Community Forestry Case Study 8:
The Impact of Social and Environmental Change on Forest Management: A Case Study from West Kalimantan, Indonesia

by Nancy Lee Peluso, Edited by Bernardine Atkinson


Adat Customary access rules
Arak Chinese alcohol
Asay Tax or tribute
Bayar hukum A customary fine
Bilang keras Unkind words
Damar cocok Slightly red resin mixed with white spots; used for fire and light. Obtained from a species of Agathis.
Damar kedumuk Hard black resin, no local use - export only
Damar mata kucing An expensive, clear, shiny resin from an Agathis species, exported for use in the manufacture of turpentine and paint
Doopn utotn Very old swidden fallows dominated by mature fruit and rubber trees
Doyak bena Right to claim a fee
Dusun Hamlet, smaller than a village
Jaman PKI The period referring to the breakdown of the Indonesian Communist Party
Jami risah A swidden fallow
Jongkot Large woven rattan basket used for storing rice
Juah Small woven rattan basket used for storing and carrying rice
Kabupaten Administrative district
Kabon A garden
Kapalo kampokng Longhouse or village head
Keminting Local name for the candlenut tree
Kemponan A state of moral uncertitude or obligation
Kepala benua Regional head
Konfrontasi The Indonesian Confrontation with Malysia
Lempok Durian cakes
Lokasi Particular location or plot of trees in the commonly accessed forest
Mandor Foreman of the timber camp
Mangkok merah Red bowl - a Galik symbol of war
Mantri kesehatan Paramedics
Mau mengantam Threatening words
Numpang Occupy land owned by another in the residential part of the village
Pajak To contract rights to trees and land
Pajak musim Contracting rights for a single season
Pajuak tahun Contracting rights for several seasons
Payo' Swamp rice land - not irrigated, minimal drainage
Pedang Long killing knives
Perladangan berpindah-pindah Shifting agriculture
Pesta udas A celebratory feast
Puskesmas Health clinic
Rurukn "Forest Islands"
Sawoh Wet rice production - drained paddy field
Tanoh adat Customary land
Tempayan tajan Large jar, particularly valued and given to settle disputes
Tempuyak Savoury preserved durian
Timawokng Old longhouse garden still harvested
Tokay Wholesale wood buyer
Tuak Alcohol made from the sap of the arenga palm
Usaha Old swidden fallows planted with economic trees which have no local use



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Defining household and community dependence on forests and trees

In many parts of the world, forests and trees comprise critical components of household, village or regional economies. Dating back long before the evolution of large-scale or industrial forest exploitation, rural people's use and management of forests for a myriad of products have provided food, fuel, fodder, fibre, building materials and articles of trade. In many places, the people's capacity to subsist or generate surplus from trade has been directly related to their forest and tree management practices. Therefore, both nutritionally and economically, household food security is often a function of the availability of tree and forest products to a particular household at a particular time.

Forest dependence (defined in this publication as inclusive of dependence on trees which grow outside forests) at both the community and the household level, is a function of both environmental and social factors. Environmentally, the nature or extent of forest dependence is directly related to how much forest or tree cover is available to a particular community or household.

Sociologically, forest dependence is a function of a household's access to forests and trees. In order to understand how and why a household is dependent on forests and trees, it is necessary to understand other social variables - such as community structure, rights of tenure and forms of social and economic differentiation, both within and between communities, and the larger political-economic entities of which they are a part. For example, the degree of dependence on the forest is likely to vary by economic class, caste, gender, ethnic group and/or physical capabilities. Because local histories of settlement and resource management vary widely, forest and tree dependence will also vary according to the ways in which the access to village resources by individuals or groups has changed over time.

This publication focuses on the socio-economic aspects of forest dependence, including the household and community level mechanisms which function to balance subsistence and commercial uses of forests and trees. It is intended to complement the work being done on the nutritional importance of forests and tree products to rural people, focusing on people's physiological dependence on the forest. Household food security is itself a measure of a household's ability to provide for its subsistence through both the production of food and the generation of income to purchase food. As it is very difficult to determine exactly which household income is used to purchase food and because the purchase of other subsistence items such as clothing, building materials and agricultural tools contributes to the members' capability to produce food or income, the case studies focus on forest and tree management for income generation. Forest production for subsistence uses other than eating, such as house building, is also examined, because these are also crucial to a household's survival.

