Prafi Plain, the Rise of Local Oil Palm Industry in West Papua

West Papua
Source : Kompas

As a province with a promising agricultural future, West Papua is in the phase of massive development in this sector. In 2011, the region developed a local oil palm facility, in Prafi Plain. The impact of this facility is significant to the Manokwari District, based on a study released in 2014. 

West Papua
Source : Medcom

Advantages of Prafi Plain Plantation

There are several benefits that the oil palm plantation offers to the locals, including:

  • Significant infrastructure development

To help with the operation, the local government has improved the infrastructure in the location. This improvement makes production and distribution become a lot easier. It mainly involved building better roads and housings for the workers.

This development is also experienced by local people. Better access to the outside world means that these locals can obtain things that they need for their daily lives easier than before.

  • Higher income for local stakeholders

Local stakeholders also see higher income due to the presence of Prafi Plain. There are many stakeholders involved such as landowner and even food sellers. Because the area becomes more economically active, money is easily circling around.

People who work or own businesses in the sectors related to the oil palm industry can make more money through deals with the company. Because of this, you can see that the local economy thrives due to this exchange. Many people see improvements in living standards.

  • Opportunities for tribal people

This point is heavily related to the two previous points. As you can see, West Papua is a province inhabited by tribal people who still adhere to their local customs. In the past, these people did not have many opportunities in various life aspects, including economy and education.

However, with the establishment of oil palm plantations, there are more opportunities to interact with the outside world. There are many job opportunities for local people who in the past were living precariously without a steady income. Additionally, access to education becomes better too.

Adverse Impacts of the Plantation

However, as there are many positive impacts, adverse impacts also affect locals. Those negative impacts are:

  • Degradation of the land

Palm oil plantation has a negative impact on the environment when it is not managed well. In the case of Prafi Plain, it caused about 60% deforestation in the area. That green area used to be water conservation and thus it threatens the water supply in the location.

Additionally, due to poorly managed planting, soil erosion also occurred in Prafi Plain. It heightens the chance of landslides. Air pollution also went up immediately after the plantation started producing.

  • Social conflict with locals

The effect of Prafi Plain to West Papua people, particularly who live around the area, is not only related to the environment. This plantation definitely has a significant impact on the place’s human development index. However, a negative impact is also present.

This human-related issue is social conflict between migrant workers and locals. Prafi Plain recruits people from outside of the region to lend their experience in the palm oil industry. However, the difference in values and customs can create tensions between the newcomers and natives. The conflict may escalate from time to time.

Implication for the Future

The case of Prafi Plain should open our eyes that proper planning must be made before opening any plantation. Here are some recommendations made to prevent similar things from happening in other cases:

  • Leaving a special piece of land for locals

When the government is planning to build another agriculture center, it is important to leave a special piece of land for locals. It is a way to respect the local culture and also maintain peacefulness between native residents and the newcomers.

Additionally, leaving a designated piece of land for locals prevents the area from complete devastation. Local people would still be able to utilize a certain portion of the land for their livelihood. Of course, it is the plantation manager’s job to ensure minimum disruption to the native ecology.

  • Stricter supervision from the government

There needs to be stricter supervision from the government regarding the development of new agriculture centers. Government must ensure transparency about the percentage of local land being used for the project. Transparency will increase public’s trust and support, which is important for the plan’s sustainability.

Additionally, the government should think about the betterment of Papua people. It means that the government must be ready to implement sanctions for any violation of regulation by the plantation. The sanctions must be implemented fairly.

Due to the commitment to reduce deforestation and emission, the regional government is committed not to open any oil palm plantations in the future. However, since it aims to boost the agriculture sector, there are other forms of agricultural centers that are still in the works. Currently the development is directed towards food commodities.

The case of Prafi Plain provides a valuable lesson for the government to run agriculture centers more responsibly in West Papua. That way, the welfare of natives can be secured and disruption to the local ecosystem can be reduced.