Minister of Forestry promises to deal with land conflict next year

Thu, 12/29/2011 - 13:43

Minister of Forestry Zulkifli Hasan said that his office would focus on settling land conflict in the country next year, promising that more ex-forest area to be prioritized for smallholder farmers. 

“Next year, land use will be prioritized for the people.  Businesses will have to wait,” he said as quoted by Tempo online on Thursday.

Efforts to settle the rising land conflict in the regions will involve local government and non-governmental organizations, he said.

Zulkifli said that according to the government data, land conflict this year covered about 7 million ha of land, with the largest portion in Central Kalimantan, covering an area of about 3.5 million ha.

He made the statement in the wake of recent bloody conflict between local villagers and plantation companies and miners due to years of land conflict.  Villagers in Lampung, for instance, have accused plantation companies of illegally taking over their land. 

Elsewhere, Zulkifli said that his ministry has allocated about 700,000 ha of former forest areas that could be converted into other activities such agriculture next year.  This is an increase from the 500,00 ha allocated for this year.

He said that while in the past under the former authoritarian regime of Soeharto, former forest areas were mostly given to large businesses such as timber concession holders, and plantation companies, the current government wants to see more land being distributed to the people to help minimize future conflict. “In the past, companies with large capital could have huge concessions, leaving the people way behind,” he said.
Zulkifli added, that according to the ministry’s data, there are more than 25 million ha of former forest areas now controlled by timber companies, 8 million ha held by industrial forest estate companies, and 12 million ha by oil palm growers.

On the other hand, however, around 85 percent of farmers in Indonesia are land less or only have a very small land acreage. (rei)


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