Losing Ground Report - The human rights impacts of oil palm plantation expansion in Indonesia
Community Member in Plantation Area, Indonesia
“Of course I am sad, how could I not be. Our graves used to be sheltered by large forest trees, now oil palm is all there is. Suddenly everything was destroyed to make way for oil palm. How could we not be sad?””
Losing Ground Executive Summary (PDF - 0.2 MB)
Losing Ground Full Report (PDF - 2.4 MB)
The report reveals that oil palm companies often use violent tactics to grab land from indigenous communities with the collusion of the police and authorities. Previously self-reliant families, who were able to meet their own needs from the forest around them, complain of being tricked into giving up their land with the promise of jobs and new developments. Instead they end up locked into debt and poorly paid work, while the bounty of the rainforest is replaced with monotonous oil palm plantations. Pollution from pesticides, fertilisers and the pressing process is also leaving some villages without clean water.
Since 2005, Friends of the Earth, Sawit Watch and LifeMosaic have worked closely together on a project aimed at bringing impartial information to communities affected by oil palm plantations in Indonesia, enabling them to make informed decisions about their land and their futures. Losing Ground draws on community testimonies gathered during this project, new Sawit Watch data and previous research to provide an insight into the social, economic and cultural impacts of oil palm plantations.
The EU must ensure that 10 per cent of road transport fuel to come from biofuels by 2010 in an attempt to reduce carbon dioxide emissions, despite mounting evidence that biofuels fail to deliver such reductions. This will fuel a huge expansion in the amount of land used to grow oil palm.
Indonesia is a uniquely diverse country whose communities and environment are being sacrificed for the benefit of a handful of companies and wealthy individuals. This report should help the Indonesian government to recognise that there is a problem, and to step up efforts to protect the rights of communities. In Europe we must realise that encouraging large fuel companies to grab community land across the developing world is no solution to climate change. The EU must play its part by abandoning its 10 per cent target for biofuels.
According to NGO Sawit Watch in 2008 there were 576 ongoing conflicts between companies and communities over the issue of oil palm in Indonesia alone. Given the negative social and environmental impacts of oil palm, Sawit Watch demands all oil palm expansion is halted until outstanding conflicts have been resolved.
The European commission is proposing sustainability criteria for biofuels but they do not include any attempts to address the social impacts of biofuel production. This means that the EU’s increased biofuel use will lead to more of the types of problems exposed in Losing Ground as more land is converted to meet the increased demand for palm oil.
85% of the worlds Palm Oil is produced in plantations in Indonesia and Malaysia. According to local government plans Indonesia alone plans a further 20million hectares of plantations by 2020 - an area the size of England, Holland and Switzerland combined. The Oil Palm industry says that plantation expansion is vital for economic development and methods used are both environmentally sustainable and benefit the local people. However in the resulting vast monoculture plantations little survives. Half the loss of orang-utans habitat in the last decade has been linked to Oil Palm plantation expansion.
The deforestation and drainage of peat swamps for palm oil production has made Indonesia the third highest emitter of green house gases after the USA and China.
Other oil palm resources and reports
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