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16 Apr 2015

Center for International Forestry Research (CIFOR)

Indonesia: West Papua indigenous people lose land & livelihoods as palm oil industry expands, new report

"In Indonesia, local communities lose out as oil palm expands", 1 Apr 2015

Oil palm, billed as a way to improve local economic opportunity and reduce poverty in the tropics, may not live up to that billing, a recent report shows...[A] study from the Center for International Forestry Research (CIFOR) on the effects of oil palm on economy, ecology and society in West Papua paints a stark picture. On the front lines of oil palm expansion, the indigenous forest-dwelling Arfak people of West Papua Province of Indonesia believe they are not the beneficiaries of the palm’s promise...The Arfak have no training..., so jobs tend to be given to immigrant workers from other parts of Indonesia...The Arfak, on the other hand, 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...Oil palm has drastically changed this environment. Since the opening of the oil palm estate in the Prafi Plains, local people claimed that seasonal farming land has become limited; clean water is scarcer during the dry season; there is increased erosion and flooding in the region; air pollution has increased due to land-clearing fires; and there is higher incidence of disease...The research...found that oil palm farming has improved the quality of life for many stakeholders in the industry, but indicated that further expansion needs to be transparent and take into account the needs of local communities. If oil palm expansion schemes are seen as a way to further alleviate poverty and create economic opportunity, land also needs to be set aside for Arfak communities to continue their lives.

Full report: Oil palm estate development and its impact on forests and local communities in West Papua