Migrants, land and deforestation in Indonesia

Internal migrants in Indonesia have shifted land arrangements, resulting in both social and ecological damage: land conflicts increase along with deforestation. This complex relationship has been underplayed in the REDD debate, say Gamma Galudra, Meine van Noordwijk, Putra Agung, Suyanto and Ujjwal Pradhan

 

By Masayu Vinanda

 

Conflicting claims over land ownership have occurred in most parts of Indonesia, according to Gamma Galudra and colleagues, writing in Mitigation and Adaptation Strategies for Global Change. They describe one such conflict and its implications for reducing emissions from deforestation and degradation (REDD) in Senyerang village, Tanjung Jabung Barat district, Jambi province on the island of Sumatra.

Agroforest on peat in Tanjung Jabung BaratThe recent background to the conflict in Senyerang starts in 1997, when the Ministry of Forestry granted a permit for a pulp-and-paper company to expand its concession area. About 1500 people—long-settled migrants from other parts of Indonesia—protested over the rights to the land in question, resulting in one person shot dead and two wounded. The migrants argued that the area was their communal land that had been used by the Banjar people since the 1920s. A land licence granted by the pesirah (the chief of the territory), active since the Dutch colonial period, was used as their advocacy tool. However, the company did not stop the conversion and continued planting the area with acacia.

The Senyerang situation clearly demonstrated the tenurial interaction between a group of migrants and a concession-holding company. However, interaction between the migrants and the government institution that issued the permit to the company was also part of the problem. Historical, informal negotiations between the pesirah and the migrants dated back many years and provided a more comprehensive context.

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This work is linked to the CGIAR Research Program on Forests, Trees and Agroforestry

 

 

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Rob Finlayson

Rob Finlayson

Robert Finlayson is the Southeast Asia program’s regional communications specialist. As well as writing stories for the Centre’s website, he devises and supervises strategies for projects and the countries in the Southeast Asia region, including scripting and producing videos, supervising editors and translators and also assisting with resource mobilization.

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