As part of the world’s largest archipelago, Indonesia faces a unique challenge in achieving equitable development across its 16,000 islands. Despite strong overall economic growth, development is still concentrated in the western parts of Indonesia, like Java, while the more remote islands in the east struggle to keep up. Therefore, President Joko Widodo’s commitment to boost the economy in Indonesia’s easternmost provinces―Papua and West Papua―is welcomed by most.
While oil palm expansion brings the promise of economic growth, its impacts include irreparable deforestation and health crises caused by forest and land fires. For long-term economic development to be beneficial to Papua and West Papua, Indonesia must figure out how to move forward without depleting the environmental resources and ecosystem services that are vital to the livelihoods and well-being of local communities.
Papua and West Papua share the island of New Guinea with the nation of Papua New Guinea, which occupies the eastern half. The island is home to the spectacular birds of paradise and the third-largest expanse of rainforest in the world. Papua and West Papua alone hold about one-third of Indonesia’s remaining rainforest.
As Indonesia’s agricultural sector—the country’s main economic driver—continues to grow, the associated deforestation is rapidly moving east and threatening these last remaining forests. In 2015, Papua experienced its highest forest cover loss yet.