Certified land grabbing
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Certified Land Grabbing. The case of oil palm expansion in West Kalimantan, Indonesia Eric Wakker Aidenvironment Asia. Session: EU Ecological Footprint in SEA 4 th SEA-EU-NET Stakeholders Conference Hanoi, 16-17 November 2011. Independent not-for-profit consultancy in Amsterdam

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Certified Land Grabbing

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Certified Land Grabbing

The case of oil palm expansion in West Kalimantan, Indonesia

Eric Wakker

Aidenvironment Asia

Session: EU Ecological Footprint in SEA

4th SEA-EU-NET Stakeholders Conference

Hanoi, 16-17 November 2011

Independent not-for-profit consultancy in Amsterdam

Asia office focuses on commodity trade, land use, legal frameworks and voluntary certification

Clients: NGOs, private sector, donor agencies

Issues covered

Does Voluntary Certification address the EU Footprint in SEA?

Focus on Ketapang District

Ketapang district, West Kalimantan

  • Land area 3.580,000 ha

  • Population 500,000

Forest cover (2008) Source: SarvisionPeat lands and oil palm up to 2004 (7% of territory)

Background to Ketapang District

The Biofuel Boom

  • Crude oil prices October 1996 – present

  • Palm oil prices

  • Source: Index Mundi

  • 2005-2008 “Biofuel boom”

Surge in issuance of oil palm permits, Ketapang 1990s-2010

Permits extendable up to 160 years

Before 2005After 2005-2008

The palm oil land grab

All land claimed by the State and private sectorLand left unclaimed: 5.9% of the district (0.4 ha p.p.). No recognition of indigenous peoples land rights

Claimed and unclaimed land

Major direct and indirect impacts

RSPO in Ketapang

  • Operational since: 2008

  • Area certified world-wide: 1,000,000 ha

  • Area certified in Ketapang: 0 ha

RSPO or not: no discernable difference

  • E.g. in one case, over 10,000 ha of land was opened up:

    • Without valid permits (EIA, IUP, SPKH, IPK)

    • Worked with irregular permit, and exceeded quota

    • Encroached into forest reserve, outside concession boundaries

    • Misled authorities, RSPO and the public

  • Despite a formal grievance procedure, RSPO will allow the land grab in future be certified as sustainable

    • Permits were secured afterthe land grab

    • Company promised “not to do it again”

      There are numerous similar cases

December 2009IUP Permit boundaries PT SKS and PT BNS and FR Dana Manis Mata

FR Dana Manis Mata



Enforcement agencies

Indonesia has good laws and enforcement agencies with strong mandates

Unfortunately, oil palm is both “too big” as well as “too small”

The sector enjoys soft law enforcement through RSPO and IPOC, etc.

RED does not require legal compliance

Meanwhile, communities face the toughest legal retaliations for protesting against the land grab


  • VC: better practices in some plantation estates

    • Satisfies the needs of committed consumers in the EU

    • Some good publicity for the sector

      A worthwhile effort, but:

    • Voluntary Certification isan island approach to sustainability

    • EU trade policies have much broader indirect effects on the ground, positive but also potentially negative

Research needs

  • Assessing footprints and impact of certification:

    • Transparency in trade and capital flows

    • Understanding certification in the context of poor governance

    • Linking work on certification and Good Governance

  • Robustness certification indicators:

    • Focus on certification systems, rather than indicators

    • Strengthening of existing legal frameworks

  • Research needs (1)

    • Comparing science & conservationist approaches in Footprint research

      • NGOs have ample experience with Footprint linkages

        • e.g. RETRAC research

    Research needs (2)

    • Comparing science & conservationist approaches

      • Science is underrepresented in multistakeholder dialogue

        • Research into scope of the challenges

        • Forecasting impacts of policies

      • Science can be made more easily accessible to stakeholders

        • Some good examples exist (CIFOR, ICRAF, HoB)

        • More outreach to local decision makers recommended

    Thank you

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