Locations of villages experiencing palm oil-related conflicts
Illegalities by palm oil companies are a significant factor
in the widespread conflicts between them and rural communities in Indonesian
Borneo, according to a recent paper published in Applied Geography.
Conflicts between communities and companies, between and
within villages, and between communities and the government, have proliferated
across the areas of Indonesia most heavily targeted for plantations.
The National Human Rights Commission has
recorded approximately 9,000 conflicts over land, three quarters of
which involved the private sector. USAID estimated in 2006 that conflicts
affected up to 19.6 million people.
These conflicts are on occasion exploding into acts
of violence against communities. They most commonly involve the
long-term suppression of community rights and their ability to effectively
The paper in Applied Geography seeks to understand spatial
patterns of conflicts, and assess and quantify the varying factors that
Through a sweep of information online, the authors
identified 265 reports of land conflicts across Kalimantan, from which 187
involved oil palm companies. Of these, 102 cases involved “[c]onflict over land
boundaries and illegal operations by companies”. The study found that such conflicts
were more likely to occur where forests were “more accessible by more people”,
and where communities were less reliant on the resources offered by forests.
“Illegal operations” was one of five broad categories, and
grouped with boundary disputes, so the nature of the illegality is unclear and
inevitable varied. It is likely that disputes that fell under other categories
– for example, poor consultation – also included some form of illegality on the
part of companies but were not reported as such.
The paper can be viewed online here.
also published an in-depth post on the paper.