Can Indonesia's complex agroforests survive globalisation and decentralisation?

TitleCan Indonesia's complex agroforests survive globalisation and decentralisation?
Publication TypeBook Chapter
Year of Publication2007
AuthorsPotter L, Badcock S
Book TitleEnvironment, development and change in rural Asia-Pacific
ChapterP. 167-185. : ill., krt, tab.
PublisherRoutledge Taylor & Francis Group
CityLondon and New York
Call NumberM 2008 A 5094
Keywordsdecentralization, environment, environmental change, Excerpta Indonesica, farmers, FORESTS, globalization, INDONESIA, Kalimantan Barat, large enterprises, Palm oil, plantations, Sanggau

This article examines intersections between commodity production and traditional agriculture in Sanggau, West Kalimantan, a region which used to be famous for its agrodiversity. The complex agroforests called 'tembawang', owned and cultivated by families or collectively by longhouse communities, are used to grow diverse combinations of fruit and timber trees. With the increasing emphasis on large-scale commodity production, with most of the central area of the district now being occupied by oil palm estates, such systems appear to be endangered. This article examines the process of change taking place in a cluster of villages and hamlets confronting the expansion of large oil palm plantations. It focuses on the factors influencing the decisions of smallholder farmers over the future of their tembawang gardens under increasing pressure to sell their land to, and work for, the plantation enterprises, comparing the relationships between villagers and a government-owned palm oil estate with the situation involving a Malaysian-owned private company. The authors argue that the main factors influencing farmer behaviour are: 1) tenure and control of land; 2) the influence of adat leaders and other village elites; and 3) immediate or anticipated economic outcomes. Despite the persistence of communal traditions, most decisions are taken at the individual or household level. Given the relatively homogeneous ecological environment, differences in land use patterns reflect choices made by the actors, both individually and collectively, as they negotiate between tradition and representations of modernity. However, these complex agroforests may yet have a chance to survive in some form, provided that village leaders continue to promote them, and local people continue to value them.