In Indonesia, and across the world, the fight for land rights and the fight for the forests and climate are one in the same.
Indigenous Batak communities rely on their forests for their fresh water, food and livelihoods. When Toba Pulp Lestari—Indonesia’s largest producer of pulp for fabric—clearcuts forests for industrial pulp plantations, it destroys not only a diverse forest, but also the ability of the community to provide for themselves and their families. When communities have legal rights to their lands, they have every incentive to protect it.
Sign this petition to demand demand that Toba Pulp Lestari respect the land rights of the Indigenous Batak people, and commit to working with the government to ensure that communities get legal rights to their land.
"Ada teman kami yang lahannya sudah ditanami kopi, kemudian PT Toba Pulp Lestari (TPL) semprot itu pake racun rumput ... [Teman kami itu] sudah sangat merasa kesal bahwasanya dia ataupun orang-orang TPL tersebut telah mengambil hak ataupun telah merusak untuk bekal hidup anak-anaknya."
Bagi masyarakat Aek Lung di Sumatera Utara, Indonesia, berladang bukan hanya suatu jalan hidup, namun juga merupakan suatu tindakan perlawanan. Perusahaan pulp raksasa PT Toba Pulp Lestari (TPL) merampas tanah adat masyarakat dan menebang hutan masyarakat untuk dijadikan perkebunan eukaliptus. Setelah PT TPL memanen tanaman eukaliptus, masyarakat kembali ke wilayah tersebut dan merebut lahannya kembali, kemudian menanaminya dengan tanaman pangan sebelum PT TPL dapat menanami kembali dengan tanaman perkebunan pulp monokultur.
“A fellow villager had planted coffee on his farm. Then Toba Pulp Lestari (TPL) people came and sprayed herbicide on our crops. The villager was upset that TPL and their staff had destroyed his source of income for his children. ”
For the people of Aek Lung in North Sumatra, Indonesia, farming is more than a way of life, it's an act of resistance. Pulp giant Toba Pulp Lestari (TPL) took the community’s traditionally-owned land and cut down their forest for eucalyptus plantations. After TPL harvested the eucalyptus, community members returned to the land and reclaimed it, planting their own crops before TPL could replant it with another monocrop pulp plantation.
“We have managed this traditionally-owned forest since the Dutch colonial times. To this day, we still practice the traditional law that has been passed on by our ancestors. Traditionally-owned land is tuduh anak tuduh tuduh tano, or in other words, ‘for us to care for on behalf of our children.’ Let’s protect our traditionally-owned land so that in the future our children can also live off and protect the land. The land is our life.”
Over 30 years ago, land was taken from Indigenous communities and given to pulp and paper corporations with the promise that it would one day be returned. To this day, many Batak Indigenous communities continue to demand that the government and corporations return their traditionally-owned land which is inextricably linked to their cultural survival.
“After the trees were cut down and replaced with eucalyptus plantations, the benzoin tree resin yield decreased and eventually we stopped collecting benzoin resin because Toba Pulp Lestari (TPL) intimidated us. We ask that we can work on our land to make a living and provide education for our children.”
For generations, Indigenous Batak communities have planted benzoin trees in the forests on their traditionally-owned lands and have sustainably harvested the tree’s resin for an incense similar to frankincense. For many, this is a significant cultural practice and the primary source of income. Since pulp giant Toba Pulp Lestari (TPL) took over communities’ land for its pulp plantation, many benzoin trees have been cut down, directly threatening the livelihoods of many communities.
Photo of Onan Harbangan from Nagasaribu with a benzoin tree sapling ready for planting in the forest.