Indonesian agrarian reform is only a garb to facilitate land grabs

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(Meenakshi Kapoor) #1

Joko Widodo (Jokowi), President of Indonesia issued a Presidential Regulation Number 86 on Agrarian Reform on September 24, 2018. The government claimed that this action is a step towards creating equitable control structure, ownership, use, and utilization of land. Many people assume that the regulation gives a new hope for the people’s dream of an agrarian reform in Indonesia. However, the regulation only makes the right noises and is largely a lip service to genuine agrarian reform. Because this regulation is incapable to cure or even abate the root cause of the land problem in Indonesia i.e. the Land Monopoly .

Soon after taking office in the end of 2014, the Jokowi Government had declared its intention to bring in an Agrarian reform. But for two years it only dragged its feet on the issue. In 2016, through the Presidential Regulation Number 4/2016 the government made it clear that availability of sources of land was going to be the Object for Agrarian Reform (Tanah Objek Reforma Agraria / TORA). It also specified that this was being done in order to reduce the inequality of land control and ownership. But in reality the regulation was primarily to facilitate non-oil and gas export, improve investment climate, and bring in bureaucracy reform. This falls in line with the main theme of the national development priority agenda i.e. “the acceleration of infrastructure development”. The implementation of agrarian reform as indicated through these regulations is only focused on asset arrangement (land redistribution and certification) and access arrangement (capital, partnership, market).

In fact, the latest Presidential Regulation on Agrarian Reform provides a policy framework to aid programs, such as One Map Program that will actually lead to land grabbing. The World Bank provided USD 200 million for the One Map Program. The program aims to map the entire land of Indonesia and its strategic allotment through participatory mapping approach. The program will develop Electronic-Land (e-land) information by using the National Spatial Data Infrastructure (NSDI) technology service. In effect, the program is trying to consolidate the land for its easy takeover by large-scale corporate investments.

Rahmat Ajiguna, the chairman of the alliance for agrarian reform (AGRA) in a press release on September 23, 2018 stated that the ten action points of TORA which are included in the regulation’s draft “still do not target the land monopolized by the large-scale palm oil and rubber plantations either owned by private or the state, timber plantation (HTI), giant mining, national park, and state owned forestry enterprises.” In other words, this Regulation has failed to fill in the gaps identified in the implementation of land and agrarian reform in Soekarno’s era, which did not target the land given out to the plantation corporations in landuse permits. CPR-Namati’s latest report on land use change in Indonesia notes that by the end of 2014, approximately 8.5% of the total land area of the country was under large-scale oil palm plantation. The report also shares that by the end of 2015, 21.6% of the total land area of Indonesia was under mining. This is a huge area of land that has been left untouched in the issued regulations. The agrarian reform, according to regulation 86/2018 applies to the ‘leftover’ land, land on which use permits have not been extended, and a big share in it is of people’s land which in history had been seized and taken back by the people, which is still considered as being under conflict. That is why President Jokowi will launch another Presidential Instruction in the near future regarding the acceleration of resolution of agrarian conflicts.

Another problem in TORA is that only legal bodies, individuals, and community groups with joint land ownership right have been made part of it. Unemployed individuals are not included. This is despite the fact that unemployment is on the rise and has become a serious problem in Indonesia. The unemployed are the majority of people who no longer possess any land, lost their livelihoods and most often, are the victims of land grabbing.

The management system of TORA is carried out based on a cluster approach in order to be controlled through bank investments, debt, arrangement of plant commodity and market. In other words, the recipients (subject of agrarian reform) will only be placed as laborers in TORA.

The last nail in the coffin is the access arrangement proposed in the agrarian reform. A “partnership” scheme between the communities and legal entities including government bodies and private companies, has been proposed under it. Certificates of joint land ownership have been guaranteed which will be used as collateral in banks or other financial institutions for seeking loans for businesses. However, there is no guarantee of protection from the government if the community encounters business failure and is incapable to pay back the debt. CPR-Namati report on land use change in Indonesia highlights the similar features of plasma agreements. Under the plasma scheme, in exchange of local customary land, farmers are promised legal land titles over smaller oil palm plots. Usually, the companies maintain that they would take care of the oil palm plants for the farmers. Once the harvest begins, farmers are expected to receive income from company through the sale of palm fruits from their share of plasma plots. But the oil palm trees start to bear fruits only after five to seven years of planting. It is difficult for farmers to wait that long and even after seven years there have been very few cases where the farmers actually have started receiving a regular fair income from the plasma plots. Usually plasma schemes are implemented under state or foreign funded programmes, and therefore the companies’ interests are supported by the legislation (in this case, the plantation law) but the state leaves the farmers in the lurch once the agreement is signed between the farmers and the company.

It seems, plasma experience is being duplicated here and people will be left to themselves to make sense of and wade through these highly technical and precarious financial arrangements. Over time, the suggested arrangement will provide opportunities of land grab by the corporations. This obviously is not something desired under an agrarian reform. It instead is a prime land banking service offered by the government for great landlords of Indonesia.

We look forward to hearing experiences of land reforms in other countries? Are there any successful partnership models between farmers and corporates or government? How are they being implemented? Have they benefitted smallholder farmers? @namati_staff @namati_ej

@wawansabar and Meenakshi


(Marlon Manuel) #2

The Philippines has a rich history of successes and failures in the implementation of the agrarian reform program, which, until now, is an unfinished mandate despite the clear provisions of the 1987 Constitution and after three decades of implementation. It is indeed important to share lessons and experiences. @Tone_Marzan @MaryClaire @lorenanavallasca @hectorsoliman @ritzlee


(Abigail Moy) #3

It is disheartening to hear this - when reforms outwardly promise more equitable and sustainable management of land, but end up only leading to further disenfranchisement and destruction. Does anyone have any countervailing stories about more successful experiments with agrarian reform?



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