Conservation news

Palm oil expands in Aceh

  • Nagan Raya is the area of Aceh with the most oil palm.
  • More than a quarter of Aceh Singkil regency has been planted with oil palm.
  • East Aceh is another oil palm center.

Oil palm plantations continue to grow in Aceh, Indonesia’s westernmost province on the island of Sumatra. Last March they covered 393,270 hectares of land, nearly 7 percent of Aceh’s total area, according to the Indonesian Forum for the Environment (Walhi), an NGO. The figures are based on government data, Walhi said.

Nagan Raya regency – a regency is a subdivision of a province – ranks first in oil palm coverage, with 82,252 hectares, almost a quarter of its area. Nagan Raya lies on Aceh’s western coast. Next comes East Aceh regency, with 60,592 hectares, or 9 percent of its area, and Aceh Singkil regency, with 55,441 hectares, or 25 percent of its area.

Oil palm fruit in Aceh Singkil. Plantations are expanding across Indonesia’s Aceh province. Photo by Junaidi Hanafiah

Some of the plantations are owned by large companies, others by small farmers. Not all of it is legal. The head of Aceh Tamiang regency, which has endured devastating flash floods as a result of upstream deforestation, is overseeing a campaign to eradicate illegal plantations, even felling one of the rogue trees himself.

Oil palm plantations are also expanding into Aceh’s priceless Leuser Ecosystem, the only place on earth where Sumatran tigers, orangutans, rhinos and elephants all still coexist.

A class action lawsuit is pending against the Aceh government’s new spatial plan to zone the province for development. Critics fear the plan, which fails to mention the nationally mandated Leuser Ecosystem, will set Aceh on a path to ecological ruin.

Hamdan Sati, the head of Aceh Tamiang regency, fells an illegal oil palm tree. Photo courtesy of Forum Konservasi Leuser