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Research Report

Social impacts of oil palm in Indonesia: A gendered perspective from West Kalimantan

Tania Murray Li
Copyright Date: Jan. 1, 2015
Pages: 61
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Table of Contents

  1. (pp. 1-11)

    Plantation-based oil palm in Indonesia has massive impacts on receiving communities, transforming every aspect of their landscapes, livelihoods and sociopolitical relations. Smallholders also plant oil palm with the support of various programs, or on their own initiative.¹ The impacts of oil palm are both positive and negative, as oil palm provides improved livelihoods for some actors, and reduces incomes and opportunities for others. As with any new crop or technology, some of the changes introduced are planned, and some are unintended because oil palm intersects with existing forms of livelihood and social organization.

    The area planted with oil palm in...

  2. (pp. 12-20)

    This section begins with an account of the gendered division of labor and control associated with different crops. It then outlines land use and distribution in 2010–12 in a selection of hamlets both within and beyond the HD-DS smallholder transmigration zone, and identifies smallholder strategies and concerns regarding oil palm.

    The main crops grown in the research area were rice, rubber and oil palm. Each had a distinct gender division of labor, and a different profile in terms of decision making and control of funds.

    Customary land holders in the research area, both Malays and Dayaks, grew rice using...

  3. (pp. 21-30)

    Both plantations in the study employed a mix of permanent workers (who provided the stable workforce and lived mostly in plantation housing), as well as contract, casual and part-time workers. Migrant men were dominant among the permanent workforce, while landless women recruited from the enclaves predominated among casual workers. This section examines the labor arrangements in the two plantations, traces the shift toward more casual work during the past decade and assesses returns to labor and work experiences for migrants and ‘local’ women and men.

    When it was established in 1980, PTPN-ME recruited workers directly from Java through a formal...

  4. (pp. 31-40)

    As this study has demonstrated, the social impacts of oil palm are diverse and need to be disaggregated to account for the different experiences of women and men, old and young, ‘locals’ and migrants, and those with and without access to land and capital. In the research area, some groups gained from their engagement with oil palm, while others lost out. More specifically, some oil palm smallholders prospered, and others were impoverished by their loss of access to rice and rubber smallholdings. At 2011 prices, incomes from casual work on the plantations (IDR 20–35,000 per day) were significantly lower...

  5. (pp. 41-46)

    This section presents four principal recommendations, and specifies the role to be played by government, civil society and scientific organizations in putting these recommendations into practice.

    The election of a new president and the appointment of a new cabinet in Indonesia in 2014 present an opportunity for national policy review. Advocacy groups operating at the national level have demanded an end to the expansion of oil palm plantations, framing their arguments in terms of rights: indigenous peoples’ rights to exercise free, prior and informed consent over the use and disposition of their lands; the right to food, human rights and...