Wednesday, 30 April 2008

Plantations depriving natives of their livelihood

Group: Plantations depriving natives of their livelihood

By HILARY CHIEW The StarOnline 30/04/08

KUALA LUMPUR: Soon, indigenous communities in Sarawak will not be able to feed themselves as their ability to grow their own food is severely cut by the aggressive conversion of their farmland into oil palm plantations.

The warning came from an international fact-finding mission led by five NGOs amid the current global concern over food security.

Most indigenous communities are self-sufficient entities as they farm in their semi-forested land and collect jungle produce for their own consumption and to sell them to city folks for some cash.
“With the imminent global food crisis, they will face further impoverishment and poverty.

“Besides the threat to food production, clear-felling for plantations, especially on peat soil, is contributing to carbon emission that aggravates global warming,” said the group leader Tenaganita director Irene Fernandez.

Fresh from the mission conducted last week in three major regions in the state, the group told a press conference here yesterday that the insatiable expansion of the monocrop had destroyed forests with the resultant loss of biodiversity that has even further affected the dependence of the native communities on forest for livelihood.

The group also felt that this strategy and action constitutes gross violation of indigenous peoples’ rights to Native Customary Rights land.

The group visited 70 villages and met with about 825 people and claimed that there was continued and systemic organised aggression on indigenous peoples land and rights with some cases of outright criminal intimidation.

The group, comprising both local and foreign NGOs like Tenaganita, Pesticide Action Network - Asia Pacific, Sarawak Dayak Iban Association and Rainforest Action Network of the United States called upon the state government to respect the native's customary rights as guaranteed under the Sarawak Land Code and cease the issuance of the 60-year provisional leases that is the source of all the land conflicts.

Fernandez said the mission’s report would form the basis for an international petition campaign to support the Sarawak natives struggle to protect their rights over their ancestral land.