Daily news about the visit of the Indonesians: “Palm oil makes us poor!“

Feri, Rusdi, Marianne from Watch Indonesia and Nordin

Dec 10, 2011

Muhammad Rusdi, Mayor of Karang Mendapo on the island of Sumatra, has studied economics. He dispels the myth that the Indonesian economy needs to grow further for the improvement of the common good.

Muhammad Rusdi, Mayor of Karang Mendapo on the island of Sumatra, has studied economics. He dispels the myth that the Indonesian economy needs to grow further for the improvement of the common good.

“The reasoning that the plantations’ expansion leads to prosperity for everyone is just idle talk. The policy promotes the economic development of a limited number of big companies like Wilmar or Sinar Mas, but small-scale farmers and the indigenous people do not receive any support. Through the expansion of the palm oil plantations, the big companies are getting richer, while the indigenous people and the peasants become poorer. Bidin, Ida and their family are an example of this”, Rusdi explains. “They possess documents attesting their ownership of the piece of land that their family has been living on since 1932. They benefited from the forest and its fruit, they grew durian and rambutan. They had everything they needed to live. Now, they have nothing. Due to the plantation, Bidin and Ida have lost everything and have become poor – even before the paramilitaries devastated their village in August.“

The following example from Rusdi’s village Karang Mendopa clearly illustrates what happens when small-scale farmers instead of big companies manage plantations:

“Our community succeeded in reconquering 600 hectares of land from the palm oil giant Sinar Mas”, Rusdi says. “Now, peasants cultivate the plantation. They sell their palm oil fruit to the highest-bidding palm oil factory. Altogether, there are four factories in our area, and all of them belong to the big companies. The palm oil giants have to pay for the crops grown on the land that they had stolen from the peasants many years ago.”

Thus, Karang Mendapo has become the richest village in the Sarolangun Regency in no time. In contrast to this, Sinar Mas manages its 19.000 hectares with the objective of enriching nobody but the company itself. And now, Sinar Mas even has the audacity to have these 600 hectares assigned by means of a sustainability label issued by TÜV Rheinland and to name this project “sustainable small-scale farming program”.

In the afternoon, we arrive at the office of Watch Indonesia and talk about the discussion with the parliamentarians that is scheduled for Monday.

Our rainforest defenders are going to voice their main concern in front of the members of the German Bundestag. “They have determined sustainability standards concerning power generation and biofuels. Now, we want to tell them that human rights are brutally violated in the name of this so-called sustainability”, Nordin says. “That is another reason why Bidin and Ida have come along. There is no sustainability, when oil palms are planted in large quantities. The politicians who pass these laws finally need to understand this.”