101 East

Indonesia’s Palm Oil Curse

101 East exposes how companies and the government are turning a blind eye to the human cost of palm oil production.

Indonesia is the world’s largest producer of palm oil. From chocolate and ice cream to soap and cosmetics, palm oil from this Southeast Asian nation is found in countless products on supermarket shelves around the world.

But soaring global demand for the oil is having a disastrous impact on Indonesia’s people and environment.
Millions of hectares of land are being razed to make way for new palm oil plantations, destroying farmers’ livelihoods and devastating rural communities.

We travelled to the Indonesian province of Papua, where vast swaths of rainforest are about to be destroyed to make way for new plantations.

The plantations are going ahead despite fierce protests from the local community, particularly the Mahuze tribe. As bulldozers arrive on their land, Augustinus, a tribal leader, confronts a representative of the palm oil company. 

“We have come here to tell you to stop destroying our forest immediately and to leave our land,” he says.
On the island of Kalimantan, the Dayak people are rallying together to protect their way of life which relies on the rainforest.

“It’s not worth sacrificing our forest in the hope of making quick money. When companies come here and try to lure us with easy money, we’re not interested,” says the community’s leader.

But across Indonesia, palm oil companies continue to clear land on a massive scale, leaving a trail of environmental devastation in their wake.

101 East investigates the human cost of the world’s palm oil addiction.