Oil palm plantation expansion into forest areas poses a serious threat to Indonesia’s forests. Forest turning into oil palm area is becoming more concerning from time to time.
Dean of Faculty of Forestry UGM, Dr. Budiadi, said as high as 2.8 mil ha of oil palm areas were located in the forests, which makes them illegal.
“Our findings showed that of that figure, around 35 percent are plantations that are run by society while the rest is run by companies,” he said in a press conference on Friday (19/10) on campus.
The presence of monoculture oil palm plantation run by society in the forest is actually damaging the heterogeneous natural forest ecosystem. It may also trigger development of new oil palm plantation nearby.
Therefore, Faculty of Forestry UGM offered a solution to the problem. The main challenge is to resolve the problem of plantations already in the forest and anticipate against the impact of such expansion on the environment, society, and other development priorities.
Budiadi said government had issued Presidential Instruction No 8/2018 that asked governors and regents to review the permit for such expansion and delay new permit for three years. To resolve the conflict of oil palm being in the forest, Faculty of Forestry UGM proposed a strategy to improve forest areas that have been cleared and turned into oil palm plantation to be restored into forests.
The strategy is based on improvement of farmer’s income as well as social and ecological aspects. The farmers can run the plantation in the forest but with different methods, such as agroforestry or planting other plants to increase land productivity and biodiversity.
UGM oil palm research team coordinator, Dr. Hero Marheanto, said the strategy was expected to restore the areas back into its previous ecosystem.
Expert from UGM in forest resource management system, Dr. Ari Susanti, said management of monoculture plantation in the forest needs to be done proportionally as it affects the flora and fauna as well as biodiversities.
Another UGM expert in wildlife conservation, Dr. Muhammad Ali Imron, said oil palm expansion also triggered conflict between humans and wildlife. Not a few cases had occurred where elephants and tigers in the Sumatran forests were killed.
Other strategies offered by UGM are related to management, institution, and policy. These recommendations will be submitted to the Environment and Forestry Ministry soon. These were expected to be a consideration for the government in revising and issuing new policy related to oil palm plantation in forest areas.