Orang utan and oil palm
Oil palm in the mix
Malaysian law is very clear when it comes to oil palm cultivation. Permits are only issued for cultivation in logged-over areas or areas planted with other crops – or, in the case of Sarawak, on land to which Native Customary Rights (NCR) are exerted, in joint ventures with landowners.
The state government therefore ensures that virgin jungles are not cleared for oil palm cultivation and that the TPAs are not affected. The current oil palm acreage in the state is about 1.5 million ha, involving smallholders and NCR landowners; collaboration between private sector and government agencies; and private sector initiatives.
Most of the estates and smallholdings are found along coastal areas, in lowlands and riverine basins. These are far away from TPAs that are orang utan habitats. The plantations and the protected areas therefore co-exist, which is essential for the development of Sarawak.
It is generally accepted that development and raising the standard of living of the people is the fundamental right of any nation. Sarawak too aims to bring prosperity to the people, especially the rural population, by encouraging them to cultivate oil palm – the most productive ‘golden crop’ of this era. With infrastructure and funding, rural areas can be developed into thriving hinterlands that promote socio-economic growth.
Oil palm cultivation also provides the best opportunity for NCR landowners to make full use of idle land. The state government supports – through various schemes and incentives – the conversion of NCR land into smallholder plots for oil palm planting, so that families and communities can improve their standard of living.
The industry has experienced dynamic progress and assumed a prominent role in steering Sarawak’s economic growth. It has become the main thrust of the agriculture sector and has contributed significantly to the social and economic development of the rural population. From 2010-2015, it paid about RM1.9 billion in sales tax revenue to the state government.
The sector has also acted as a catalyst for rural growth. Wherever sizable concentrations of estates emerge, the surrounding towns are energised through gainful employment and the opportunity to profit through the provision of services. The influx of workers into estates and mills has enhanced the demand for goods and services in these areas, again benefitting locals and entrepreneurs.