Hunting and gathering and gardening, that’s the life of the indigenous people in the Grime Nawa Valley, Papua. They live from the forest. At least, there are seven tribes living in this valley which is located in Jayapura Regency, Papua. There are the Kemtuk, Gresi, Namblong, Uria, Elseng, Aotaba, and Tecuari tribes. They live and are scattered in the valleys where two major rivers flow, the Grime and Nawa in Yapsi District, and Unurumguay.
The Kemtuk, Gresi, Namblong, Uria, Eleseng, Aotaba tribes live near Airu, on the border with Yalimo. Then in the Districts of Kemtuk, Kemtuk Gresi, Namblong, Nimbokrang, Nimboran, Unurumguay, and Yapsi, only the remaining clans remained.
Matias Sawa, Chair of the Namblong Tribal Customary Council (DAS), said the people of the Grime Nawa Valley depend very much on gardening products, hunting and gathering in the forest, and fishing.
Proceeds from there, he said, they use for family consumption, and sell to Genyem Market, Hamadi, or Pharaa Market in Sentani.
In the Grime Nawa forest, said Matias, there is a rich diversity of flora and fauna. At least, the animals in this forest are deer, pigs, year-old birds, red cockatoos, black cockatoos, white cockatoos, birds of paradise, parrots, vultures, tree cuscus, maleo, parrots, and many more. For flora, among others, orchids, rattan, yellow rope – as a medicinal ingredient –, masoi, agarwood and others.
The lives of those who depend on nature are being disturbed by the presence of a large-scale palm oil company, PT Permata Nusa Mandiri (PNM). The company received a plantation business permit (IUP) covering an area of 30,920 hectares from the Governor of Papua through the Papua Integrated Licensing and Investment Agency on March 28, 2014 in Unurumguay, Namblong, Nimboran, Nimbokrang, Kemtuk, and Kemtuk Gresi Districts.
In the same year, a forest area release permit (IPKH) was issued from the Ministry of Environment and Forestry (KLHK) for an area of 16,182.48 hectares. Some of the permits are located in an area for other uses (APL) covering an area of 15,817.52 hectares.
“These people do not know that oil palm plantation companies have entered their customary territory, it is not their culture to plant oil palm. Today, they are very worried because the land is being cleared for oil palm lands,” said Matias, last year.
PNM obtained a location permit through a decree from the Jayapura Regent in 2011 for an area of 32,000 hectares. Permits were extended in 2014, extended again in 2017 in Unurumguay, Namblong, Nimboran, Nimbokrang, Kemtuk, and Kemtuk Gresi Districts.
For cultivation rights (HGU) from the Ministry of Agrarian Affairs and Spatial Planning/National Defense Agency (ATR/BPN) in 2018 covering an area of 10,370.47 hectares in Beneik Village, Unurmguay District and Benyom Village, Nimbokrang District.
From the HGU area, the company has cleared forests and conducted nurseries in Beneik Village, Unurumguay District.
In the customary forest of the keret ( tribal chief) of Tecuari, the same oil palm company has entered and cleared land since 2001.
Abner Tecuari, Head of the Tecuari Tribe, said that PNM was the first palm oil company to enter his customary territory.
The signatory to the release of customary land at that time was his older brother who was then the chief of the tribe, Costant Tecuari.
They had an argument between the brothers, but because Costant was the chief of the tribe, no one dared to fight back.
Starting from there, the company cleared their customary forest. Abner Tecuari, the new tribal chief, is fighting back against the PNM to leave their traditional territory.
“I do not agree that there is a palm oil plantation on this land. So those of you who installed the portal, I have warned you that you must take care of the forest, the land, the rivers, and protect the forest.”
“If the company still disobeys, I will invite the masses to the company’s camp.”
After installing the portal, there is consolidation to the villages.
The community submitted a letter of rejection of PMN’s presence to the Jayapura Regency Government on March 7 2022. With the support of Non-Governmental Organizations (NGOs), such as the Assessment and Empowerment of Papuan Indigenous Peoples (PT-PPMA), Walhi Papua, People’s Working Network (Jerat) Papua, and LBH Papua, DAS Namblong. Then, the Grime Nawa Regional Customary Council, DAS Oktim, the Bentala Rakyat Heritage Foundation, Greenpeace Indonesia, and the Auriga Nusantara Foundation.
Traditional forests are beginning to be cut down
The road to Beneik Village, Unurumguay District, is rocky and damaged. Some of the roads built by the Jayapura Regency Government are asphalted. About 500 meters from the road, there is a wooden entrance portal, as a barrier to the company area. Entering the company area, there is a large bridge and several small bridges are starting to break down. Black paved road.
