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When Plasma Farms Don’t Live Up to Their Promises, Bualemo Farmers Replace Oil Palm with Various Plants

On the left and right of the road along Toiba Village, Bualemo, Banggai, Central Sulawesi, this is a stretch of oil palm. This oil palm plantation is a concession of PT Wira Mas Permai (WMP), a subsidiary of PT Kencana Agri. The garden has been around since 2009.

WMP obtained a location permit for 17,500 hectares from the Banggai Government at that time with letter number 525.26/15/Disbun/2009. Plantation business permit (IUP) in 2011 with Number 525.26/1922/Disbun, then the same year the right to cultivate (HGU) area of ​​8,773.38 hectares was issued.

Toiba Village, one of 10 villages included in the WMP HGU permit in Bualemo District. The center of the oil palm plantation is located in Malik Village.

Apart from Bualemo, Kencana Agri’s business associates also reside in other areas of Banggai. There are PT Sawindo Cemerlang (Scem) and PT Delta Subur Permai (DSP) spread across two sub-districts, Batui and Batui Selatan.

Of the two Kencana Agri subsidiaries, PT Delta Subur Permai plays the role of a processing plant which officially operates in January 2020. The DSP factory is located in Seseba Village, South Batui.

DSP receives fresh fruit bunches (FFB) from both Sawindo and WMP to produce crude palm oil ( CPO ). Kencana Agri sends CPO through the Tangkiang Port, in Kintom District, Banggai. From Tangkiang, Kencana Agri sends the CPO proceeds to Kalimantan.

Isal Khan, Head of the Bualemo Bersatu Farmers Forum, is directly involved in supervising WMP activities. From land disputes, plasma promises, and labor violations.

“For a long time, the community and farmers have suffered from the entry of oil palm companies into our area,” said a resident of Bualemo A Village, Bualemo District.

Compensation for growing crops (GRTT) agreements agreed upon by farmers and companies is the first step in the problem.

“The GRTT received by the community varies, some are 750,000 per hectare, some are Rp. 1 million. The community understands that GRTT means that their land is lent to the company and when they harvest they get a profit. The facts speak otherwise,” he said.

When the harvest arrives, the farmers never feel a cent of the yield from the oil palm planted on their land. Seeing that, the farmers began to take the initiative to harvest independently. They were also in trouble because they were accused of taking the company’s palm oil.

Isal said GRTT was not in accordance with the agreement between the community and the company. This condition, he said, became the starting point for problems between the company and residents in Bualemo.

“So when the GRTT was established, farmers were no longer able to re-cultivate their land. They lost their jobs and some had to apply to become casual workers at the company.”

Isal said, if the community had not been tempted by the company’s offer during socialization to the village, their lives would have been safe. Villagers who used to be farmers don’t have to swerve to become laborers on their own land.

According to him, the attitude of the farmers to becoming laborers is a matter of their choice to survive. While hoping for a more decent life, even far from hope.

“The life of the farmers remains the same. Nothing has changed,” said Isal.

In the aftermath of this problem, the community protested the clarity of their land planted with oil palm and stopped the company’s harvesting activities on farmers’ lands.

Isal said, the 10 villages surrounding the plantations whose concession rights (HGU) were entered into by companies were in trouble, especially over land disputes, plasma plantations and profit sharing.

The ten villages include  Toiba Village, Tompotika Valley (Samaku), West Longkoga (Salu), Sampaka, Nipa Kalemoa, Malik Makmur, Malik, Bima Karya, and Binsil Bersaudara Village (Binsil K and Binsil Padang).

Troubled plasmas

Masda, a resident of Nipa Kalemoa Village, was absurdly surprised. Since coming in 1991 with the transmigration program in Bualemo, he hopes that life will improve and be calm.

According to him, the government will help supply the arable lands. The certified land belongs to Masda which is recognized by the state.

In fact, Masda’s land is included in the WMP HGU. Almost all of the land of certified transmigrants is included in the company’s concession.

“There are 15 hectares of land for me and my family that are included in the company’s HGU,” said Masda.

The palm oil companies came in with promises that the residents would benefit from the land being ‘plasma’. He also let the company plant oil palm.

“The company has harvested several times, but I, the land owner, have never felt a cent,” he said. In fact, this land tax is still active. “I pay without arrears.”

Safi’i is also in the same fate as Masda. One hectare of land is planted with the company’s oil palm. The land is certified, but still in HGU.

