Problem with Palm Oil
Palm oil plantation expansion is one of the main contributors to the destruction of the rainforest and wildlife of Southeast Asia. 85% of the world’s 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. The deforestation and drainage of peat swamps for palm oil production has made Indonesia the third highest emitter of greenhouse gases after the USA and China. Half the loss of orang-utans habitat in the last decade has been linked to oil palm plantation expansion. 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. Pollution from pesticides, fertilisers and the pressing process is also leaving some villages without clean water.
Since 2006, LifeMosaic, working in close partnership with Friends of the Earth and Sawit Watch, coordinated the ‘Human Rights Impacts of Oil Palm Plantations in Indonesia’ 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.
We have produced a one hour community film, a facilitator’s guide, an advocacy film, and a report into human rights impacts of oil palm expansion. Resources were based on testimonies from 20 communities impacted by plantation expansion across Indonesia. LifeMosaic coordinated the dissemination of the community film – through 20 partner NGO’s and by training community facilitators – to over one thousand communities across Indonesia.
Our advocacy film Palmed Off is based on testimonies from indigenous peoples affected by oil palm plantations in Indonesia and explores the impacts of oil palm plantations on their local economies, on the local environment, on their culture and on the prospects for the future generations. It has been screened widely in European biofuels policy discussions as well as in Indonesia.
Progress or Problem? is a one-hour educational film made with 20 indigenous communities in Indonesia. It is based on the voices of indigenous peoples in Indonesia who have directly experienced the impacts of oil palm plantations on the land that they have lived and worked on for generations. It aims to help community members in oil palm plantations or plantation expansion areas to make informed decisions on the future uses of their ancestral lands.
Part I of the film focuses on the impacts of oil palm and contains an introduction, and chapters on local economics, farming systems, water, culture, land and conflict. Part II contains chapters on community-led alternatives and community tactics for accepting or refusing oil palm.
The film is available to communities facing oil palm expansion in their areas as well as to NGOs and local support groups.
Over 4,000 community films have been distributed so far, reaching well over 1,000 indigenous villages. The information distribution and subsequent village meetings have verifiably led to communities rejecting 50,000 hectares of plantations including peat swamp forest and Sumatran tiger habitat.
Other communities have re-negotiated agreements with companies, recruited members to farmers unions, and set up community-based organisations to defend their rights and look into alternatives in a number of settings.
Losing Ground Report
‘Losing Ground’ report draws on community testimonies gathered during this project, the Sawit Watch data and previous research to provide an insight into the social, economic and cultural impacts of oil palm plantations. It reveals how oil palm companies often use violent tactics to grab land from indigenous communities with the collusion of the police and authorities. We hope this report will help the Indonesian government to recognise that there is a problem, and to step up efforts to protect the rights of communities.