From far away there was smoke billowing into the air, a small house in the middle of an open forest. The back of the house has become like a football field.
First block, second, third, and so on. On the left there are blocks that have been overgrown with grass. On the right dry parched. Not a single tree is standing. Trees fell everywhere. Wide as endless. There is no activity at that location. That’s the view when we went down to Beneik Village, Unurumguay District.
At that time, there was the 13th consolidated meeting by the Namblong Tribal Customary Council (DAS) and the Namblong Indigenous Women’s Organization (ORPA) to discuss clearing land for a road by the oil palm company PNM in Ketmug Village, Nimboran.
Matias Sawa, Head of the Namblong DAS, said the company’s presence was worrying for customary owners in Lere. If the company operates, nearly 40,000 hectares of community customary rights will be lost. For this reason, they are trying to ask for help from various parties so that the company’s customary land is not disturbed.
He said the community plans to form a Community-Owned Enterprise (BUMA) to protect their customary lands. “Open a business on our own land. All indigenous peoples will be involved. We will manage this land ourselves,” he said.
In 2011, when there was land clearing, DAS and the Namblong Indigenous Women’s Organization (Orpa) already knew. At that time, the Tecuari brothers were fighting for and against handing over the land.
“We immediately discussed this matter. The palm oil problem started with Benyom and Nimbontong who had been given 2,000 hectares of land. From there we started to rise and fight,” said Matias.
Rosita Tecuari, Chair of ORPA Namblong, said the company will not remain silent until the community needs to protect their area so that it remains green. It was from that forest, he said, that the bees produced honey.
“This valley remains a valley of praise, not a valley of tears. So, together we think about building our land together,” he said.
They consolidated to strengthen their defense against companies that received the first and second warning letters to stop their activities from the Jayapura Regent, Mathius Awoitauw.
Abner is worried that the company’s activities in clearing forests will have an impact on the community. Community activities, he said, are gardening and hunting as well as fishing in the Grime River in the summer. If the forest disappears, he said, people will most likely have to buy food, which is usually obtained from the surrounding forests and rivers.
Yustus Mame, the indigenous youth of Grime Nawa, said that satellite imagery mapping from field monitoring by the Auriga Nusantara Foundation team showed that there had been clearing of around 67 hectares of natural forest at the end of October 2022.
Previously, successive land clearing of six hectares last January, then, 50.60 hectares in February, and 75.04 hectares in March 2022. So, the estimated land clearing in Beneik Village, Unurum Guay District is around 198.64 hectares.
Pros and cons?
The presence of PMN reaped the pros and cons in society. The Indigenous People of the Uria Tribe who support the company and the Indigenous People who are members of the Grime Nawa Valley Coalition refuse.
People demonstrating at the Jayapura Regent’s Office, Sentani. First, from the Indigenous People of the Uria Tribe, on September 2, 2022 with the motorbike Alexander Tecuari, asked the government to maintain the company so that their children and grandchildren could work. A land area of 5,400 hectares in the customary area of the Uria tribe is included in the HGU permit.
Second , the action of the Indigenous People of the Grime Nawa Valley on 7 September 2022 urged the Jayapura District Head to stop the company’s activities, revoke the location permit and forest area permit which was coordinated by Yustus Mame.
Third , on November 11, 2022 following the third warning letter to the company. Yustus said the company cleared 130 hectares of land in Beneik Village, Unurumguay District.
Ridwan, Head of the Permata Nusa Mandiri Representative Office, through a WhastApp message , said that he would continue to follow and obey the government.
He said that they had to complete non-land clearing (non-CL) work because they were bound by contracts with third parties and communities with customary rights.
Meanwhile, the construction of the portal in Beneik Village, Unurumguay District, was a request from the customary rights owner. He hadn’t even seen the portal yet. Ridwan did not want to mention which indigenous peoples asked to build the portal.
Mathius Awoitauw, Regent of Jayapura, said on September 12 2022 that indigenous peoples who have pros and cons should place their trust in the government and follow procedures so that no prolonged problems occur.
The Jayapura Regency Government, he said, had formed a team to evaluate oil palm plantations in accordance with the directives of Indonesian President Joko Widodo regarding the revocation of oil palm plantations. On January 6, 2022, the Minister of Environment and Forestry issued a letter revoking forest area concession permits, including those belonging to PMN.
The Jayapura Regent issued the first warning letter on the temporary suspension of PMN activities on 23 February 2022, the second warning letter on 8 September 2022.
