Feeding Families with Indonesia's Agrarian Reform

“Before land redistribution, our family was very poor. But after we got our land rights, we could toil on our farm and plant chillies, cloves, and nutmeg. Our yields made it possible for me to open a “warung” (small shop), to educate my children, and even to have social gatherings.

- Anci Tatawi, Farmer, Mangkit, North Sulawesi, Indonesia

Anci preparing to cook and brew coffee in her kitchen

The smell of morning coffee in Anci Tatawi’s house begins to brew by five a.m. every day.

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As Anci gets a head start on her day, she opens her warung, a tiny convenience store that she established after receiving her land certificate in her home village in Mangkit, North Sulawesi, Indonesia.

It wasn’t always this easy for Anci.

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Anci opening her warung

She and hundreds of villagers in Mangkit had been entangled in a decade-long land dispute against PT Asiatik, a coconut plantation company, before finally having their land returned in a land redistribution process that started in 2018.

Many Mangkit villagers worked as labourers for the plantation, earning bare minimum wages to support their families.

Despite the uncertainty, the Mangkit community continued cultivating their crops - as per their traditional custom - on plantation land; land that had been passed down generations.

Because of this, many Mangkit people were questioned, challenged and threatened by local authorities as plantation owners continued to accuse them of encroaching on their land.

Chilies are one of the main crops in Mangkit

Unripe chilies in the field

A woman farmer tending to her chili plant

Anci tending to her field

“I have experienced [the intimidation] myself. In 2016, I was tending to my field, and four police officers came and told us to go. But together with other women farmers, we resisted them because we thought, whatever the state owned, it belonged to the people too”

said Anci

Women farmers in Mangkit who now own chili fields

Jansen Matanatu showing his nutmeg trees

Jansen Matanatu, chair of the Southeast Minahasa Peasants’ Union (SMPU), also used to work for the plantation.

“I used to be the foreman of the [coconut] plantation on this land. When I saw the lives of my friends who used to be labourers, they were impoverished. I was motivated to join and form people’s organisations to fight for our rights. It was in 1999 when the organisation was formed. Back then, it was more like a labour union,”

A close-up shot of Jansen’s nutmeg trees

Jansen Matanatu showing his field and a small shack nearby

Indonesia’s Agrarian Law of 1960 explicitly states that

“every Indonesian citizen, both men and women, has an equal opportunity to acquire a land right and to obtain the benefits and yields thereof for themselves or their family.”

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ILC Asia member Consortium for Agrarian Reform (KPA), a network-based organisation fighting for genuine agrarian reform in Indonesia, supported the SMPU in its advocacy efforts. KPA is also part of ILC’s National Land Coalition (NLC) in Indonesia, a multi-stakeholder platform working to push through people-centred land governance law and reform in the country.

NLC Indonesia, known by its Coalition members as the National Conference of Agrarian Reform (KNPA), worked with the Mangkit people, the SMPU, civil society and the local government push for real change in order to fight growing land inequality and resolve agrarian conflicts across the archipelago.

One of the key priorities of NLC Indonesia was to counter the top-down approach of land redistribution under the Indonesian Government’s Agrarian Reform programme. They did this through a participatory mapping initiative, which notably led to the Ministry of Agrarian Affairs and Spatial Planning issuing land redistribution certificates.

MANGKIT VILLAGERS WHO ALSO CONVENED AS THE SOUTHEAST MINAHASA PEASANTS’ UNION

“The key to realising agrarian reform is strong and solid advocacy from people’s organisations. Without it, our struggle will go to waste,”

said Jansen

Official opening of the GLF at the Presidential Palace with President Joko Widodo

In 2018 - on the occasion of ILC's Global Land Forum (GLF) in Bandung, Indonesia

President Joko Widodo signed an order to accelerate the country’s land reform process.

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Soon after the GLF, 444 hectares of land were returned to local communities in Mangkit village.

Around 400 out of the 1,050 land certificates were given to women from the community. After 30 years of struggle, this case marked the first land redistribution process from a land concession (known as Hak Guna Usaha in Indonesia) to local communities.

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A profile of Arfat Saotong

“Nearly 50% of land rights [after the land redistribution] belong to the women’s group. Women farmers in Mangkit were the ones most active in the advocacy process, including in preparing the land registrations and certifications while working with the District Government”

Dewi Kartika, Secretary-General of KPA

A group of women farmers in Mangkit Village

Anci and her husband now jointly own a 1,000-square-meter farm, which they equally split among themselves, with each of them possessing their own land certificate.

“Together with a group of women farmers, we started a small business using our crops to make chips, like banana and sweet potato chips. We sell them in neighbouring villages, too,” said Anci. “My message to other women farmers in Indonesia is we should never stop fighting for our land rights.”

- Anci

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©ILC/Ghalih Pratama

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