Oil Palm Plantation Revitalizes Economy and Ecology of Kalimantan

Intensive logging on the island of Kalimantan during the New Order, especially before 1985, has drained the economic, ecological and abandoned land of Kalimantan. The development of oil palm plantations after logging in Kalimantan has a hard task to revitalize the economy and ecology of Kalimantan Island

For people who are on the island of Borneo or those who have visited Kalimantan before 2000, can feel and experience how sad the economic conditions of the people on Kalimantan Island. Before 2000, especially in the period 1960-1985, logging in Kalimantan was very intensive by the owners of logging concessions, which generally came from outside Kalimantan.

Millions of tons of logs every year out of Kalimantan are either directly exported to or used in Java Island. The uncontrolled forest logging activities spent around 18.5 million hectares of forest and created well-known timber kings before 2000. Logging activities continued after 2000 even though they were not as intensive as before. So that until 2013 the conversion of ex-logging concessions to non-forest land had reached around 27 million hectares.

The products of this logging activities are all taken out of Kalimantan to other regions, especially to Java. The island of Borneo in the New Order era suffered from capital drain and the results of logging were not reinvested to the island of Borneo. As a result, former Kalimantan logging concessions became underdeveloped, poor, dry, and dead areas. What remains is the rubble of logging barracks, logging roads, ex-concessions which turned into bushes without any occupants. In terms of regional economics it is called a ghost town. And to cover the traces of deforestation, the New Order government at that time converted the land to a non-forest area in the form of abandoned land and partly designated for transmigration destinations.

After the New Order collapsed and shifted to the Reformation Era in 2000, seeing the broad ex-concession abandoned land, the regents and Governors on the island of Borneo proactively promoted and invited investors to utilize the abandoned ex-concession land for development sectors including the plantation sector.

One sector that is rapidly developing utilizing these abandoned lands is oil palm plantations. The price of world palm oil which began to be profitable at the beginning of the reform era had made investment in oil palm plantations sector attractive to investors. This is reflected in the increase in the area of ​​Kalimantan oil palm plantations from around 844 thousand hectares in 2000 to 3.6 million hectares in 2015, either from smallholder oil palm, private palm oil and state-owned oil palm plantations.

Palm oil plantations have only been able to utilize about 13 percent of the approximately 27 million hectares of ex-concession land in Kalimantan. But in contrast to the logging era where trees were cut down, the development of oil palm plantations actually planted trees. If logging depletes resources and brings them out of Kalimantan, oil palm plantations actually include resources in the form of new investments in Kalimantan. The inflow of oil palm plantation investment adds “fresh blood” to the Kalimantan economy so that it moves the economy of the Kalimantan region evolutionarily. The development of oil palm plantations, triggers wider and faster development of other economic sectors in Kalimantan.

As a matter of fact, cities in provinces and regencies are growing rapidly. Previous sub-district towns that were just like small villages turned into District Cities. Logging barracks that used to be slum turned into new economic growth centers in Kalimantan. In short, the oil palm plantation has revitalized the economy of Kalimantan.

Not only does the economy develop, abandoned lands are also revitalized into oil palm plantations. Carbon dioxide released during the logging period is reabsorbed by oil palm plantations and then converted into oxygen, palm oil and biomass. Forests as the lungs of the ecosystem lost by logging, are now being replaced by better lungs, that is oil palm plantations.

Palm oil plantations have and are revitalizing  the economy and ecosystem of Kalimantan. The revitalizing  process is still ongoing sustainably.

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