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Lessons from Indonesia


In Indonesia, which is compose d of five big islands, the land part of the country is only 22.98%. There are 20 million landless people. There were 7,491 land dispute cases in 2007 covering 607,886 hectares. The loss caused by land disputes is approximately Indonesian Rupee (IDR) 146.8 billion. Based on BPN estimates, considering the price of land which was equal to IDR 15,000/m2, with the interest rate of 10 percent per year, the potential loss of Indonesia in five years was IDR 146.8 billion. Land disputes not only have implications on society and politics, they also appear to affect social gaps, poverty, and security disturbances, and the economy.

In 1950, a map of vegetation showed that around 84 percent of land (162,290,000 ha) was covered by primary and secondary forest including all types of plantation. The decade of the 1970s was the era of deforestation. Illegal logging was rampant.

In 1970-1990, the deforestation rate was estimated to be 0.6-1.2 million ha per year. The rate of deforestation in 1985–1997 was at an average 1.7 million ha per year, with Sulawesi, Sumatra and Kalimantan being worst affected. By 1997, Indonesia had lost 72 percent of its original forest (Source: World Resource Institute, 1997).

In the period 1997–2000, it was the fact that deforestation escalated to 3.8 million ha per year, making Indonesia one of the countries with highest forest degradation in the world. Based on the analysis of Landsat Satellite images in 2000, of 101.73 million ha degraded land, 59.62 million ha was in the forest areas.

Rights of the people to access and manage forests through the program of people-based agro-forestry (HTR), Social Forestry, Indigenous/Customary Forest and Village Forest is confined to 500,000 ha. This area is very small compared to concession rights awarded to big companies which covers 29 million ha of forest, industrial forest which covers 7 million ha, and forest managed by Forest State Company which covers 2.4 million ha. The state limits the people’s right to access forests since the state claims itself as the single owner of forest area which covers 133.57 million ha, even though up to now only around 10% of those forests have been measured and declared forest area. In fact, there are thousands of villages in the forest areas, whereas only 9,754 villages (in 17 provinces) have been identified.

People who enter and till the land inside the forest area can be jailed for up to 10 years and fined up to IDR 5 billion. Those who desire the right to manage the forest (through people-based forest/HTR), have to face 19 units of forest task force and get 54 types of permission, starting from the district to the head office at national level. Four peasants were shot dead by the state apparatus, forest policemen, and police mobile brigade in 2008-2010.

With the environment also under threat, Nature is no longer able to play its role of provider, and people have to experience crisis every day. Disaster is everywhere. According to WALHI, in 2009, the total number of disasters in Indonesia was 1,713. At least 1,940 people died and 10,576 houses were damaged. The development of palm oil plantation was started in the

1970s (30 years ago). In Indonesia, especially in Sumatra, there was only 250,000 ha of palm oil plantation in 1979. Now, it is more than 7.3 million ha, producing at least 21.5 million tons of crude palm oil (CPO) per year. The expansion of plantation creates conflicts between companies and people – 663 such conflicts were on a large scale. At least 106 people, one of them a peasant woman, fell victim to violence by the security apparatus in 2010.

Abandoned or unused land covers around 7.15 million ha. In five years, the potential loss of abandoned land economically is IDR 491 trillion. The land occupation movement began with the Reform Order in 1998 when peasants occupied land from the state and private plantations, and state forest company which covered more than 500,000 ha. Indonesian peasants’ organisations and national NGOs are fighting for abandoned and unused land to be part of land reform or genuine agrarian reform.

Changes in the global financial architecture and international geo-economic is driving multinational corporations to invest in agriculture and food, which is a form of land-grab. Indonesian National Political and Economic Systems adopts and plays the role of a neo-mercantilist for exploitation and global slavery. We wish to sustain the struggle of the movement at local and national level and to leverage and intensify it in the global struggle and solidarity. To bring about more socially just North-South relations, we argue for strengthening South-South social solidarity.


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Advisory Committee: Yves Berthelot (France),  PV Rajagopal (India), Vandana Shiva (India), Oliver de Schutter (Belgium), Mazide N’Diaye (Senegal), Gabriela Monteiro (Brazil), Irakli Kakabadze (Georgia), Anne Pearson (Canada), Liz Theoharis (USA), Sulak Sivaraksa (Thailand), Jagat Basnet (Nepal), Miloon Kothari (India),  Irene Santiago (Philippines), Arsen Kharatyan (Armenia), Margrit Hugentobler (Switzerland), Jill Carr-Harris (Canada/India), Reva Joshee (Canada), Sonia Deotto (Mexico/Italy),Benjamin Joyeux (Geneva/France), Aneesh Thillenkery, Ramesh Sharma, Ran Singh (India)