On September 24, 2022, in Kampung Berap, the regent’s statement did not extend the location permit and environmental permit. Then, the third warning letter on November 8, 2022.
Evaluation of oil palm plantation permits in Jayapura Regency
The Indigenous People of the Grime Nawa Valley are worried and protesting the presence of a palm oil company, PMN. Accordingly, in early 2022, the Minister of Environment and Forestry revoked the permit for the release of this palm oil company’s forest area.
At that time, there were 137 approval permits for the release of forest areas for plantations dominated by oil palm plantations spread across 19 provinces, including Papua and West Papua.
Sambodo Samiya, Head of the Jayapura Regency Plantation and Animal Husbandry Service, said the Jayapura Regent had formed an Evaluation Team for Oil Palm Plantations in Jayapura Regency.
“Basically, the license was not extended anymore and the company has received the last warning letter. The company has not been operating for several years and the license has not been extended any longer,” he said.
At least, there are six results of the Jayapura District Government’s evaluation of this company. First , the Jayapura District Government can coordinate with the Papuan Government to inform the Ministry of Environment and Forestry regarding no utilization of the Borrow-to-Use Forest Area Permit (IPKH).
Second , if the land is still covered by forest, the Minister of Forestry and the Environment can re-establish the area as a forest area.
Third, the company does not operate according to the provisions or has not been operational for two years since the issuance of the HGU . Fourth, IPKH has not been used for three years since the forest area was released. Fifth , the location permit has expired. Sixth, there are pros and cons in the community who own customary rights.
So, he said, the follow-up plan from the Jayapura Regency Government regarding this location permit, the district head will issue a letter of confirmation or warning to the company regarding the expiry date. For HGU, if it is proven that it is not operating, BPN can process the cancellation to PMN.
For IPKH, he said, the Jayapura District Government and the Papuan Government are coordinating with the Ministry of Environment and Forestry. In order to avoid overlapping and/or disputes in the future, said Sambodo, the Papuan government needs to propose to the Ministry of Environment and Forestry to revoke the company’s IPKH.
Meanwhile, regarding the plantation business permit, he said, the Jayapura District Government asked the Papuan Government based on the verification results to revoke the IUP for this palm oil company.
Based on the data from their analysis, according to Sambodo, several things were found. First , the area of location permits, IUP, and HGU are different. The location permit is no longer valid and the new HGU is 10,370.47 hectares out of a total IUP of 30,920 hectares.
Second , the company is not yet operational, third, the IUP covers one regency area but is issued by the governor, fourth, the IPKH was issued in 2014 covering an area of 16,182.48 hectares. Fifth, the company does not have environmental permit documents, environmental feasibility decrees, and environmental impact analysis (Amdal)/DELH-DPLH. Sixth, there are pros and cons among the people who own customary rights.
Delila Giay, Head of the Investment and One-Stop Service Office, said that in 2014, the permit was extended and in 2017 another location permit was issued until 2020.
During that time, he said, they did not clear land but took care of other documents, namely HGU. At the end of 2021, they sent a letter and informed them that they would carry out land clearing after the COVID-19 pandemic. Coinciding with that, he said, there was a decree from the Ministry of Environment and Forestry.
“Because of that, we wrote to the company to stop it, while waiting until March, the people will start demonstrating.”
The reasons for the Jayapura Regency Government to evaluate palm oil licensing include, he said, the permits granted like this to PMN were very broad, covering almost all districts, Kemtuk, Namblong, Nimboran and Unurumguay. While the HGU is around 10,000 covering Beneik Village, Unurum Guay and Benyom Nimbokrang Village.
Not only PNM
The Jayapura district government is not only evaluating one permit for an oil palm plantation company, but others as well. He said the evaluation they carried out was gradual. The first stage, evaluation of PMN, then there are eight plantation companies in Jayapura Regency with four active companies.
There are eight companies in Jayapura Regency, PT. Daya Indah Nusantara, PT. Pure Jaya Group Plantations, PT. Permata Nusa Mandiri, PT. Rimba Matoa Lestari, PT. Sinar Kencana Inti Perkasa, PT. Sumber Indah Perkasa, PT. Wira Antara, and PT Timur Jaya Agro Karya.
The companies that are active and registered in the Online Single Submission (OSS) are PT Permata Nusa Mandiri, PT Rimba Matoa Lestari, PT Sinar Kencana Inti Perkasa in Lere, PT Sumber Indah Perkasa.
“Apart from Permata Nusa Mandiri, three other companies are already producing palm oil.”