World Bank-backed palm-oil projects displaced communities

In a piece that explores the dramatic expansion of palm-oil plantations in the rainforests of Indonesia, journalists Jocelyn Zuckerman and Michael Hudson detail abuses committed against the Batin Sembilan, an indigenous community in Sumatra that was forcibly resettled by the largest agribusiness in Asia, Wilmar International Limited.

Strong-Arm Evictions In Disappearing Indonesian Rainforest Traumatize Children,” which runs on The Huffington Post, is the latest installment of “Evicted and Abandoned,” a year-long investigation into the hidden toll of World Bank–financed development projects on some of the planet’s poorest people.  The story, produced in partnership with FERN, is part of a collaboration with the International Center for Investigative Journalists and HuffPost.

Batin Sembilan was swept aside to satisfy Wilmar’s expanding appetite for palm oil. It was demand fueled in part by more than $145 million in loans and guarantees provided by the World Bank, the multinational financial giant that styles itself as an anti-poverty champion, the story reports.

Wilmar International controls roughly 40 percent of the world’s trade in palm oil, which is used in cookies, toothpaste, lipstick, ice cream and countless other goods, and is present in about half of all products in U.S. grocery stores. 

An internal 2009 report pointed out that the World Bank’s finance unit was aware for more than 20 years that Indonesia’s palm-oil sector was damaging the environment and disrupting the lives of local populations, but the report said the bank gave in to “commercial pressures” to ignore problems. The World Bank declined to comment on the story.