Wednesday, August 15, 2007

[PBN] PNG: Women most affected by oil palm plantations


PACNEWS First Edition Friday 10 August 2007 Page 4 © Copyright PINA 2007
Pacific Islands News Association, Private Mail Bag, GPO, Suva, Fiji
Islands Phone (679) 3315 522, Fax (679) 3315 379
E-mail Web Site

10 AUGUST 2007 PORT MORESBY (Pacnews) -----Extensive areas of PNG's
tropical forests have been cleared to give way to export-oriented oil
palm plantations, which have been established under the "Nucleus Estate
Smallholder Scheme". This means that a central company having its own
plantation also contracts small farmers to supply it with oil palm
fruit. The structure of the Nucleus Estate Smallholder Scheme and the
nature of oil palm itself are raising serious concerns amongst civil

Most of the social and environmental impacts of oil palm plantations
have been well documented (see WRM bulletins 104, 86, 74). However, one
issue that has received little attention is that oil palm plantations
have differentiated gender impacts. For instance, the oil palm companies
only pay the men, although women –and even the whole family- also work
in harvesting the oil palm fruit. This means that the men can spend the
money they receive in whichever way they see fit, while women are left
without payment. Additionally, the fact that women work long hours doing
back-breaking work for little reward within oil palm plantations, means
that at the end of the day they are too tired to carry out properly the
extra burden of cooking and taking care of the children.

Growing, collecting and hunting of food is an important part of PNG
culture. Women sell goods in the village markets, thus obtaining an
income. At the same time, this activity provides for a valued time for
socialising with other village women. When customary lands are converted
to oil palm, many of these age-old traditions are lost and women find
themselves left without both the income and the opportunity of socialising.

Concerned about the changes that oil palm is generating in their
community and about pollution from the oil palm mill affecting their
rivers and their children's health, local women established the Sorovi
Women's Association. The Association aims at bringing women together to
discuss and find practical solutions to these issues. The activities of
the Association includes capacity building regarding the social and
environmental impacts resulting from oil palm plantations and palm oil
processing. At the same time, the Association is also working to help
women to develop small-scale income generating activities that they can
undertake to reduce their reliance on growing oil palm to earn a living
and support their families.

There is no need to convince local people of the value of their natural
resources – they depend on them every day for their survival. They need
land to make bush gardens, which still supply the majority of Papua New
Guineans with their daily food needs. They need access to forests to
gather fuel wood and timber for building houses and canoes. They depend
on healthy rivers for drinking, cooking and bathing. The saying in Papua
New Guinea is 'Graun Em Laip' – land is life! As long as you have land
and forests you'll always have a roof over your head and you'll never go
hungry! Unfortunately, oil palm plantations have negative impacts on all
these aspects and it is women who suffer the most…….PNS(ENDS)

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