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The expansion of oil palm monoculture plantations in Indonesia has been huge these past years, advancing over biodiverse territories where millions of people from indigenous and rural communities live, such as the case of Kalimantan, the Indonesian part of Borneo Island. These monoculture plantations, out of which 70 percent of its production is exported, partly in order to produce agrofuels, covers 13 million hectares, and by 2020, the government plans to reach 28 million hectares planted with oil palm. This increase would necessarily take place by destroying the same number of hectares of native forests.
During October, Indonesian activists Bondan Andriyanu of Sawit Watch and Laili Khairnur of Gemawan will be carrying out a tour together with European organizations to inform European Union (EU) decision makers about the impacts caused by the expansion of monoculture plantations to produce agrofuels on the environment and the lives of the communities in the country.
As part of the goal to reduce its greenhouse gas emissions, the EU established in 2007 an increase in agrofuel consumption by 2020. Despite the fact that last year the European Parliament reduced its agrofuel target from 10% to 6% in the total consumption of transport fuels, European environmental organizations consider that this new target still represents a problem.
In an interview with Real World Radio, Laili Khairnur, activist who works in West Kalimantan, Borneo Island, stated that in this region, oil palm plantations were established in 1997, but the massive expansion of the monoculture took place between 2003 and 2007.
In addition to the abovementioned projected deforestation by 2020, Laili told Real World Radio that the latest palm expansion amounted to 700,000 hectares, an area that used to be covered in its entirety by native forests. Each year, 100,000 hectares of native forests are deforested in the country.
Violence, impacts on women and Food Sovereignty
About the land conflicts caused by oil palm, Laili said: "At national level, based on Sawit Watch data, there are 731 conflicts linked to palm monoculture plantations. In our region we have 124. These are only the ones registered, but we believe they are many more, because many communties can´t report
the conflicts they are going through".
These conflicts imply physical violence against the communities and activists who defend their rights, perpetrated by people paid by the companies, as well as the criminalization of the defense of communities, said Laili.
The Indonesian activists have also been denouncing the different impacts these monoculture plantations have in terms of gender: "most of the people working in these plantations are women, who apply agrochemicals without using adequate equipment". In addition, "most oil palm workers are daily workers, so they don´t have any guarantees in labor terms".
According to the activist, these women used to work in the production of food, such as rice, and so there is a huge impact in terms of the loss of food sovereignty in the country.
The activist concluded: "Oil palm monoculture plantations are not sustainable. If we want to talk about sustainability, we first need to face our own food sovereignty issues".
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