Spoils of Destruction. Indonesian villagers fighting palm oil giants to reclaim their rainforest
Spoils of Destruction is about the Indonesian resistance movement to reclaim rainforest illegally confiscated for palm oil plantations. In Indonesia alone, ten million hectares of tropical rainforest have been to destroyed to plant palm oil trees. In the process, tens of thousands of peasants have been driven off their land, as well as having their water and remaining land poisoned by pesticides.
I find it both ironic and predictable that the western non-profit industrial complex chooses to campaign solely about orangutans endangered by multinational palm oil companies, to the exclusion of the large human population that has been sacrificed.
Palm oil is a common processed food additive linked with diabetes, hypertension and cancer. Here in New Zealand, farmers import large quantities of palm kernel as supplementary feed for “grass-fed” dairy cows and beef.
The benefits the Indonesian government promised when the land confiscations began 20 years ago have never eventuated. At present only 30 percent of the population makes a living working for palm oil companies – the other 70% struggle to survive as subsistence farmers.
In the village of Semunjung Jaya, pesticide runoff has poisoned the river peasants formerly used for drinking water and a source of fish. Gone, too, are the wild boar villagers relied on for protein. Heavy pesticide use has also poisoned the soil on adjacent tracks of farmland – making it impossible to grow rice, vegetables or corn.
Villagers fighting to get their land back receive support and training from national groups fighting the illegal “occupation” of Indonesia by multinational corporations. With their support, residents of Semunjung Jaya are suing the Indonesian government and palm oil companies over illegal land confiscation. The government has responded by discontinuing the meager subsidy it was paying farmers who lost their land.