Palmed Off is based on testimonies from indigenous peoples affected by oil palm plantations in Indonesia and explores the impacts of oil palm plantations on their local economies, on the local environment, on their culture and on the prospects for the future generations. (LifeMosaic, 2007)
Progress or Problem? – part 1
Progress or Problem? – part 1
Indonesia is the biggest producer of palm oil in the world. This film is based on the voices of indigenous peoples in Indonesia who have directly experienced the impacts of oil palm plantations on the land that they have lived and worked on for generations. The film is one-hour educational film made with 20 indigenous communities in Indonesia. It aims to help community members in oil palm plantations or plantation expansion areas to make informed decisions on the future uses of their ancestral lands. Part 1 focuses on the impacts of oil palm and contains an introduction, and chapters on local economics, farming systems, water, culture, land and conflict. (LifeMosaic, 2007)
Progress or Problem? – part 2
Progress or Problem? – part 2
Indonesia is the biggest producer of palm oil in the world. This film is based on the voices of indigenous peoples in Indonesia who have directly experienced the impacts of oil palm plantations on the land that they have lived and worked on for generations. The film is one-hour educational film made with 20 indigenous communities in Indonesia. It aims to help community members in oil palm plantations or plantation expansion areas to make informed decisions on the future uses of their ancestral lands. Part 2 contains chapters on Community-Led Alternatives and Community Tactics for accepting or refusing oil palm. (LifeMosaic, 2007)
Oil Palm News
The victims were targeted by a criminal gang who wanted to use their lands to grow lucrative palm oil, according to local indigenous leaders (Collyns / The Guardian)
A small community on the island of Sumatra is at the heart of a battle for traditional territories that could finally resolve the muddled and exploitative system of laws governing land ownership in Indonesia. (Bevins / the Guardian)
With its renewed promotion of what it calls the “Sunshine Industry,” the Philippine government is looking to cultivate another one million hectares of oil palm, 98 percent of which would be on the island of Mindanao. Critics worry expansion of the country’s palm oil industry will benefit large companies at the expense of small farmers, forests, and water quality. (Miller / Mongabay)
Representatives of a palm oil plantation company were charged with the murder of land rights activist Bill Kayong, in Miri, Sarawak last year, but were later acquitted. Their acquittal was denounced by many observers, who see it as yet another blow against indigenous communities in the fight for their land. (Denton / Mongabay)
Brazil’s ambition to become a palm oil giant could have devastating social and environmental impacts if the move is not carefully managed, say experts. (The Guardian)
Merauke government's move to pull 11 permits wins church and popular backing, but damage to nature 'has already been done' (Eman Riberu / UCA)
Yaounde - Local communities affected by a large-scale palm oil plantation took their case to the Court of First Instance in Bangem, south-west Cameroon, with the first hearing set for 9 November. Greenpeace Africa, who documented the abuse made by the company for the last seven years, launches a call in support for the communities. (Greenpeace / Press Release)
Our friends at RAN have launched an excellent tool see what the biggest banks are really funding in palm oil, pulp and paper, timber and rubber companies.
The Yerisiam Gua, an indigenous people in Nabire district in Indonesian Papua have filed a complaint with the Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil against the palm oil developer, PT Nabire Baru, after the company bulldozed the sago palms that provide their staple food (FPP)
If managed well, swidden farming in Borneo can provide vital ecosystem services and protect biodiversity, study says (O'Connell & Pearl / CIFOR)
Documents and Downloads
Licence to Launder
The oil palm plantation being developed by Herakles Farms in the southwest region of Cameroon – an area of great biodiversity surrounded by five protected areas – illustrates what happens when irresponsible companies are not held accountable to local laws and processes. The companies activities pose a serious threat to forested areas and the communities who rely upon the forest for their livelihoods. In this report, Greenpeace reveals how the company is now colluding with the Cameroonian government to commercialise the timber – much of which was illegally felled – from its project, despite previously categorically stating that it had no intention to do so. (Greenpeace, 2014)
- Licence to Launder: How Herakles Farms' illegal timber trade threatens Cameroon's forests and VPA (pdf - 8 MB)
Conflict or Consent?
