Structured and planned communication and community engagement program is one of the keys of the PT Austindo Nusantara Jaya Tbk (ANJ) achievements in developing a sustainable sago and palm oil industry in West Papua.
After almost 11 years since first surveying the potential for sago development from natural forests in Sorong, PT ANJ Agri Papua (ANJAP), a subsidiary of ANJ, has been able to produce 1,354 metric tons of sago starch in September 2018, or 351 percent higher than the same period in 2017. This production of sago starch began in 2014.
“This progress is closely related to the way we involve the community,” said ANJ Head of Government Relations Gritje Fonataba in Sorong when contacted by The Palm Scribe on Wednesday (11/15).
“Since 2007, we have been building relationships with the local community. This relationship is based on mutual respect and involves the community so that business development can be a benefit to the community and environment as well. Therefore, it is in line with our activities and business development, and the community feels that they have ownership and they support us,” said Gritje.
ANJ believes that the involvement of local communities is an important part of doing business in West Papua, especially when discussing sago, a food commodity that has long been known and is one of the staple foods there. Sago has the potential to answer the issue of food security.
“We understand that sago has a sacred place in the culture of the Papuan,” Gritje said. “We, therefore, always ask for approval from the rightful customary rights holders in regard to all activities related to the use of sago forests.”
Sago is an alternative food contributing to national food security. Sago’s high energy and low sugar content make it a good source of energy. This plant grows so naturally in Papua that it forms its own forest. Data from IPB Professors and Indonesian Sago Palm Society Chairman MH. Bintoro shows that the area of sago forests in Papua and West Papua reaches around 4.75 million hectares or more than 90 percent of the total area of Indonesia’s sago forests of 5.2 million hectares.
In addition to intensive community engagement programs in education, health, and other activities to generate more income, ANJAP has also created employment opportunities for local communities. ANJAP employs more than 200 workers, of which 95% come from the local community.
“In managing oil palm plantations and sago flour production, we always meet relevant regulations and standards,” Gritje said. “There is a Plantation Business Permit (IUP) for oil palm and a Business Permit for Utilization of Non-Timber Forest Products (IUPHHBK-HA) for the production of sago.”
“Our sustainability policy also regulates to avoid the development of peatlands and wetlands. We do not plant oil palm on peatland, in accordance with the Indicative Map for the New Licence Delay (PIPPIB) – which refers to the Ministry of Environment and Forestry Letter (No.351/MENLHK/Setjen/PLA.1/7/2017),” he added.
When asked about the environmental impact of harvesting sago forests which are mostly on wetlands, Gritje said that the impact was minimal.
“Harvesting of sago forests does not change the landscape. “The wet sago forest soil will remain wet,” said Gritje. “We cut down the ripe sago trees. These large trees, when taken, will instead provide an opportunity for small trees to grow better because the sunlight will then be available for the small trees. If not harvested, mature trees will collapse and rot in vain. “