Indigenous people’s forest marketplace threatened by companies in Mappi

Oil palm plantations in Papua continue to expand. This time the targetted area is Assue, in Mappi Regency. Potential investors first started arriving in this area around 2015.

Perluasan perkebunan kelapa sawit di Tanah Papua terus berkembang. Kali ini sasarannya adalah wilayah Assue, Mappi. Investor mulai datang ke wilayah ini tahun 2015.

The first meeting with local people took place on Tuesday 12 May 2015, attended by the company which planned to invest and the village heads of seven villages as well as indigenous leaders and other community figures. In that meeting the companies gave information about a planned oil palm plantation and the upcoming visit of the environmental impact assessment team.

A second meeting took place on the 31st May 2015. The topics for discussion in this meeting were the plans to build a palm oil mill how the use of the 33.775 hectares of concession land would be used. The land and mill would be managed by PT Putra Palma Cemerlang. Apart from that palm oil plantation, there were also plans for industrial food agriculture and processing facilities on 21,300 ha of land by PT Ekolindo Palm Lestari and and another 20,725 ha palm oil plantation to be managed by PT Sawit Murni Sejahtera.

According to these three companies’ plans, they would have taken over land within the administrative territory of Busiri, Girimo, Aboge, Kopi, Isage, Kiki, Eci, and Hafo villages. The companies have made many promises – saying in a nutshell that once the company started work, local people’s welfare and their economy would improve.

But since 2015 the investors didn’t come back.

That was until recently, in April 2019 when they returned and held a meeting in Aboge village. They had changed their plans, saying that the palm oil plans were off, and would be replaced with food crops. They passed around questionnaires for people to fill in their personal details. After this was completed, they met with representatives of the Environment Ministry. Nearly all the local people filled in the questionnaire.

As the meeting was finishing I spoke to say that basically our local people can’t comprehend large-scale plantations covering thousands of hectares. So we wouldn’t accept them if they mean that forest and other lands will be destroyed. The forest is like our marketplace, it’s where we got to look for food. So would the future impacts of an investor like this be positive or negative? For me, that’s the big question. As a resident of Aboge sub-district (including Aboge and Girimio), I’m against the plans. I don’t agree with them taking our land. We also want to ask that the plan for food crops doesn’t get change back to being palm oil in the future.

Our forest here is small. From our village to Busiri is only 8 km, and to Eci it’s 11km. So a big plantation like this could destroy all the forest in Assue. We don’t want to be victims. So I will try as hard as I can to ensure that the forest of Assue doesn’t become a palm oil plantation. No-one has permission to clear our forest. Our potential as human resources is minimal. If a company moves in we won’t be able to compete. All the natural resources we own here will be destroyed. We ask the priests (of the Merauke Justice and Peace Secretariat) to keep informing people what’s going on.

Disasters have occurred all over. It’s the forest that protects nature. We must make sure another disaster doesn’t happen here.

Who says we we aren’t already well off? We are. What other way can we improve our welfare? The only way is to make use of the potential we have from managing the forest? If a company wanted to cultivate eaglewood saplings, we wouldn’t have a problem. Because that wouldn’t involve destroying nature.

Yanuarius Yawang Kaibu, Head of Girimio village,

Distrik Assue, Kabupaten Mappi, 22/4/2019

Source: Sorak 78 April 2019 (monthly bulletin of SKP KaME – Merauke Archdiocese Justice and Peace Secretariat)

This entry was posted in Around West Papua and tagged , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. Comments are closed, but you can leave a trackback: Trackback URL.