Jakarta -– Greenpeace says that the Defense Department's food estate project will clear some 3 million hectares of forest in Central Kalimantan and that the government has already exploited large areas of forest and peatland for the project.
"Counting all the areas planned for the food estate, it is estimated that around 3 million hectares of forest could potentially be lost if the project is continued", read a written statement on the Greenpeace Indonesia website on Thursday November 10.
Greenpeace Indonesia senior forestry campaign spokesperson Syahrul Fitra said that the project threatens traditional community lands and important biological diversity areas in Indonesia. Fitra gave the example of the Gunung Mas (Gold Mountain) food estate in Central Kalimantan where the government has converted agricultural areas in the region into land for planting cassava.
"This monoculture system has not only failed to produce the cassava as promised, but has also sidelined local community wisdom and knowledge", said Fitra.
Save Our Borneo Director Muhamad Habibi says that the food estate at Gunung Mas resulted in the loss of local wisdom noting that for thousands of years local people had produced and gathered food in a sustainable manner.
Habibi said that the Gunung Mas food estate project also threatens animal conservation in the vicinity of forests and it could impact on orangutan populations.
"This [area] also represents a storehouse of irreplaceable biodiversity, including the habitat of the Kalimantan orangutan. Now the Defense Department has brought the military in and opened up the forests for the monoculture food estate program which has brought disaster", he said.
There has yet to be any response from the Defense Department to the Greenpeace statement on potential forest loss. Earlier however, the government stated that it will accelerate the food estate program to support national food security. The policy is included in the list of strategic national projects.
The government has budgeted 1.595 trillion rupiah to fund the food estate project between 2021–2023 with Defense Minister Prabowo Subianto saying that the project is related to defense.
"There are signals that the president wants to develop a strong defense with holistic dimensions through strengthening of military and non-military defense at the same time", said Prabowo during the anniversary of the Faculty of Forestry at the Gajah Mada University in Yogyakarta in mid-October 2020. (red)
[Translated by James Balowski. The original title of the article was "Greenpeace Sebut Proyek Food Estate Kemenhan Akan Gunduli Hutan 3 Juta Hektare".]