“I’m surprised, we are participating in government programs but instead it is complicated by the problems we face. Moreover, the land issue with the company,” he said.

Since obtaining a location permit in 2009, the company has started its activities in Bualemo. When the company entered, the promise of plasma to the community was still floating, it had not yet reached a clear point. In fact, there are some people who don’t know how the plasma plantation scheme works.

“It is not clear which of the plasma plantations and the company’s nucleus plantations are,” said Isal.

The plasma issue should have been resolved when the company first entered and discussed with villagers in the company’s HGU concession area.

Agus R. Tattu, a resident of Malik Village, whose land is included in the company’s HGU also does not know the extent of the plasma plantations to the community.

“It was only discussed when the company socialization came in, but until now there hasn’t been any. We should have felt it at harvest time,” he said.

For plasma, the company claims to have made it since the company and cooperative were present in Bualemo.

“That’s already regulated. It’s called obligation. There is a cooperative name on it. I’ll check it later,” said Lukito Wisnu Putro, Kencana Agri’s External Affair Manager.

Even though a cooperative has been formed, Wisnu said the cooperative was not going well.

“We have formed a cooperative with the hope that it can accommodate the identity of the plasma farmers in Bualemo. But it seems that time is still stagnant , not going well,” said Wisnu.

The company’s explanation regarding plasma plantations and cooperatives was justified by the TPHP Plantation Service.

“The issue of plasma plantations from WMP already exists. Even cooperatives have been formed by companies for a long time. The name of the cooperative is SMIL (Sawit Mekar Indah Lestari),” explained Dewi Wahyuni, Head of the Plantation Division.

Data from the Banggai Food Crops, Horticulture and Plantation Service (TPHP), WMP started its first harvest or sand fruit at the end of 2014. From an area of ​​8,773.38 hectares of HGU, WMP opened 2,488.87 hectares and actively produced 1,482.56 hectares.

Data from the Bualemo BPP Coordinator shows that the company has plasma, with an area of ​​17.02 hectares of which 5.60 hectares are active.

However, said Sahbudin, the plasma plantations in Bualemo are not yet clear. Farmers were confused.

“The dilemma is the clarity of the land for those who have collaborated with the company but have not had any results yet.”

Sahbudin said that it had been 11 years and it was not clear what kind of agreement on plasma. For this reason, residents want to ask for the return of their land that was subject to the company’s HGU.

According to Isal, the lands of the certified transmigrants that were given by the state through transit also entered HGU. This situation, he said, created conflict in society.

“Most of the two hectares of land belonging to the transmigrant community in the villages of Nipa Kalemoa and Malik Makmur have had problems with the company. Is it possible to enter HGU on certified land?”

Even since the company entered, he said, there has been no clarity regarding plasma. “If there is already a cooperative, who is the chairman? where are they?

Circle of People’s Movement (Larra), a local community organization in Banggai, also stated that WMP did not provide plasma plantations for the community.

“From 2008, until 2021 there is no plasma,” said Syamsul Bahri Panigoro, Chairman of Larra.

In fact, in Larra’s notes, the data in the field is inversely proportional to that provided by the Banggai TPHP Office.

Larra’s data shows that the area of ​​WMP HGU used is 2,505.88 hectares and the obligation of 20% of the plasma plantations that must be fulfilled by the company in 10 villages around the plantation area of ​​501.18 hectares.

“In Malik Village, for example, there are 646.16 hectares of HGU and a 20% plasma obligation of 129.23 hectares. Malik Village is the center of plantations, there is no plasma at all, let alone for crop yields.”

Syamsul said that at least 996 hectares of certified land and 446 hectares of local people’s land with SKPT documents entered the concession of the WMP palm oil company. The data he collected from residents and companies

What the company is doing, he said, is usurping the people’s land rights.

Edi Sutrisno, Director of Transformation for Justice (TuK) Indonesia, questioned the issue of oil palm cooperatives being an indicator and the reason for the company’s plasma plantations.

“In fact, there is no plasma land. Present the plasma garden first. Why do you have cooperatives but no managed plantations? Cooperatives are not an indicator of whether there are plasma plantations or not.”

The existence of cooperatives, he said, should be a forum for plasma farmers, while plasma plantations are the responsibility of the company.

Edi said the government should also question the plasma plantations, unfortunately not. The government, he said, seems not to be serious about the clarity of plasma plantations.

