On January 22nd, VICE published a documentary called Poverty and Palm Oil are driving deforestation in Indonesia.
As a responsible non-profit working in Aceh Tamiang to bring about positive change on the ground, Earthworm Foundation is deeply saddened that the film does not show a balanced view of things as they are on the ground.
It ignores and disregards a lot of the contextual information shared with VICE about the support to smallholder farmers on the forest frontiers and the meaningful work being done by the different stakeholders, including the local government and NGOs in Aceh Tamiang.
We have also been witness to the collective disappointment of the stakeholders we work with in the region who have echoed the same sentiment since the release of the documentary. These factors have been shared in writing with the editorial team at VICE, with the request they retract the documentary.
With the support of our partners, funders and particularly the local government, Earthworm Foundation has worked to advance long-term, landscape level sustainability transformation in Aceh Tamiang. Since 2016, we have worked side by side with the local government, who have demonstrated a clear and continued commitment to advance sustainable growth efforts, including but not limited to facilitating our work with “at risk” communities and smallholder groups to develop supplementary livelihood solutions that are scalable and replicable across the district.
Furthermore, with active government support, involvement, and encouragement, Earthworm Foundation has been helping to build understanding among mills and plantations about the business case for sustainability and good social and labour practices. Notably missing from the VICE documentary were the several historic steps taken by the local government, such as the 2018 moratorium on palm oil expansion and review of all existing licenses, and the 2019 formation of the multi-stakeholder Green Growth Acceleration Team (Regent Decision 768/2019) with support from local NGOs, among many others.
Since we started our work in Aceh Tamiang, we have witnessed the reduction of deforestation and improvements in the community’s income and knowledge. This progress, the result of hard work from a range of stakeholders dedicated to these causes, would not be possible without leadership from the local government. The VICE documentary chose to disregard these subjects and preferred to portray a uniformly negative picture of the state of affairs in the region, presumably to seek a sensationalistic angle at the expense of objectivity.
We firmly believe that the collaboration between stakeholders in Aceh Tamiang is critical to building healthier, more resilient communities and ensuring that sustainable farming and natural resource management go hand in hand. The work we are doing in Aceh Tamiang is of utmost importance to our vision of bringing health to the people and the planet and we believe that we can achieve this only by strengthening the relationships between our partners, members and all other parties holding interests in the region. We have always been and remain dedicated to achieving that vision.