Academic journal article Austrian Journal of South - East Asian Studies

Resisting Agribusiness Development: The Merauke Integrated Food and Energy Estate in West Papua, Indonesia

Academic journal article Austrian Journal of South - East Asian Studies

Resisting Agribusiness Development: The Merauke Integrated Food and Energy Estate in West Papua, Indonesia

Article excerpt

The Merauke Integrated Food and Energy Estate (MIFEE), launched in 2010 by the Indonesian government, aims to transform 1.2 million hectares of indigenous and forest land in West Papua into large-scale agribusiness estates for food and bioenergy production. This article looks both at the power structures and geopolitics behind the project and at the emerging resistance to the MIFEE land grab. What is the extent of local opposition to the project? What coalitions between local groups and organized movements and NGOs are developing and what national and international alliances are they involved in? How do they counter the state narrative of MIFEE as a development path for the region? Analyzing key documents of the different organizations and initiatives involved, we examine three distinct but connected narratives of opposition around the discourses of customary forest rights, Indonesian 'imperialist' subjugation of Papua, and land reform and food sovereignty. We argue that their relation to each other needs to be rethought in order to overcome internal divisions and to broaden and deepen the social movement opposing the project.

Keywords: Indonesia; Land Grab; MIFEE; Social Movements; West Papua

Das Merauke Integrated Food and Energy Estate (MIFEE) wurde im Jahr 2010 von der indonesischen Regierung ins Leben gerufen und zielt auf die Umwandlung von 1,2 Millionen Hektar indigenem Land und Wäldern in West Papua in großflächige Agrarindustrieflächen für die Nahrungsmittel- und Bioenergieproduktion. Der folgende Artikel betrachtet die Machtstrukturen und Geopolitiken im Hintergrund des Projekts sowie die dabei entstehende Widerstandsbewegung. In welchem Ausmaß gibt es lokalen Widerstand gegen das Projekt? Welche Koalitionen entwickeln sich zwischen lokalen Gruppen und organisierten Bewegungen und NGOs und in welche nationalen und internationalen Allianzen sind diese eingebunden? Wie entgegnen diese dem staatlichen Narrativ von MIFEE als Ent- wicklungspfadfür die Region? Auf Basis der Analyse von Schlüsseldokumenten der unterschiedlichen involvierten Organisation und Initiativen untersuchen wir drei unterschiedliche, aber miteinander verbundene Narrative des Widerstands rund um die Diskurse um Gewohnheitsrechte an Wald, die indonesische "imperialistische" Unterwerfung Papuas sowie Landreform und Ernährungssouveräni- tät. Wir argumentieren, dass die Beziehung zwischen diesen Diskursen neu gedacht werden muss, um die internen Spaltungen zu überwinden und die soziale Bewegung zur Ablehnung des Projekts zu verbreitern und zu vertiefen.

Schlagworte: Indonesien; Landraub; MIFEE; soziale Bewegungen; West Papua

Introduction

This paper looks at the emerging resistance to a new major land grab in Indonesia, the Merauke Integrated Food and Energy Estate in West Papua, Indonesia, known more commonly by its acronym MIFEE.3 Land grabs have been identified as a crucial new arena of political and social conflict, provoking local struggles for land and globally coordinated campaigns. However, there is as yet little written on these new social movements. We try to find some answers to the question of "to what extent have agrarian political struggles been provoked by the new land investment dynamics?" (Borras, Hall, Scoones, White, & Wolford, 2011, p. 212) and argue that a new alli- ance opposing the project is emerging that draws on different traditions of struggle. We also look at some of the "issues that unite or divide the rural poor, organized movements, and rural communities" and how MIFEE is "discursively challenged and opposed" (Borras et al., 2011, p. 212). We argue that there are three distinct but con- nected narratives of opposition around the discourses of customary forest rights, Indonesian 'imperialist' subjugation of Papua, and land reform and food sovereignty. At the same time, there is also a division between the indigenous Papuans resisting the project and migrant small farmers living in Merauke who tend to welcome the project. …

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