Achmad Surambo, Executive Director of Sawit Watch, said that land disputes and expropriation of community land rights by palm oil companies often occur in many ways. Including, he said, the issue of the transmigration community’s lands being included in the company’s HGU was part of the expropriation.

“If there is already a certificate and it is claimed to be included in the HGU, it actually violates the law. Can be reported to the authorities. Sometimes reports like this get stuck and need escort,” said Surambo .

The two-hectare land of the transmigration community initially had the status of land management rights and was upgraded by the local government to become certified.

He highlighted the problem that palm oil producers who have Roundtable Sustainable Palm Oil (RSPO) certificates must be free from environmental, agrarian, and social problems.

Kencana Agri, the parent WMP, has an RSPO certificate. Every supplier of fresh fruit bunches (FFB) from a subsidiary under them can be reported to the RSPO.

The company, through Wisnu, does not wish to give definite comments regarding land disputes or HGU issues in Bualemo.

“If asked for information about HGU land, don’t ask me, it’s not quite right. Because it is the state that gives the HGU. There are other things in it, don’t ask me. Because I am not the one who issued the rights,” said Wisnu.

The Government of Banggai, through the Working Group Team for the Acceleration of Solving Natural Resource Problems with the District Head’s Decree number: 541/426/Bag.SDA dated 29 March 2022 is committed to solving this problem in Bualemo.

“Residents’ reports about WMP are currently being handled, along with other incoming cases,” said Ferlyn Monggesang, Head of the Pokja Team .

The working group team chaired by Ferlyn last March brought together WMP and village government representatives. During the meeting, both the company and the three villages reached an agreement to sign a memorandum of understanding (MoU) regarding plasma plantations. The three villages that agreed were Longkoga Barat Village, Binsil K and Binsil Padang.

“We have facilitated the three villages to meet with the company. The rest of the villages have yet to take a stand,” said Ferlyn.

According to Wisnu, the company will also provide palm oil yields to the villages around the WMP plantation.

“Essentially, the company really hopes that the villages in the Bualemo work area that have not received palm oil products like other villages will hurry up.”

The plasma is not an MoU, said Edi, but the company’s obligation to build 20% of the plantation for the people.

Fight with planting

After years of plasma palm oil without results, the residents began to act. They cut down or burn the palms, and replace them with various other plants.

Agus, for about 10 years holding back his frustration, the company’s profit sharing promises never came. The family’s economy began to be difficult, he was forced to become a laborer. Working as a laborer is not as desired. Agus did not last long and chose to leave.

The uncertainty that Agus experienced made him change his mind. The land that had been planted with oil palm was reclaimed. He replaced oil palm with corn and other crops for family life.

“If I don’t have the courage to re-cultivate the land, I might not be able to support my family right now,” said Agus.

He is grateful, the corn harvest in the last five years has been abundant, he has been able to build a house and support his family.

Not much different from Masda. He burned all the palm trees on his land. Masda’s action was considered to have violated the rules. He received a police summons for questioning.

“I want to cultivate my own land. This is my land, I pay taxes,” he said with a smile.

The news that Masda was summoned by the police spread throughout the village. Not to have a deterrent effect on the farmers, but to ignite the enthusiasm of several other farmers. Farmers are getting excited. “The land belongs to the farmer, not the company.”

“This is the form of angry farmers. This is proof of our resistance to the company,” said a resident of Nipa Kalemoa village, pointing to former lands that were once full of oil palm, now scorched by fire.

Agus also took part in tidying up the oil palm plantations on his land.

“I want to live on my own land, I don’t want to depend on palm oil, which I don’t know the details for. Life is getting poorer if you rely on palm oil.”

Masda also wants to plant corn, coconut and cashew trees. “Corn once helped me live while palm oil did not.”

So is Agus. He planted corn, coconut and crops which were prime commodities at that time.

“I have felt the results of planting corn. I already feel it now, “said Agus.

Agus heard that the company’s offer of plasma plantations was echoed again after a long time of uncertainty. His heart ached when he had to deal with palm oil companies.

He just wanted to grow corn. With corn, he could provide life for the family.

“I still refuse if there is plasma, I’m comfortable with corn now.”

Masda especially. He vehemently refused the offer of plasma to enter his land again.

“My coconut and cashew trees are already big, I don’t want to replace them with palm oil,” said Masda.

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