Over 25,000 landless families in Aceh still waiting for new land and homes, Oxfam warns

Published: 6 December 2006

Over 25,000 poor and landless families in Aceh, Indonesia are missing out on the rebuilding programme and have yet to be re-housed nearly two years after the tsunami washed away their homes and destroyed their land, international aid agency Oxfam warned today.

Aceh is the largest reconstruction project in the developing world and a lot of work has been done already, thanks to the generous international response and prompt action by the Indonesian government. So far over a third of the 128,000 houses needed have been built.

But land rights are a major obstacle in re-housing the landless. Many landless people are still languishing in barracks: temporary buildings where many families live in cramped, often unhygienic conditions.

Today Oxfam issued a new report, "The Tsunami Two Years On: Land Rights in Aceh," and urged the Indonesian government to find a fair and just way of re-housing the landless.

“Aceh has made enormous strides towards recovering from the tsunami,” said Jeremy Hobbs, director of Oxfam International. “But two years after the tsunami struck, the poorest Acehnese – squatters, renters and women – are still facing a crisis over when and where they will be resettled.

“The lack of a clear policy for landless people has led to a huge amount of uncertainty and delay. There’s a risk these people will end up in the slums of the future, despite the huge amounts generously given after the tsunami.”

Aceh, the northern province of the island of Sumatra, was the region worst affected by the tsunami of 26 Dec 2004. Around 169,000 people were killed, 600,000 made homeless and 141,000 houses destroyed.

Aceh is the largest reconstruction project in the developing world but Oxfam’s new report highlights the difficulties that must be tackled:

  • Most of the land titles in the province were destroyed or made illegible – 15 tonnes of records have been sent to Jakarta to be restored.

  • Most people lost all their identification documents.

  • Land was submerged – up to 15% of western Aceh’s agricultural land could be permanently lost.

  • There was a huge number of inheritance claims.

  • The trees and paths which marked out plots of land were washed away.

“Rebuilding homes without knowing who owns the land could create problems in the future,” said Hobbs. “But this can be a desperately difficult and slow process. Oxfam has been working with tens of villages in Aceh to help people decide how to reallocate land so everyone has somewhere to live.”

Around 10,000 households who owned property before the tsunami now need resettling because their land became submerged or was ruined. The Indonesian government has bought 700 hectares of land for them but progress is slow – only 700 houses have been built and occupied.

Many poorer Acehnese rented their homes, or squatted on state-owned or private land. There are 15,000 households of renters and squatters who need new land to live on. They do not qualify for any new land or housing but are being given a cash grant. Oxfam fears this is not enough help for the people most in need. Given the slow pace of reconstruction their money will be eaten up by Aceh’s high inflation before a new house is ready for them.

Together these groups form the bulk of those suffering in the barracks. Oxfam is calling for the Indonesian government to adopt and effectively implement a range of new policies which would offer more protection for the landless and renters and squatters.

The agency wants to see:

  • A commitment by the Indonesian government and non-governmental organisations (NGOs) to find a long-term solution to the barracks problem.

  • Better cooperation between the Indonesian government and NGOs in Aceh to create a range of options for renters and squatters.

  • Where possible, a process of resettlement done on a village-by-village basis with the agreement of all members of the village.

  • Rental agreements restored.

Contact Information

For more information, please contact:
Sean Kenny, +44 1865 472 359
Christelle Chapoy, +62 812 69 88 064