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Indigenous group wins fight to protect land from palm oil plantations

Local authorities in Indonesia’s West Papua province have withdrawn permits that would have led to the destruction of a 28,255-acre forest sacred to the Indigenous Moi people. The Moi people remain vulnerable as the forest can still be licensed out for agriculture and the permits could be granted to other companies at a later date.

The move came in response to a long-standing campaign by the Moi to have their land rights considered in the application of these permits. The campaign led to the authorities’ decision to return the forest to the citizens who own the rights to the ancestral land.

But the palm oil plantations, which include Mega Mustika Plantation (MMP), should never have been granted the permits in the first place. A bylaw has been in place since 2017 which recognises the protection of the Moi people’s ancestral land rights.

Moreover, earlier this year an Indonesian minister in charge of investments declared there would be no new permits approved for palm oil plantations in this region and that crops such as nutmeg and coffee would be prioritised instead.

Activists have cautiously welcomed the move but have criticised the central government, specifically the environment ministry, for not issuing a decree that officially recognises the Moi people’s Indigenous land rights. This would make the forest off-limits to commercial exploitation entirely.

In addition, even though the permits have been revoked this year, it doesn’t prevent new ones being granted to other companies later.

Many Indigenous communities in Indonesia do not have even the minuscule level of protection the Moi do under the bylaw, so are in an even more vulnerable position.

Take action

We have a responsibility to consume consciously. That means we can be assured that the products we are buying are not destroying nature and Indigenous peoples’ lives and ancestral lands.

The fact sheet below provides plenty of information that can help extract you from the problem. From where you bank to what you buy in the supermarket, your actions today can help eradicate the unsustainable palm oil market.

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