West Papua: the sago and the palm oil - The Yerisiam people fight
Publisher: Europe Solidaire Sans Frontières
Date Written: 01/04/2017
Year Published: 2017
Resource Type: Article
Cx Number: CX21184
How Papua's Yerisiam people are fighting against palm oil expansion and protecting their last sacred sago forest.
The Yerisiam rainforest has been exploited since early 1990s by the Malaysian company SESCO. SESCO held the Forest Concession Rights, known as HPH (Hak Pengusahaan Hutan) for logging Merbau trees. In 2000 SESCO went bankrupt, leaving US$35,000 in debt related to the indigenous community's shares on timber.
In 2003, three logging companies, namely PT Pakartioga, PT Kalimanis, and PT Junindo resumed SESCOs logging under a joint venture company named PT Jati Dharma Indah (JDI). Their license lasted until 2017. But in 2007, JDI handed over its licence to PT Nabire Baru for its palm oil business.
Nabire Baru tried persuading the indigenous tribes to hand over their ancestral land by signing a letter of agreement. It met with Yerisiam resistance.
'For sure we refused. We made a mistake to let them log our forest. We had no choice back then. Saying no means you are separatists. Regardless it left us empty handed. But it was enough. They wanted to take over all our land and destroyed our sago forest. We won't let it happen', Jakonias Yoweni, one of the Yerisiam elders, told me.