The University of Arizona

Oil palm companies, privatization and social dissonance: towards a socially viable and ecologically sustainable land reform in Tanah Laut Regency, South Kalimantan, Indonesia

Astrid Dewi Meilasari-Sugiana

Abstract


This article argues that repossession of land by community members and land reform is vital to support the rural poor and to ensure the sustainability of the commons. Repossession requires bottom-up initiatives, social mobilization and external interventions. The case is a study of oil palm plantations in Tanah Laut Regency, South Kalimantan, Indonesia. The mangroves and lowlands in Tabanio and Ujung Batu have always been governed by indigenous (adat) laws. Through local government consent and partnership, in 2007 an oil palm plantation company under the Kintap Jaya Watindo (KJW) holding group obtained the right to privatize and convert + 900 hectares of lowland into plantations, resulting in ecological devastation and a loss of livelihood. This land grab led to conflicts with community members due to deception, unfavorable incorporation of community members into their schemes, unwanted land conversion and horizontal conflicts between communities. Increased commercialization of local oil palm resources, monetary compensation, and construction of basic infrastructure such as roads and latrines led to spiraling conflicts. Intimidation by local government officials and elites worsened conflict and in 2011 community members burned the plantation, leading to the company's withdrawal. Subsequently, social institutions and local rules have played a role in protecting coastal resources on behalf of the community, recognizing collective identity and social and ecological responsibilities. Behavioral change and innovative power structures are locally sensitive and environmentally appropriate.

Key Words: land grabbing, land reform, agricultural differentiation, extractive institution, exclusion, adverse incorporation, inclusion, power, common law


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DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.2458/v25i1.22045