Kaoem Telapak, in collaboration with Mongabay Indonesia, held a book launch and online discussion on Thursday, 13 April 2023.
The book Between Promises of Welfare and Social Environmental Impacts: A Journalistic Search Regarding the Palm Oil Industry in Indonesia results from an investigation by 22 journalists who received fellowships from Kaoem Telapak in 2022.
In the welcome discussion session, Mardi Minangsari, President of Kaoem Telapak, explained data on the palm oil industry in Indonesia. The area of palm oil land in Indonesia, which reaches more than 15 million hectares, is capable of producing 47 million tons of palm oil and exporting 36 million tons with a valuation of around 15.8 billion US dollars. But behind the ability of palm oil to provide easy cash to Indonesia, the practice of the palm oil industry is often problematic. Starting from the issue of annexation of forest land, conflicts with residents, and ecosystem changes to corruption in plantation permits, which usually occurs in the palm oil industry. “This is what causes the image of Indonesian palm oil to become bad,” said Minangsari.
To examine issues in the palm oil industry further, Kaoem Telapak and Mongabay Indonesia provided fellowships for journalists so they could get a clear picture of the current situation in the palm oil industry in the field.
Ridzki R. SIgit, Head of Operations of Mongabay Indonesia, explained that journalists discovered many palm oil issues. There are issues regarding the struggles of farmers in oil palm plantations, problems of living space for local communities in conflict with oil palm plantations, issues of the impact of oil palm plantations on ecology and the environment, issues of the dynamics of the relationship between farmers and oil palm corporations, and the good practices of smallholders in managing oil palm plantations more sustainably. “The book divides palm oil issues into five chapters,” said Ridzki.
In the discussion, Kaoem Telapak and Mongabay Indonesia invited four speakers to review this book. The speakers are Abetnego Taringan from the Indonesian Presidential Staff Office, Diah Suradiredja from the Kehati Foundation, Sri Palupi from Ecosoc Rights, and Siswadi from APCH Jambi who will present the situation of small oil palm farmers.
Abetnego Tarigan said this book is an essential record because there are still problems in the palm oil industry that all stakeholders must address further. He also explained that we can see the President’s position in the issued regulation. “A series of policies are more inclined towards increasing productivity, added value, and conflict resolution,” he said.
For Diah Suradiredja, this book is the result of an exciting investigation. The cases raised in this book show business processes in the field. Diah also provided input for this book. According to her, the opinion in this book is still limited to NGO circles, so further investigation is still needed. “There needs to be further investigation to find a solution,” said Diah.
Meanwhile, Sri Palupi revealed that this book helps ordinary people understand the oil palm problem in Indonesia. He also appreciated the diversity of regions and cases in this book. However, according to her, it is also essential to provide additional information regarding the background selection of the location, the choice of cases raised, and the selection of sources.
Regarding the problem of smallholder oil palm farmers, Siswadi from the Cahaya Harapan Farmers Association said that the challenge farmers face so far is funding. To get the RSPO certificate alone, farmers have to spend at least 100 million rupiahs per year. In addition, farmers’ knowledge and capacity regarding certification still need to be improved. Guidance from the government still needs to be met.
Minangsari revealed that if you want to discuss Indonesian palm oil, you must also talk about independent smallholders, especially regarding their situation. The issue of independent oil palm smallholders was raised by journalists and included in this book compilation.
Representing Kaoem Telapak, Minangsari hopes that this book can provide a bigger picture and inspiration for improving palm oil governance to readers, “Kaoem Telapak hopes the book can give an overview of the current situation of palm oil governance to readers, then broadcast the initiatives that carried out at the site level, and I hope it will inspire improvements to palm oil governance so that Indonesian palm oil will no longer have a negative image, but will become a sustainable supreme product that does not cause social problems, and makes farmers prosperous,” she said.