Mitigating the impacts of palm oil development hinges in part on transparency around land ownership, one component of the highly complex and variable local governance of palm oil.
A good example can be found in the Indonesian province of Riau, a major palm oil producing area that accounts for nearly 2.5 million hectares or 23% of Indonesia’s total mature oil palm area .
Here, about 50% of the total oil palm area is managed by smallholders. Not only are oil palm lands in Riau managed by multiple actors, but landholdings are not always registered with the government.
In this 4.1 Mha study region of northern Riau, oil palm and pulp and paper concessions managed by private companies span 1.8 Mha, while the smallholder planted oil palm area totals 0.7 Mha. Nearly half of the total planted oil palm area lacks official land ownership records, according to the National Land Registration Agency. The situation is even worse on peatlands, where 57% of planted areas lacked official papers. This is in line with overall Riau statistics in which only 15% of all agricultural land parcels have a national-level registration and 26% of all oil palm plantation were only registered at the village level.
Map showing overlapping land claims between farmers and plantation companies and associated fires