Trading The Forest For OIL: The Human Rights Impact of Palm Oil Expanison on The Indigenous Meyah People

In recent years, Indonesia has surpassed Malaysia as the largest producer of palm oil in the world. The Indonesian government has pushed the indus-try’s growth, which in 2010 reached 20.91 million tons of crude palm oil (CPO) according to the Minis-try of Agriculture. The value of CPO and palm oil derivatives during 2010 reached US$ 16.4 billion, a 50% increase from 2009. Again and again, forests are cleared for oil palm expansion, so that companies will maximize profits through selling commercial timber as a by-product of the land clearing process, going to both legal and illegal buyers.

In this situation, companies have targeted Papua (the Indonesian provinces of Papua and West Papua) for the expansion of oil palm plantations, seen as having suitable soil structure and climate supported, and sup-ported by successive ministers of agriculture. Invest-ment in oil palm plantations in Papua began in earnest in the 1980s. In 2008, Ministry officials claimed Papua held a potential 3-4 million hectares of land which could be used for palm oil expansion. At the time, 885,140 hec-tares across 19 districts were already designated for palm oil. However, the Director General of Plantations of the Ministry of Agriculture, Achmad Manggabarani, said this area could be significantly larger if conversion forest areas were included.

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