‘The promise was a lie’: How Indonesian villagers lost their cut of the palm oil boom

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When the Indigenous villagers of Tebing Tinggi agreed to give control of their ancestral land to a palm oil company in 1995, it promised to transform their fortunes. The Suku Anak Dalam were subsistence farmers, gathering fruit and hunting game in the rainforest. The deal could give them a cut of a lucrative industry that was expanding rapidly across the island of Sumatra, in Indonesia. The company, London Sumatra, would take control of the community’s land. In return, according to the Suku Anak Dalam, they were told they would get more than half of it back, planted with oil palms, a wonder cr…

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