are very challenging. Locals who lack experience on how to maintain the palms, eradicate pests or prune and cut fruit bunches may not be able to compete with migrants to increase production.

A barrier to meeting global palm oil demand through smallholder production systems is that in areas such as Indonesian Papua, and many other areas where industrial producers are now beginning to operate, the potential for smallholders to be active in oil palm production is much lower. In these areas, smallholders can be limited by insufficient expertise, labor, fertilizer and other essential inputs.

Other studies have shown that even though oil palm provides much-needed revenue to rapidly developing countries, its economic benefits are not distributed evenly.

Large oil palm companies exert considerable power in shaping the expansion of the oil palm industry, and their actions may be to the detriment of landowners and smallholders. Native Papuans have lost access to the land that they traditionally used. As land became more commercially valued, migrants began to take control of it, while promised infrastructural improvements failed to arrive.

For the last three years the local media in Papua have blown up the issue of land-agreement violation by the companies. This has not only badly affected local livelihoods but also destroyed the environment and marginalized the customary land owners.

Oil palm has drastically changed the forest landscape.

Forests have long been considered a mother for native Papuans. Thus, the loss of forests will lead to disenfranchisement of ethnic Papuans from their traditional landscapes and lifestyles. The short-term economic gains from this are obvious, but the long-term losses less so.

If oil palm expansion schemes are seen as a way to further alleviate poverty and create economic opportunity, the needs of local communities for land should be taken into account so they can to continue their lives.

A rapid development through oil palm industries has also made it difficult for locals to adjust and learn how to cope with the need for increasing production yields. A more gradual approach has to be considered rather than large-scale investment in a short period of time.

In this difficult start-up period, industrial producers are likely to dominate oil palm production and could set the conditions for smallholder participation, unless there is political intervention and appropriate smallholder incentives.

Last but not least, land acquisition by some companies has been criticized for not recognizing the traditional land rights of local people. As land becomes increasingly scarce, conflicts over land acquisition between companies and smallholders are likely to increase.

Therefore, further expansion needs to be transparent and take into account the demand for compensation by customary land owners and the status of the land once the company’s business-use rights expire.

The writers are lecturers at the Forestry Department and the Animal Production Department of UNIPA, Manokwari.


2) In Indonesia, promising steps on Papua access but more work needed

Last month Indonesia's President Joko Widodo, known as Jokowi, announced his intention to allow international journalists access to restive regions including Papua and West Papua--an issue the Committee to Protect Journalists has longadvocated for.
His announcement comes nearly six months after I represented CPJ in Indonesia as part of a joint mission made up of press freedom and freedom of expression groups. Among the mission's recommendations, released after its December visit, was a need for the government to address the limited access journalists have to these regions.
As well as the recommendations, the mission released findings last year based on its meetings in Jakarta and Bali with journalists, media advocates, and the government.
Widodo's announcement is a step we welcome. But as my colleague Shawn Crispin, CPJ's senior Southeast Asia representative, wrote last month: "The shift will be welcome, if Widodo's announcement is universally followed by all government agencies, including security forces."
That is a big if.
Already Indonesian security officials have made statements that run contrary to the president's announcement, according to news reports. "It appears to be business as usual this week for Indonesian government officials intent on maintaining the decades-long restrictions on foreign media access to Indonesia's far eastern provinces of Papua and West Papua," wrote Phelim Kine, of Human Rights Watch, last month.
The joint statement released by the mission today strongly encourages the president to back his statements with concrete changes in policy that will ensure journalists can operate freely in all parts of Indonesia. It calls on Widodo to take further steps, in line with recommendations made by the mission, to protect the safety of international and local journalists.
A copy of the statement can be viewed here.
Sumit Galhotra is the research associate for CPJ's Asia program. He served as CPJ's inaugural Steiger Fellow and has worked for CNN International, Amnesty International USA, and Human Rights Watch. He has reported from London, India, and Israel and the Occupied Territories, and specializes in human rights and South Asia.
3) Papuan activist doubts President's promise on migration
Updated at 5:02 pm today
A pro-independence activist in Papua says he doesn't believe the Indonesian President, who promised to stop the controversial policy of transmigration.
Last week, Widodo signalled an end to the programme, which has seen hundreds of thousands of Javanese relocated to Papua since Indonesia's annexation of the provinces in 1969.
Yoab Syatfle says Papuans are outnumbered in their own region and Indonesia has taken advantage of its natural resources while watering down its culture.
He says Papuans are now only 45 percent of the population.
"This is a big problem to West Papua because it's the impact on our culture and also impact to control of our land and our natural resources. This is a serious serious problem."
The President's pledge was undermined by the transmigration minister, Marwan Jafar, who said the policy has worked well and would be expanded in Merauke.

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