Aceh authorities explain rationale behind Leuser circular letter ‎to palm oil companies

(foresthints.news) - The government of Aceh has taken concrete steps to put into effect the moratorium on palm oil expansion in the Leuser Ecosystem in the wake of its declaration by the Environment and Forestry Minister and Acehnese leaders on 19 April.

These concrete measures include inviting representatives of palm oil companies operating in the Leuser Ecosystem to an event at which the background to the circular letter issued on 17 June was explained to them. This letter asked plantation companies to end all land-clearing operations in the Leuser Ecosystem.

The event, which was held on Thursday (Jul 21) in the Aceh Forestry office complex, was also attended by representatives of regencies/municipalities associated with the Leuser Ecosystem.

“The circular letter we issued represented a follow-up to the progress made after the declaration of the palm oil expansion moratorium in the Leuser Ecosystem," said Husaini Syamaun, Head of the Aceh Forestry Office, in explanation of the background to the circular letter’s issuance.

He added that the declaration of the moratorium in the Leuser Ecosystem was made in response to the announcement of a nationwide moratorium on palm oil expansion by President Joko Widodo in mid-April.

“The President’s announcement was our primary consideration in issuing the circular letter. As such, the circular letter is effective pending the issuance of a Presidential Instruction on a nationwide moratorium on the expansion of palm oil.”

He also explained that the mention of the palm oil expansion moratorium in the Leuser Ecosystem by the Environment and Forestry Minister, Dr Siti Nurbaya, in her speech at UN Headquarters on April 22 also served as an important consideration in the issuance of the circular letter.

Furthermore, Husaini touched on the matter of the radiogram sent in mid-June by the minister to the Governor of Aceh, requesting that he put an end to all land-clearing operations being carried out in the Leuser Ecosystem for the purpose of expanding palm oil plantations.

He pointed out that this radiogram had been sent by the minister as some companies were continuing to conduct land-clearing operations to expand their palm oil plantations, even after the moratorium on palm oil expansion in the Leuser Ecosystem had been declared.

“These circumstances made the immediate issuance of the circular letter a matter of urgency. The radiogram was, in effect, a crucial instruction that had to be acted on. The distribution of the circular was our way of acting on it.”

Husaini went on to say that the circular letter had enabled forestry and environmental governance from the perspective of land use in the Leuser Ecosystem to be strengthened, in terms of substance, implementation and on-the-ground monitoring.

The Leuser ecosystem is not just the only place on earth where orangutans, tigers, elephants and rhinos co-exist in a single habitat with world class biodiversity, but this co-existence of wildlife also needs to co-exist, in turn, with improved community welfare from generation to generation inside the Leuser Ecosystem.

The Leuser Ecosystem also serves as source of palm oil which is sucked up on a daily basis by the large palm oil companies headquartered in Singapore. Numerous sustainability commitments have been announced by these palm oil giants, yet their supply chains continue to damage the Leuser Ecosystem in direct contradiction to the pledges they have signed.

Even more alarmingly, the supply chains of these palm oil giants have been operating in the Leuser Ecosystem for a long period of time, yet the vast majority of villages in the areas linked to these supply chains are still classified as underdeveloped, with some of them still classed as very underdeveloped.