Indigenous community in Indonesia meets with leadership of palm oil company for first time in 25 years

Between December 6 - 9, 2021, representatives from the Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil (RSPO) and PT Inecda Plantations traveled to Talang Parit to meet with the community for the first time since their complaint was submitted to the RSPO in 2020. These meetings offer a glimmer of hope for the community and the island’s natural resources since the Indonesian government issued PT Inecda a plantation permit in 1984.

Bridging the gap between public funding and forest-based community enterprises

Not so long ago, these coffee producers in Bengkulu, a province on Sumatra island in Indonesia, were harvesting during the night to avoid being caught by forest rangers. Despite having lived on their lands for generations, the government considered their activities illegal. Now, the local communities proudly cultivate their coffee in the daylight—and preserve the forest at the same time. The government even provides financing to their cooperative. By supporting the community to care for and harvest from the forest, they are both supporting local livelihoods and ensuring the forest is protected.

In 2014, President Joko Widodo had secured a voter bloc of 12 million Indigenous Peoples. But five years later, as he is seeking re-election in April’s presidential elections against the same political opponent, Jokowi has failed to secure the endorsement of the Indigenous Peoples Alliance of the Archipelago (AMAN)—Indonesia’s largest indigenous network—whose voting bloc has doubled in size since 2014.

With forest rights, indigenous Indonesians stave off mining, palm oil
With forest rights, indigenous Indonesians stave off mining, palm oil

Governments maintain control over more than two-thirds of global forest area, much of which is claimed by local communities, RRI said in a recent report. In Indonesia, indigenous people are estimated to have ownership rights over 40 million hectares of customary forest and other land.

Photo Essay: Protecting the Forests, Protecting Dragon’s Blood

Indonesia faces a deforestation crisis: an estimated 55 percent of forests located in concession areas were lost over a period of 15 years (2000-2015), with an estimated total loss of more than 6.7 million hectares within and outside of concession areas. The country has been losing its forests at a rapid rate for decades, and in turn, adat and local communities’ livelihoods are under threat, and the wildlife and plant diversity in their traditional territories is being lost….

View the full photo essay here.

In Indonesia, large portions of lands and forests have been allocated for industrial plantations and extractive businesses with little respect for the land rights of the Indigenous Peoples and local communities occupying or claiming these areas, despite a 2013 Constitutional Court Ruling stating that customary forests should be returned to their traditional owners.

Stepping Forward to Lead on Indigenous Rights
Stepping Forward to Lead on Indigenous Rights

When nine women farmers from the Kendeng community in Central Java encased their feet in cement blocks last year, many indigenous advocates understood how that felt. Dressed in their traditional clothing, these women protested outside the State Palace in Jakarta to block a proposed cement plant that would pollute the rivers flowing through their villages. Their livelihoods as farmers were under threat, as was their cultural heritage.