Land and environmental rights in Indonesia: Snapshots from NHRF grantees’ work

In 2020, the NHRF began supporting three new organisations working on the NHRF’s new thematic focus area in Indonesia, working with local grassroots groups on land and environmental rights. We are very excited to see these organisations continue to grow and strengthen local communities’ ability to protect themselves and their communities’ land!

The organisations, Family of Riau’s Women and Children (RUPARI), Legal Aid Foundation Banda Aceh (LBH Banda Aceh) and Young Forest Care Group (KOMIU), are all working with local communities and indigenous peoples affected by human rights violations related to land and the environment in Indonesia.

RUPARI is a feminist collective based in the rural areas of the Riau province in Sumatra.

They focus on research, campaigns and advocacy work addressing women’s issues and gender equality. The NHRF supports one of RUPARI’s projects that targets women living and working in areas of large palm oil plantations. The palm oil companies have occupied thousands of hectares of land in Sumatra, and the spread of these plantations has reduced women’s access to agricultural land, limited their access to clean water, as well as having caused environmental damage to land through the industrial clearance and burning of land through forest fires. Many of the women in the area work on these palm oil plantations, with poor working conditions and low salaries. To counteract this, RUPARI aims to build and strengthen a women’s grassroots movement as a tool against the discrimination and marginalization that they face. (Photo: RUPARI)

In the northernmost area of Sumatra, the NHRF’s grantee LBH Banda Aceh works to provide legal representation for people facing human rights, women’s and children’s rights issues. LBH Banda Aceh works to organise the defence of an indigenous community’s land against encroachment by a palm oil plantation company in a village in western Aceh. The land conflict between the population in the villages, called Cot Mee, and the palm oil company PT Fajar Baizuri & Brothers, has been covered by both local and national media as the villagers have confronted the company’s attempts to criminalize members of the local community. LBH Banda Aceh is training “paralegals” (legal representatives), so that they can represent the community in a legal capacity vis-à-vis local authorities and the palm oil corporation. This training module has previously proven to be an effective tool against exploitative businesses operating on local community land.

Palm oil plantations are notorious for wiping out rainforests, displacing indigenous peoples, grabbing land from local communities and spewing carbon into the atmosphere and driving the orangutan and other animals toward extinction. (Photo: LBH Banda Aceh)
LBH Banda Aceh works to organise the defence of an indigenous community’s land against encroachment by a palm oil plantation company in a village in western Aceh.
“After attending the training, I came to understand advocacy processes that can be carried out by many parties related to problems such as the land grabbing case in our village, Cot Mee. I came to know that this problem turned out to be a problem for us as young people, not limited to a problem faced only by our parents. With this training, we can also realize that as women, we have the same rights as men in fighting to defend land rights.” One of the attendees at LBH Banda Aceh's paralegal training
KOMIU works on access to community basic rights on natural resource management, monitoring of deforestation and land degradation, as well as building capacity and protecting rights of local indigenous tribes in Sulawesi. (Photo: KOMIU)

Lastly, across the ocean in Sulawesi island, the NHRF’s newest grantee in Indonesia, KOMIU, works on access to community basic rights on natural resource management, monitoring of deforestation and land degradation, as well as building capacity and protecting rights of local indigenous tribes in Sulawesi. In the project supported by the NHRF, KOMIU works with the indigenous Kaili people to obtain greater management of their natural resources as their forest area is facing land grabbing and deforestation by extractive mining industries, illegal logging, palm oil plantations and other corporate interests.

The NHRF is proud to support our grantees' important work on land and environmental rights in Indonesia!