New Guinea: World Bank promoting oil palm and pushing people into
The “Small Holder Agriculture
Development Project” (SADP) is a World Bank loan recently granted
to the PNG Government. The SADP project, a U$S 27.5 million credit
“aims to enhance agricultural incomes in a number of communities
in West New Britain and Oro provinces.” According to World Bank’s
Country Manager for PNG Benson Ateng this project is “a core element
of the new Country Strategy, through its support for poverty alleviation
in two oil palm growing provinces. The project aims to increase
the revenues of oil palm farmers through a community-based approach
to agricultural development.”
However, the local
people in Oro Province, where plantations were also developed with
a previous World Bank loan and one of the targeted areas under the
SADP loan, are strongly opposed and denounce that the loan “has
been hijacked by the Oil Palm Plantation Companies in Papua New
Guinea to push for the expansion of oil palm rather than expend
it in areas that will enable greater economic benefits for the agricultural
dependent rural masses of Papua New Guinea.”
Instead of promoting
a diversified approach to agricultural development, by means of
this project smallholders will be encouraged and receive funding
to establish oil palm plantations on their lands.
According to a letter
received by the World Rainforest Movement, local communities object
to the loan being spent on oil palm expansion for the following
“Firstly oil palm
is not the only option for active participation in the cash
economy for the rural population as is the view of our Government
and the multinational oil palm companies operating in our country.
The various assessments have been focused on oil palm rather than
alternatives. In the Northern Province, the assessment teams held
discussion only with the stakeholders in the oil palm industry.
These consultations also failed to convene meetings with non oil
palm growers in oil palm growing areas. Therefore, the views presented
to support the loan submission do not reflect a broad cross section
of the community.
Secondly, we are of
the view that for this SADP Loan to benefit more agricultural dependent
families the government should focus on developing and maintaining
road access to rural communities to enable greater participation
by the bulk of the population.
Any further expansion
of oil palm will not be in the best interest of the nation as it
will have serious negative effects on our social and terrestrial
environment. It has already contributed to major losses of forests
and biodiversity in our country bringing with it social and environmental
problems which the oil palm companies have refused blatantly to
We are aware of the
fact that the World Bank is very well informed of the issues as
a direct impact by the oil palm industry however sees it fit to
grant another loan to the Government of PNG in the pretence of agriculture
development as a strategy to alleviate poverty whilst the fact remain
the multinational corporations profit from the loans while we repay
In fact the previous
World Bank loan for the Oro Expansion Oil Palm Project in Oro province
has done quite the contrary from reducing poverty. Some of our people
have suddenly become landless who will pioneer a class of poor.
This is something we have not known since our ancestors.”
Based on the above
considerations, local communities call on the World Bank to either
review the loan conditions to promote alternatives other than oil
palm or to cancel the loan.
On their part, palm
oil companies are lobbying the government to push for the funds
to be released quickly as they already have their own implementation
plans ready. Yet, there is still time to make things change and
that is exactly what the local people from the northern Oro Province
are pushing for: to stop this monocultural approach and push for
a diversified future.
They are requesting
international support and have drafted a letter that will be sent
to the World Bank authorities as well as to the PNG government.
The letter in full is available at:
Those who would like
to support the letter, can do so by sending your name, organization
and country to the email:
firstname.lastname@example.org before February 20th.