Wilmar International sugar plantations in Meraukee, Papua, Indonesia


Singapore-based Wilmar, controlled by the Malaysian tycoon Robert Kuok, is one of the worlds largest palm-oil companies and a major sugar producer. In September 2009, the company secured a permit to convert 200,000 ha of mainly forested land in Papua, Indonesia into sugar-cane plantations, as part of the Meraukee Integrated Food and Energy Estate (MIFEE) mega-project that the Indonesian government is pursuing. In May 2011 Wilmar purchased PT Anugrah Rejeki Nusantara, the company to develop the largest food plantation under MIFEE. It was then decided to move Wilmar’s permit to Animha district and restrict it to 80,000 ha. Local groups and indigenous women’s organizations are outspoken against the concessions, and most have refused to sell their land (only one village has sold a total of 1,000 ha). Progress is slow due to this and other legal roadblocks, including unclear zoning and existing protected land designation.

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Basic Data
NameWilmar International sugar plantations in Meraukee, Papua, Indonesia
ProvinceMeraukee province
SiteMeraukee, Taboniji, Animha
Accuracy of LocationMEDIUM regional level
Source of Conflict
Type of Conflict (1st level)Biomass and Land Conflicts (Forests, Agriculture, Fisheries and Livestock Management)
Type of Conflict (2nd level)Land acquisition conflicts
Specific Commodities
Project Details and Actors
Project DetailsWhile plans for the project in Meraukee are unclear, local groups report the plantation in Taboniji is moving forward, and another permit has been acquired for 80,000 ha in Animha district in which plans are moving forward. Villagers in Koa, Baad, and Wayau have reported that Wilmar negotiators approached them starting in 2012 to convince them to sign over their land.

Project Area (in hectares)80,000
Level of Investment (in USD)2,000,000,000
Type of PopulationRural
Potential Affected Population52,000
Start Date2009
Company Names or State EnterprisesWilmar International from Singapore
Relevant government actorsForestry Ministry of Indonesia, The National Government of Indonesia
Environmental justice organisations and other supportersForest Peoples Programme (http://www.forestpeoples.org), awasMIFEE (https://awasmifee.potager.org), Sawit Watch (http://sawitwatch.or.id/) Down to Earth (http://www.downtoearth-indonesia.org/), PUSAKA (http://pusaka.or.id/)
The Conflict and the Mobilization
Intensity of Conflict (at highest level)MEDIUM (street protests, visible mobilization)
When did the mobilization beginPREVENTIVE resistance (precautionary phase)
Groups MobilizingIndigenous groups or traditional communities
International ejos
Local ejos
Ethnically/racially discriminated groups
Forms of MobilizationCreation of alternative reports/knowledge
Development of alternative proposals
Involvement of national and international NGOs
Media based activism/alternative media
Official complaint letters and petitions
Environmental ImpactsVisible: Deforestation and loss of vegetation cover
Potential: Biodiversity loss (wildlife, agro-diversity), Food insecurity (crop damage), Loss of landscape/aesthetic degradation, Soil erosion, Surface water pollution / Decreasing water (physico-chemical, biological) quality, Groundwater pollution or depletion
Socio-economic ImpactsVisible: Increase in Corruption/Co-optation of different actors
Potential: Displacement, Loss of livelihood, Loss of traditional knowledge/practices/cultures, Specific impacts on women, Violations of human rights, Land dispossession
Project StatusPlanned (decision to go ahead eg EIA undertaken, etc)
Pathways for conflict outcome / responseUnder negotiation
Development of AlternativesForest People's Project puts forward the following requests: 'continue to monitor the situation of indigenous peoples, and suspend projects that may threaten their cultural survival, enforce labor conditions consistent with international labor standards, bring to light the human rights violations against indigenous Papuans, establish a Human Rights Court, etc' (p15-6, Request for Further Consideration…)
Do you consider this as a success?Not Sure
Why? Explain briefly.Groups are still mobilizing, including sending petitions to the UN Committee for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination, without response. Although the petition to override the protected forest status of some of the land was denied, legislation and existing business environment encourages this and other companies to invest and progress with their projects.
Sources and Materials

Papua Special Autonomy Law


Forest Peoples Program, 2013, 'Request for Further Consideration of the Situation of the Indigenous Peoples of Merauke, Papua Province, Indonesia, under the UN CERDs Urgent Action and Early Warning Procedures'

Forest Peoples Program, 2013, 'Starvation and poverty in Indonesia: civil society organisations appeal for suspension of MIFEE project in Papua pending redress for local communities'

Awasmifee, 2012, 'An Agribusiness Attack in West Papua'

Ginting, L. & Pye, O. (2013). Resisting agribusiness development: The Merauke Integrated Food and Energy

Estate in West Papua, Indonesia. ASEAS - Austrian Journal of South-East Asian Studies, 6(1), 160-182.


Ginting & Pye -
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, 'Cane growers fear potential Wilmar Deal'
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Forest Peoples Program -
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Forest Peoples Program - MIFEE press release_Aug2013_Final.pdf
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, 'Wilmar secures 200,000 hectares of land in Merauke Food Estate for sugar plant'
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Wilmar Sugar -
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awasMIFEE, 2013, 'Malind Women's views about Companies Operating in Kampung Baad, Animha District, Merauke.'
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Forestry Ministry (status of petitions)-
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Awasmifee -
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[click to view]

Other CommentsThe Merauke Integrated Food & Energy Estate Project (MIFEE) encompasses 2.5 million hectares, and will relocate 2 -4 million workers to Merauke to provide labor. The Forest Peoples Program says this will overwhelm and threaten the rights of the existing Malind people who number 52,000 people, and are rarely meaningfully employed by the projects. Forest People's Program: 'MIFEE is a large-scale and extreme 'Encroachment on the traditional lands of indigenous peoples … for the purpose of exploitation of natural resources,' and represents a situation that threatens their cultural and perhaps even physical survival given their extreme vulnerability and the high likelihood of substantial, negative and multi-generational impacts on the maintenance of their relationships with their traditional territories.3' Moreover, 'companies have acquired permits or are in the process of acquiring land from the local peoples – often, as the Committee observed, through 'the manipulation of communities by investors and State officials to obtain signatures necessary for complying with the legal requirements of proving land titles over indigenous lands''

AwasMIFEE: 'Research in 2007 by Friends of the Earth Netherlands into Wilmar's oil palm plantations in Kalimantan found that the company was burning forest illegally to clear it, clearing land without the right permits and not consulting local communities that have customary rights over the land that Wilmar uses.8 In 2011 PT Asiatic Persada, a company owned by Wilmar, bulldozed 83 houses of villagers who disputed the company's right to the land in Jambi province in Sumatra, after a confrontation in which one resident was shot and wounded and twelve people were arrested.9Before the conflict was resolved, the company was sold to AMS Plantations.'
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ContributorAliza Tuttle
Last update24/06/2014