West Papua Province undertakes favorable economic development due to oil palm cultivation. In fact, West Papua palm oil production has become the region’s biggest source of income. In addition, this natural resource has brought several changes within the region such as additional opportunities for customary communities, higher pay for local stakeholders (the local communities), and public infrastructure development.
The first oil palm cultivation in West Papua was established in 1986. Since then, the plantation areas have been expanding at a rapid pace. According to Databoks in 2020, a total of 51,000 hectares out of 9 million hectares of forest area in the province was replete with oil palm trees. Furthermore, the local government has made a plan to build more plantations in the following year covering a total forest area of 51,800 hectares. West Papua produced 103.50 thousand tons in 2019, 106.40 thousand tons in 2020, and 97.00 thousand tonnes in 2021.
West Papua Palm Oil Production Supporting the Region’s Economy
Additional Opportunities for Customary Communities
Oil palm plantations require a lot of labor. However, the cultivation is not as intensive as other agricultural plants. Thus, customary communities who do not yet have adequate knowledge about oil palm cultivation can still work and manage the plantations.
The Indigenous community has been depending on forest products since their yesteryears. Several of them also manage a plot of small land within their house planting many vegetables. Hence, their livelihood by cultivating crops gives them basic knowledge about managing oil palm plantations.
Higher pay for local stakeholders
Local stakeholders refer to the people involved in the West Papua palm oil industry like landowners, company workers, farmers, customary land users, and affected neighbors. Due to the rapid development of oil palm plantations, many locals saw this opportunity as an alternative livelihood to get higher pay.
Some of the local stakeholders have been able to fully support their household’s daily needs. Thus, the locals, especially the Arfak people who live in Prafi Plain, cultivate oil palm in their lands. This situation, in turn, increases the economic activity within the region.
Public Infrastructure Development
The enthusiasm by the local stakeholders and customary communities has made the national and local governments build some public infrastructure to aid with cultivation and production. More accessible roads to the region have been constructed to support the transport on land. In addition, the local authorities established many houses for the plantation’s workers.
Concerns about the Rapid Development of Oil Palm Plantations
Although the oil palm industry has helped many local communities since its establishment, there are some concerns related to its rapid development. For example, some of the totals of 51,800 hectares of oil palm plantations cover the forest areas which affects the surrounding flora and fauna ecosystem. If the rapid development keeps going for prolonged years, it can threaten the natural ecosystem.
To combat this problem, the local government has revoked thousands of oil palm plantations, specifically permits for 12 concessions in the region. The stakeholders of these concessions did not have all of the required permits. Thus, they have violated the rules set by the government to cultivate the land.
Another concern is about the violation of the rights of the customary communities by the landholders. Customary communities own the rights to access and use forest assets, in turn, they have the duty to preserve the forests. However, the ongoing conversion of land for oil palm plantations has limited their legitimate rights to the forests.
The West Papua palm oil sector plays a crucial role in the success of the province’s economic growth. The local and customary communities have been getting more opportunities and benefits from the industry. However, several preventive actions are needed to preserve the surrounding ecosystem of the plantations.