The establishment of the Merauke Integrated Food and Energy Estate (MIFEE) will sieze 2.8 million hectares of land away from indigenous peoples in Merauke Regency, Papua Province. The MIFEE is being developed as the biggest food estate in Asia, with a total of 60 trillion IDR. The government is willing to lease the land to private companies for up to 90 years.
Much of the land still covers primary forests, savannahs, and swamps. These are areas for hunting and food gathering of the indigenous tribes of Papua, which still number more than 70,000. According to Yohanes Petrus Kamalaka of the Kimaam sub-tribe, "We usually take sago in the forest and fish in the swamp. If all of that is lost, what then can we eat?" They hunt deers, pigs, crocodiles, and kangaroos as well. Aside from being food sources, the forests are also intricately linked to their culture.
But this self-sufficient way of life is fast disappearing. Forty-six companies already have permits to operate within the MIFEE. The Singapore-based Wilmar International, one of the biggest palm oil companies in the world, for instance, is permitted to convert 200,000 hectares of Papuan forest into a sugarcane plantation.
As a result, land conflicts have erupted in almost all areas in the food estate, with tribes fighting over land ownership and protesting unfair land compensation. The hiring of "outsiders" to work in plantations have also increased conflict.
On a positive note, the group Aliansi Gerakan Reforma Agraria (AGRA) said, "The indigenous tribes of Papua are getting more aware of lies and manipulations regarding permits and forest delineations as the legal mechanisms in grabbing their lands." AGRA added, "This is a good start to raise the level of their struggle for land rights. The next level of their struggle is to stop these land grab projects done in the name of solving food and energy problems."
Dowload the case study, Land Grabbing for Food and Biofuel conducted byy AGRA in close partnership with Pesticide Action Network Asia and the Pacific (PAN AP).