An event organised by the Risk and Renewal in the Pacific Research Network.
Christoph Parsch (University of Göttingen)
Inna Yaneva-Toraman (University of Edinburgh)
Papua at the Crossroads: A Plea for Systematic Conservation Planning
Land-use change and environmental degradation are widespread throughout most of the Indonesian archipelago, while Indonesian New Guinea (Tanah Papua) still has substantial forest cover remaining. As the region increasingly becomes a focus for national development agendas, it emerges as a new frontier for oil palm development, logging, mining, and other land-uses, leading to accelerating deforestation rates. Tanah Papua now stands at the crossroads between progressing land-use change and sustainable development policies. The Manokwari Declaration, a recent political pledge by the Indonesian provinces Papua and Papua Barat, aims at protecting 70% of Tanah Papua´s lands, while fostering sustainable development and strengthening the rights of indigenous peoples. This political momentum towards conservation- and culturally-centred land management provides a window of opportunity to develop a systematic conservation planning scheme to mitigate future biodiversity loss in the face of increasing land-use change and degradation. I want to discuss opportunities and challenges for conservation in the context of the opposing developments.
Dr Inna Yaneva-Toraman
The Social Ecology of 'Dead Land'
Development in agriculture is still considered one of the best routes to improve rural livelihoods, drive regional and national economic growth, and fuel processes of industrialisation in the global south. This has led to the integration of many Melanesian communities into the international agro-foods market (mainly of coffee, copra, and cocoa). Recently, however, we have seen a new wave of development politics in the region, that shifts its emphasis from building strong small-holder farmer communities to the expansion of plantation-style oil palm agriculture. In Papua New Guinea, the national development plan targets a 10-fold increase to 1.5 million hectares of oil palm area coverage by 2030. Such goals put extreme pressure on land, ecosystems, and local communities who often end up living in poorer and more precarious circumstances.
This paper explores the ways in which the Baining people of Papua New Guinea envisioned and negotiated the establishment of an oil palm plantation on their customary land. It brings to focus peoples’ experiences and perceptions of ‘foreign-owned’ plantation agriculture, and the risks such land development deals hold for their social ecology. With promises of better jobs, infrastructure, and cash dividends, the oil palm venture had raised Baining people’s hopes for economic development, sovereignty and self-government. But how did their land, which they knew as 'life' (pointing to its power and capacity to grow food and people), become a 'dead land'? And what sort of new arrangements to their social and economic lives has this entailed? The paper offers insight into the risks and tensions created by land claims and transition to plantation agriculture and how culture politics and participation in the rentier economy can refashion local relationships and power structures, exacerbate or create new inequalities and processes of exclusion.