New Guinea, land robbery and deforestation in the name of the palm tree

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New Guinea, land robbery and deforestation in the name of palm. Nothing new, given the way things are going in the world today. But it is always useful to share the news so that consumAtors are free to boycott bloody palm oil. Without being fooled by the lies of the palmocrats.

New Guinea is the second largest island on the planet after Greenland, followed by Borneo. Its western area belongs to Indonesia, the eastern area to the State of Papua New Guinea (PNG), which was recognized as independent in 1975.

Rainforest occupies about three-quarters of the territory. An unparalleled wealth of biodiversity, with 20,000 plant species and 700 types of trees. 2,000 different birds fly over the archipelago’s 600 islands. It is inhabited by thousands of indigenous communities belonging to hundreds of distinct ethnic groups who speak 852 different languages. 82 percent of the population lives in rural areas, and 40 percent rely on the fruits of nature alone for their livelihood, without access to ‘global capital’. (1)

An earthly paradise, with only one flaw. The terrain and microclimate match the ideal agronomic requirements for oil palm cultivation. Since 2003, Papua New Guinea’s forests have been licensed for ‘conversion’ to large-scale agricultural plantations. (2) Deforestation in the name of palm oil primarily, and to a lesser extent for cocoa and other crops. More than 5.5 million hectares (ha) of forests-12 percent of the total-have gone up in flames in a decade. And palmocrats continue to devour forests, even encroaching on nature reserves, at an estimated rate of 140,000 hectares per year. (3)

Illegal deforestation is entirely devoted to the export of palm oil (100 percent of production with foreign destination) and, in a minority share, cocoa (99.9 percent export). (4)

Land robbery(land grabbing) is the first documented cause of lawbreaking. Millions of hectares of peat forests are licensed for ‘conversion’ to industrial-scale plantations. Numerous complaints from residents and NGOs had forced the government to establish a Parliamentary Commission of Inquiry. Which, in September 2013, had pointed out that less than 10 percent of deforestation projects had garnered the ‘consent’ of local people. More than 90 percent of the licenses, conversely, were derived from bribery and fraud. (5) The government, after promising in June 2014 to revoke all illegal agricultural concessions exposed by the Commission of Inquiry, backed down the following month.

The rights of local people-only in theory guaranteed by the law requiring free, prior and informed consent (6) to the taking of their land-are systematically violated. With the complicity of government agencies on the ground, which preside over bulldozer activities with armed forces, manu militari. To suppress any protest of the inhabitants thus forced to migrate elsewhere. (7)

‘Our people have been fighting companies like KLK [RSPO member] for too long, and we are fed up with their attempts to undermine our local economies and culture and rob us of our rich natural resources. Our Chiefs and Clan Elders have said no to these forms of development.’

(Ester Leri, Wofu Clan, Wo Ari Kawo tribe)

Following are some examples of operations aimed at producing palm oil. Prior to expropriation of hundreds of thousands of hectares of forests from the people, deforestation and detour of waterways, planting of intensive monocultures. By members, or former members or candidates of RSPO. Such as the Malaysian giant KLK (Kuala Lumpur Kepong), (8) the Siva Group and its subsidiary Geoff Palm, (9) NBPOL (New Britain Palm Oil Ltd.), Sime Darby, Rimbunan Hijau and many others.

Boycott palm oil, here’s why.

See for yourself https://www.oaklandinstitute.org/on-our-land-full-film

Dario Dongo

Notes

(1) World Bank, World Development Indicators, 2010

(2) The licenses in question-Special Agricultural Business Leases (SABLS)-grant foreign, mostly Malaysian, investors the exclusive right to use endless territories for 99 years. In defiance of the rights of the people who have inhabited them over the millennia. See http://www.abc.net.au/pm/content/2015/s4349853.htm.

(3) See Forest Trends report‘Consumer Goods and Deforestation: An Analysis of the Extent and Nature of Illegality in Forest Conversion for Agriculture and Timber Plantations‘, UK, September 2014

(4) PNG production and export data from Indexmundi, 2011, and Bourke and Allen, 2009

(5) Cf. Pacific News Agency 2013, Numapo 2013, Mirou 2013. Data confirmed by academic study by Nelson et al., 2014

(6) Free, Prior and Informed Consent (FPIC)

(7) The testimonies of local activists are collected in the report‘Taking on the Logging Pirates,’ Oakland Institute, at https://www.oaklandinstitute.org/sites/oaklandinstitute.org/files/taking-on-logging-pirates-hi.pdf

(8 ) SEE http://actnowpng.org/node/25643

(9) SEE http://www.pmc.aut.ac.nz/pacific-media-watch/png-billionaire-financiers-erode-food-sovereignty-says-new-report-9014

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Dario Dongo, lawyer and journalist, PhD in international food law, founder of WIISE (FARE - GIFT - Food Times) and Égalité.