Skip to main content

Merauke farmers’ long wait for plasma palm oil

By 28 January 2019October 14th, 2021Industry News7 min read

Merauke, the coastal area of West Papua has a flat topography. This is suitable for agricultural land including plantation. Oil palm is also suitable to be developed there. Several investors has come and opened oil palm plantations.

As stated in the Regulation of Minister of Agriculture, Regulation of Minister of Environment and Forestry, and Regulation of the Minister of Land and Spatial Planning/National Land Agency (ATR/BPN), a company must open a partnership of at least 20%. The people of Merauke welcomed the incoming of these investors and hoped they could also be plasma farmers.

Abraham Tiolmen, the Head of Iskammekai Cooperative, and Richard Nasai Koula, the Head of Ingash Ghuzi Cooperative, Merauke is one of the examples of area that happily welcomed the incoming of palm oil investors.

Both of these native peoples of Marind are very eager to have their own oil palm plantations. “There are 19 clans that want to progress and prosper through palm oil. We agreed to provide our customary lands to be used as oil palm plantations. We want to have our own plantations and become developed just like our brothers all over Indonesia,” said Abraham.

Richard Nasai, who lives in the Papua New Guinea border also welcomed the presence of the oil palm investors. “The company came and with its CSR fund, they have done something for the people of Papua. Our houses are being fixed by the company so they become livable,” he said.

During the development of the nucleus plantation, the community who live around the plantation are also being involved as workers in the oil palm plantation. “I fully understand how to grow oil palm seeds, how to plant, and maintain them until harvesting. Now I want to practice that in my own plantation,” said Abraham.

They also have been brought to Lubuk Linggau to learn from the plasma farmers and on how to manage a village cooperative. Oil palm farmers in Lubuk Linggau have gained their welfare with modern KUD (village cooperative system) and they mostly have owned four-wheel vehicles.

“We can’t wait to see the progress experienced by our brothers in Lubuk Linggau. We want to be like them,” said Abraham.

Unfortunately, the strong desire from the Papuans who want to progress is hampered by the action of foreign NGOs from the United States and South Korea, respectively. They are vigorously campaigning everywhere stating that the investors came to destroy the Merauke forest as the lungs of the earth.

Due to the pressure from these foreign NGOs, investors do not dare to build plasma plantations. Meanwhile, the nucleus plantations are not being disturbed since they have long been established. It’s just that they can no longer be expanded, even in their own HGU (Right to Cultivate) lands in the form of land covers because of the fear of being accused of damaging the forest.

“We are puzzled by the action of these NGOs. They casually declared that our customary lands cannot be cleared for oil palm and the companies compromised due to fear. When in fact, our lands are not part of forest area, but of Areas of Other Use instead,” he said.

People cannot wait any longer and urge the Head of Cooperative and Village Chief to deliver the aspirations everywhere. “We have met with the regent, the governor, and the central government, however we do not have any solution yet,” he said.

Their only hope now is to meet President Joko Widodo to convey their aspirations. By meeting the president, they hope to soon be able to achieve their dream, which is to own an oil palm plantation.

Meanwhile, the community have determined to progress and gain welfare. They don’t want to be like their predecessors, being seen as primitive society. “We want to be prosperous and modern. The opening of oil palm plasma plantation is a way to achieve them. However, it has not yet been realized due to the NGOs’ actions,” he said.

Richard stated that he once cooperated with an anti-palm oil NGO when there was a problem between a palm oil company and a plantation company in Papua New Guinea. “At that time, I became the spokesman for anti-palm oil and was promised a big sum of money. However, when they received the fund from outside party, they crossed their words, they only gave false promises,” he said.

Both Richard and Abraham agreed that they will plant oil palm in a sustainable manner so they wouldn’t harm the environment. “We are ready to hava a dialogue with the NGOs that want to maintain Merauke as the lungs of the earth. But those NGOs never wanted to have a dialogue with us, the point is the forest cannot be cleared. They don’t want us to have progress and they are happy to us as primitive people,” he said.

According to Richard, NGOs only came and sold the problems in Papua to receive fund. After receiving the fund, they don’t want to share it with the people. They only sold Papua for their own interests.

“On the other hand, with the company, they develop the people with CSR fund. Our cooperative has just managed to run business with chicken livestock and small-scale food crops. Our goal is merely to have plasma plantations and advanced cooperatives due to oil palm,” they both said.

They will fight anytime to be able to have their own plasma plantations. For the sake of the community’s welfare, they will never give up.

Met in a separate place, a plantation company executive that did expansion in Papua, but not the company that will build Richard and Abraham’s plasma, said that if plasma was built in Papua, this will potentially improve the community’s welfare quickly.

“The customary land released to the company for plasma plantations is very wide. If calculated, one family head can have a plasma plantation between 10-20 ha. If in Sumatera, people originally owned 2 ha, then progressed by buying other plasma plantations and opened their own plantation. But here, even in the starting phase, the land is already very wide,” he said.

Unfortunately, the disturbance from the NGOs has made the company not to continue the expansion in Papua. Whether it’s nucleus plantation or even plasma plantation, till date, they have not dared to build it. This company produces consumer goods to be exported to Europe and the United States. The campaign that has damaged the environment in Papua is feared to disturb the market.


Source : Magazine Media Perkebunan