Major Land Rights Win For Indigenous Peoples Over Forest Area The Size Of Hong Kong In Southwest Papua

ON 06/10/2024 AT 05 : 29 AM

Four thousand Indigenous Papuans have finally received legal recognition of customary rights over tropical rainforest spanning an area almost the size of Hong Kong in South Sorong Regency.

The newly recognised Indigenous lands of the Knasaimos Peoples, extending to 97,411 hectares, lie in Indonesia’s Southwest Papua province.

According to Knasaimos tradition, local Indigenous clans hold their territory under collective traditional title with each family or individual having rights over their own sago groves, food gardens, and housing, while outsiders may only rent land within the customary area.

Until now, this pre-existing Indigenous law regarding land ownership was effectively ignored by the modern Indonesian legal system, under which central and local governments offered loggers and plantation companies concessions to clear forest and convert land to industrial uses.

As with many Indigenous communities across Tanah Papua (the western half of New Guinea, also known internationally as West Papua), the Knasaimos Peoples have been fighting for decades to protect their customary lands from exploitation by external interests.

Loggers have intruded to fell valuable Merbau trees, and palm oil companies have repeatedly attempted to establish themselves within Knasaimos territory.