Indonesia produces millions of tonnes of palm oil each year, much of it destined for supermarket shelves in Europe and the U.S., where it goes into everything from frozen pizza to laundry detergent.
When the industry began to take off in Indonesia in the 1970s, communities were supposed to benefit by getting a share of large-scale plantations, a portion known as “plasma.” Initially the government encouraged and incentivized this through policies and subsidised financing. From 2007, it became a legal requirement for companies to share a fifth of any new plantation with communities.
Together with BBC News and Mongabay, we investigated evidence that companies across Indonesia have reneged on promises to share their plantations with communities. Our investigation found villagers are losing millions of dollars every year because plantation firms are failing to comply with the law and discontent over the plasma scheme is driving protests across the country.
The results of the investigation are being published by The Gecko Project, Mongabay and the BBC in 2022 in a series of articles and films.