Malind Women’s views about Companies Operating in Kampung Baad, Animha District, Merauke.

Mama-di-Alatep-300x170Since 2011, three sugar cane companies have been going around Kampung Baad, Animha district and Kampung Tambat, Tanah Miring district, talking about their plans and trying to win over community leaders. The companies involved are PT Anugerah Rejeki Nusantara (ARN) owned by the Wilmar International Group, and PT Papua Daya Bio Energy and PT Tebu Wahana Kreasi, owned by Medco Agro Group.

All three of these companies have made various kinds of promises and approaches as part of their attempts to get their hands on forest and swamp lands between the Kumb and Maro rivers: an area of 73,000 hectares in all. The majority of this land is around Kampung Baad and Kampung Tambat, two villages settled by Marind people belonging to the Baad tribe.

PT ARN has even brought traditional leaders from Kampung Baad on a trip to Lampung and West Sumatra provinces to visit sugar and oil palm plantations, supposedly so they could make comparisons. But still the people have not wavered in their refusal to give up their land.

The women of Kampung Baad, or “mama-mama”, who are often only spectators in the process of negotiations about the land, also want to add their voice to the debate. What follows is a short selection of a group discussion with Christina Gebze and the other mama-mama of Kampung Baad.

So what would happen if the companies came to use the land?

“Where would we end up? We have to think about this now, because previously we always knew that there were always plenty of fish, kangaroos and cassowaries, but because people have taken them for their needs, they are mostly all gone. But if we sell our land, they will be even further gone! What are we going to eat, where can we farm? We only have the land, everything else will have gone, and that is going to make life tough for us”.

The companies say that they will rent the land and give money as compensation, how do you feel about that?

“I’ve heard them say things like that, but we don’t know how much land they are asking for, how many hectares, how many square kilometers, they don’t show us any documents. And women are never involved. According to our traditions, it is normally the men who participate in meetings. The women cannot even ask their husbands who go to the meeting. Normally, a woman’s responsibility is to cook, process sago, go fishing, and plant coconut, cassava and taro root.”

“We can’t sell the land. I’m scared to live off money we get for the land, because who is it who created the land? I didn’t do it with these hands of mine. If we give birth, that comes from an agreement between two people, but who does the land come from? It would be better not to sell the land.”

“Women should have rights because women also have a role in helping their kin. There is a forest grove over there which marks the land limit.”

The companies want to rent the land for 35 years?

“That’s a really long time. Maybe by that time we wouldn’t want to sell any more, but we can imagine that the wild pigs would all be gone, the deer would be gone, the kangaroos all gone. And if the land is sold, where could we plant our crops? Take a look at Kampung Zanegi, there is already no forest there.”

“According to Malind customary law we cannot destroy nature, but right now so much has been destroyed. It is such an indignity for us to see this, but now money changes everything, although it is strictly forbidden to damage nature. Malind people cannot kill, only with black magic, but that is a different matter.”

Could people still live according to customary law?

“Where could we carry out our customary practices? We prefer the land as it is, there is no need to sell it. Right now we can go and look for fish and plant our crops. If our land is sold, we will be confused, and what will happen to our grandchildren? The Baad people are rich because of all the trees from the Maro River to the village, but if they are sold then the people won’t have anything left. People are thinking about where we would run to, who would help us?”

What do you think is best for the children?

“If children go to school maybe they can help to raise people’s living standards. If we look around here we can see that school isn’t working, not one person from the Kumb river area has ever got a degree – or maybe there is someone, but no more than one or two people. Even though there has been a school here since the 1930s. If there were people with degrees then maybe they would know ways to help the people.”

“The kids need to be educated so that they can defend this place and so that the land is not sold. If this doesn’t happen, for sure all the land will get sold.”

Will the companies provide help with education?

“I don’t believe it. They say they will give help, they asked us to open bank accounts, but nothing has come of it.”

Source: Pusaka

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