Gender and oil palm in Indonesia


Sijapati Basnett B, Obidizinski K and Pacheco P.

The rapid expansion of oil palm in Indonesia, the largest oil palm exporting country globally, remains highly contested from a forestry and development perspective. On the one hand, as the cheapest edible oil, oil palm has become the primary cooking oil for millions of poor people in developing countries in Asia, Africa and Latin America. The oil palm sector in Indonesia contributes significantly to the economy by employing over 3 million people and accounting for roughly 4.5% of the GDP. It has become a highly lucrative and desirable business for both smallholders and commercial growers alike. But much of the current expansion of oil palm has been on forested land. The budding literature on the impact of these investments on local livelihoods shed light on the resultant dispossessions in land, water and common property resources. And yet, the gender dimensions of these processes and impacts remains largely unexplored.

In partnership with researchers at the University of Indonesia, University of Brighton and University of Toronto and as a subcomponent of the USAID-funded project on ‘Economic Choices and Trades to REDD+ and low Carbon Investment in Asia’, the research project on gender and oil palm in Indonesia is exploring how different modalities of oil palm implementation – from state-sponsored, private and smallholder schemes – are affecting the terms and conditions
of women and men’s work, access to land and distribution of benefits. Drawing on five case studies in east and west Kalimantan, the methodological framework of the research project builds on a CGIAR global comparative study on the role of gender norms in economic decision-making related to agriculture and natural resource management. The fieldwork is in its final stages.

Two research reports together and at least one peer-reviewed journal article will be available soon.

To learn more about this project, contact Bimbika Sijapati Basnett,