Neglected Land to Be Redistributed to Indonesia’s Farmers
ID/Novy Lumanauw & Alina Musta’idah
The National Land Registry Agency says it is ready to distribute 13,000 hectares of neglected land to farmers as part of the government’s agrarian reforms.
“Lands that are indicated as potentially being neglected cover a total of 7.2 million hectares. This is still mere potential and has yet to be declared as neglected land,” Hendarman Supandji, head of the agency known as BPN, said on Monday.
He said that in 2012, BPN had mapped 149,000 hectares of neglected land and so far 13,000 hectares had not been challenged.
“Therefore there are 13,000 hectares of land that have not been challenged and these are what we plan to distribute to the people,” Hendarman said.
He added that for 2013, more land would be distributed.
However, Hendarman also added that not all the neglected land was suitable for crop agriculture. He said the BPN was working with the Agriculture Ministry to determine what can be planted it.
He also said that the distribution of the land would still need formal legal protection, saying “it is still in the process” of being prepared.
“There was, in the past [a legal umbrella], but there was never a political decision taken by the government,” he said.
Hendarman added that the government’s agrarian reform policy involved each farmer receiving two hectares of land.
“This is still being discussed but the aim is for the farmers to become prosperous. The land is given to the farmers but the fertilizer and distribution [is a separate matter],” he said.
The government, he added, will also assist farmers in getting access to financial resources, including loans from banks and cooperatives.
Hendarman said that under the agrarian reforms, land distributed by the government to farmers cannot be sold and has to remain in the family to which it is awarded.
Agriculture Minister Suswono said that he and the BPN were working together to select the 13,000 hectares of land that can be distributed within one month.
Quoting sources within the government, Investor Daily newspaper reported that 87 percent of agricultural lands were controlled by 13 percent of land owners.
Iwan Nurdin, the deputy secretary general for research and campaigns at the Agrarian Reform Consortium (KPD), said that regulations existed for the government to declare unused land as neglected land.
“And whenever land is declared as neglected, the legal status and ownership of the land can be rescinded,” he said.
But the problem was that landowners invariable challenged the BPN in court over the neglected land.
Last week, President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono pledged to conduct agrarian reform, saying that land disputes are often the source of violent conflicts.
But on Friday, just two days after he delivered his speech, violence erupted during a land dispute in Limbang Jaya, South Sumatra, in which a 12-year-old boy was killed, apparently by police fire.
Yudhoyono said previously that this year alone, his office had received reports of 8,305 land disputes, 2,002 of which were potential triggers for violence.
Land disputes last year in Mesuji, Lampung and Bima, West Nusa Tenggara, escalated into bloodshed, with police accused of using excessive force.