Oil Palm and People

1. According to latest estimates, between the years 2000 and 2005, the net forest loss was 7.3 million hectares per year or 20,000 hectares per day. The Intergovernmental Panel on Forests (the predecessor of the United Nations Forum on Forests) identified that among the underlying causes of deforestation and forest degradation, was the failure of governments and other institutions to recognize and respect the rights of indigenous peoples and other forest-dependent peoples in regards to their territorial lands, forests and other resources, as well as the issue of government policies that substitute forests with industrial tree plantations.  

2. The areas that are converted into monocropping industrial plantations are forests and it is inevitable that these two issues are also addressed in this paper; eventhough the purpose of this paper is to identify issues around oil palm and other commercial tree plantations. Linking the logging of natural forests and plantations, however, does not mean that the two rapporteurs (authors of this paper) agree with the concept that plantations are forests. The two rapporteurs are of the view that there should be a clear distinction between tree plantations and natural forests (primary and secondary).  

3. The history and cycle of plantation development begins by the granting of forest areas as concession areas, the next stage is the clearing or destruction of forests and then followed by the establishment of plantations. As these plantations are meant to produce crops for the market, they are logged after a short period and planting begins all over again. In both these processes indigenous peoples are either evicted from these forests areas, or their access to the forests is curtailed, and a few people are absorbed as seasonal workers.

4. For forest-dependent indigenous peoples, the forest is the basis of their sustenance and subsistence forms part of their profound symbiotic relationship with the forest,...