Oil palm has become one of the world’s most controversial crops. Lucrative for some, its social and environmental impacts are often severe. To avert criticism, some of the more progressive companies have promised to only finance, produce, trade and buy palm oil that is ‘sustainably’ produced. Since 2005, the Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil (RSPO) has required that member companies respect communities’ legal and customary rights and only develop oil palm on their lands with their free, prior and informed consent. Are the companies keeping their promises? Have they changed the way they develop and manage lands since this new standard was adopted? This volume of 16 detailed case studies from six countries seeks to answer these questions. ( FPP, Sawit Watch and TUK Indonesia, 2013)
The human rights impacts of oil palm expansion in Indonesia. This report shows how Indonesian government policies and palm oil industry practices are harming the rights of indigenous peoples and local communities. (Sawit Watch / Friends of the Earth / LifeMosaic, 2008)
The Human Rights Consequences of Illegal Logging and Corruption in Indonesia’s Forestry Sector (Human Rights Watch, 2009)
Industrial oil palm plantations are rapidly expanding, not only in Liberia. In many African countries expansion projects are happening and plans are announced. Everywhere they go, the companies promise jobs and development. (World Rainforest Movement, 2013)
Evidence and testimony from Muara Tae, in East Kalimantan, Indonesia, of the abuses of oil palm company First Resources Ltd thought its subsidiary PT Borneo Surya Mining Jaya (PT Borneo). (EIA, 2012)
A look at what is happening to Borneo and Sumatra in the face of palm oil expansion. Some simple facts and figures that question whether this is actually development for Indonesia. (Nick Lyon, 2006)
Remote tribal communities in Papua have for the first time used digital video to tell the outside world about the impact uncontrolled logging is having on their traditional way of life. Training was provided by London-based Environmental Investigation Agency and Jakarta-based, Telapak. Providing financial incentives to developing countries to reduce deforestation will be high on the agenda at the Bali UN climate change conference (The Guardian, 2007).
Palm Oil Action Group
Palm Oil Action Group is concerned about oil palm plantation development and the associated deforestation in Indonesia, Malaysia and Papua New Guinea. Their website includes an explanantion of the impact of oil palm plantation expansions on climate change, deforestation and ingigenous communities, as well as Resources section.
Palm Watch – Africa
Palm Watch – Africa is an online media platform focused on new oil palm development in West-Central Africa. Research, reporting and a participatory citizen network draw attention to the rapid expansion of oil palm investments across the Congo Basin. Providing in-depth information and multiple opportunities for citizen engagement, Palm Watch – Africa aims to stimulate inclusive debate and foster grassroots strategies for environmental protection and sustainable development.
Rainforest Rescue on Palm Oil
Palm oil is an edible plant oil which has become a common ingredient in many consumer products. Today, around 50 percent of the goods we use every day contain palm oil, from processed foods to candles, grooming products and “biofuels”. Read on for more information on why palm oil has become so pervasive, and how it is destroying rainforests.
Use our films
Information and education are powerful tools for community empowerment and social change. Watch our films to find out more about the issues of oil palm. Then share this knowledge with you community, family and friends.
Our films have a primary audience of indigenous and forest dependent communities and their supporting organisations. If you are connected with any such groups and would like to discuss how these films might complement your activities please get in touch. The films are available free of charge.
A LifeMosaic film screening in Pandumaan-Sipituhuta villages.
Our films have also been as educational and advocacy tools in many different settings including conferences, film festivals, schools and universities, and in NGO, company and government meetings. Please contact us if you would like to discuss organising such a screening.
Sign the petition
Peru: Stop the palm oil industry’s assault on the Amazon
Environmentalist Nasako Besingi and his organization SEFE (Struggle to Economize Future Environment) are fighting for the rights of local communities and protecting the rainforests of southwestern Cameroon. Their work is supported by local groups such as Nature Cameroon and international organizations. For the past three years, U.S. investors have been trying to clear the rainforest for oil palm plantations.
Local communities and Nasako Besingi are fighting for every single tree and are now being targeted by intimidation, legal complaints, arrests and lawsuits. The palm oil company even succeeded in having Nature Cameroon, a local NGO, shut down in November 2013.
In late December 2013, Nasako was summoned at the request of Herakles Farms for “publication of false news via the internet”, an accusation based on a private e-mail he wrote in August 2012. In it, he reports how he was ambushed by junior managers of the company. Herakles referred to the men as “local service providers”.
Nasako and four of his colleagues are also accused of “holding an undeclared public meeting” and handing out anti-Herakles t-shirts. Nasako’s trial is scheduled for March 13, 2014. If convicted, he faces up to six months in prison and a fine the equivalent of 4,000 U.S. dollars or 3,000 euros.
Please sign Rainforest Rescue's petition to Herakles Farms calling on them to drop all legal action against the environmentalist Nasako Besingi and the organizations SEFE and Nature Cameroon.