New palm oil laws are good for small farmers, bad for rainforests

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New palm oil laws are good for small farmers, bad for rainforests

Indonesia’s looser palm plantation rules renew conflict between jobs and the environment

Bernadette Christina and Fransiska Nangoy

Indonesian farmer Albertus Wawan hopes a new government regulation means the small plot of land where he grows palm oil trees in a forest reserve on Borneo may be recognised as a legal plantation and eligible to access funding.

But the hopes of thousands of smallholders like Wawan for the acceptance of their farms inside designated forest areas is alarming green groups and comes at time when palm oil is under scrutiny in some Western countries for its links to deforestation.

The changes, part of President Joko Widodo’s sweeping liberalisation of regulations to boost Southeast Asia’s biggest economy, illustrate the trade-offs countries make to protect the environment or provide jobs to raise living standards...

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