The Palm Scribe

Indonesia Must Now Map the Legal Status of All Oil Palm Plantations: Expert

After having reconciled the various data on the extent of land covered by oil palm in Indonesia, the government needed to map the status of the land of oil palm plantation so as to obtain a strong and accurate database that could be used as a reference in improving the management of this sector, an expert said on Tuesday (19/5).

“After the database on the map of coverage, we need to follow it up by preparing a database and mapping of the status of the land ownership,” said Prabianto Mukti Wibowo who recently retired as Assistant to the Deputy on Forestry Management at the Coordinating Ministry for the Economy.

Speaking at an online discussion on palm oil organized by oil palm watchdog Sawit Watch, Wibowo said that following the issuance of presidential instruction (Inpres) number Eight of 2018, the government then moved to reconcile the various data on the country’s oil palm plantation cover.

He said that there were a number of government and non-governmental organizations that had come out with their own data on the oil palm cover, and they all differed. What the Coordinating Ministry for Economy did was to coordinate efforts to reconcile those different data.

“What was completed at the end of 2019, was the map of national oil palm cover and the next step after having this land cover (figures) is that we want a map on the land status,” Wibowo said. The official figure for the country’s oil palm cover of 16.4 million hectares was made official in a regulation of the agriculture minister.

He said that what he meant by a database and map on land status was data that identified whether an oil palm plantation was legal or non-procedural, whether managed by a large corporation or by smallholders, whether they were inside or outside forest areas.

“We would not be able to improve the management of oil palm plantations if we do not possess a database that is strong, accurate and valid as a reference,” Wibowo said.

Speaking at the same occasion, Semiarto Aji Purwanto who heads the graduate program of the Anthropology Department of the University of Indonesia cited that based on his experience in Central Kalimantan province, legality issues were not only a concern for smallholders but also for many large oil palm plantations.

He cited a local former spatial zoning official of the Central Kalimantan provincial administration, as saying that out of the 324 oil palm plantations in that province only 80 had legal permits in the form of Cultivation Rights (HGU). In terms of surface only some 800, 000 of the 2.5 million hectares of actual planted oil palm areas were legal, or just some 32 percent.

Wibowo also said that the 2018 Inpres also instructed the Ministry for Agrarian Affairs and Spatial Planning to conduct a verification of all HGU, not only in the palm oil sector but also in others such as for timber estates, mining and other operations.

He said that the main aim of the 2018 Inpres was to improve the sustainable management of oil palm plantations. It was also aimed at raising the productivity of oil palm plantations, especially those of smallholders. All of this in the space of just three years since it was issued.

Nurhidayati, Executive Director of environmental watchdog Friends of the Earth Indonesia (Walhi) in a comment made at the same occasion, said that although the Inpress was well meant, its validity period of just three years was much too short to be able to achieve its aims.

“It is a good step but the time give is way too short… the problems of oil palm plantations are really complex and could not be settled by one single Inpres valid for a specific period,” Nurhidayati said.

She also pointed out that the Inpres only focused on oil palm plantations in officially designated forest areas while beyond that, there were still some six million hectares of various types of forests.

“We are pushing for this Inpres to be extended,” Nurhidayati said.

More from Bhimanto Suwastoyo.
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