Indonesia’s ‘militarized agriculture’ raises social, environmental red flags

JAKARTA — Observers and activists have raised concerns about the leading role the Indonesian government plans to give to the military and to big corporations in a program to establish vast crop plantations across the country. The move appears to be part of a creeping rollback of Indonesia’s civilian democracy by the administration of President Joko Widodo, critics say, and could have major repercussions for Indigenous and community land rights, the conservation of the country’s rainforests, and efforts to curb greenhouse gas emissions. The government has framed the program as a bid to secure food supplies domestically, and as such is treating it as a national security priority. To that end, Widodo has given the job of overseeing part of the program to his defense minister, Prabowo Subianto, a former Special Forces commander implicated in the disappearance of pro-democracy activists in the late 1990s. The president has also drafted in the military to ensure the success of the program. Achmad Soebagio, an expert staff at the defense ministry, said that the ministry needed to be involved in the program to make sure the country had enough food in times of crisis or war, with the nation’s rice supply only enough to feed its citizens for 69 days, compared to Thailand with 182 days. He said one of the causes of the lack of food security in Indonesia is that the majority of agricultural fields are owned by individuals and small farmers, and they are more likely to sell their lands…This article was originally published on Mongabay
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