Study construction

The key issue in constructing this study was how to identify the environmental and social changes evolving at local, regional and national levels which affect village practices of forest and tree management. Relevant background data were not available for either of the two study villages. Consequently, the greatest range of data was sought by selecting two villages which have experienced the region's history in very different ways because of their locations. Thus the villages selected had different areas of old growth forest and different degrees of access to markets and other services.

As a first step, land and management practices, land use patterns and institutions of access (resource rights) for different land use types and the different species found within them were documented. Secondly, detailed land and forest use histories for each village were collected to identify the specific reasons why management practices and rights regimes had changed. Together these two foci helped to document the different responses to social and environmental change and the origins of contemporary contexts of forest and tree management.

The general approach: rapid, in-depth appraisal

Though the period of time in the field was relatively short - a total of eight weeks - the method used was a form of "rapid, in-depth appraisal". The term, "rapid in-depth appraisal" may seem to contradict itself, but given certain conditions, it facilitated the collection of a great deal of useful and believable information in a short period of time.

First, the researcher had significant prior experience in the region under study and on the topic of resource management in that region. She speaks fluent Indonesian, the most commonly known "lingua franca". Where language remained a barrier, she worked with translators who did not interpret the questions and answers, but actually translated them. In both villages, the researcher worked with both men and women informants and translators.

Two guiding principles were used in deciding which data to collect on changes in both household and community resource dependence and management patterns. One was the "progressive contextualization" of inter-related, policy-relevant research questions (Vayda 1983). The questions in this study were "How and why do people change their forest and tree management practices over time?"; "How do resource rights or institutions of tenure and access change as practices change?"; and "How do changes in practice and rights affect people's dependence on and management of the forest?".

The second guiding principle was one which is derived from political ecology rather than human ecology, and looks to the formal and informal structures of resource and social control to explain some of the constraints on human action. In this approach, both place-based and nonplace-based influences on forest and land management must be identified (Blaikie 1985). In other words, local forms of social organization and cultural practices are analyzed, as are national, regional, and provincial policies, markets, technologies and transport facilities that affect the production and trade in particular forest and tree products. The exploration entails examining the "nested chains of explanation" that generally concur with nested scales of analysis from the individual and household levels to the community, to the region (defined either politically, for example as districts, or topographically as e.g., watersheds), to the province, the nation and on to a global scale (Blaikie and Brookfield 1987). Each of these analytical levels is modified by the sociological characteristics of the individual users, e.g., one's gender, socio-economic class, caste, ethnic group, religion and age. Together, progressive contextualization helps focus on particular types of human-environment interactions, while the political ecology approach looks at the types of local and extra-local influences on these interactions.

Semi-structured group and individual interviews

Initially, the research entailed key informant and group interviews, the observation of various resource uses and management practices and some sampling of the "least fortunate" or "most dependent" households of each community to determine the ways in which they used and managed local forests, swidden fallows, gardens and isolated trees. Most of the data were collected by in-depth, semi-structured interviews in people's homes, fields and forests. Though respondents were directed by the question(s) on which the interview focussed, a measure of flexibility was ensured to permit follow-up to unanticipated answers or unique circumstances. In each village, group interviews were held to identify locally important wild, encouraged and cultivated forest and tree products. The interviews also sought to clarify the tenure institutions that guided access to various products and land use types. Discussions were also initiated on land and forest use history. Local historical data was also compiled through in-depth interviews with individuals before and after group interviews.

Two group interviews were held in each village; one with village men, one with women. The group interview had to be timed for maximum effectiveness: not too early in the research period because the specifics and referents of local history were not then known. Initial semi-structured interviews had explored local people's experience of broader historical events. In both individual and group history interviews, key referents to important events of the previous 50 years were used as a means of guiding memory. Here, important referents included the Japanese occupation, the Indonesian Revolution, the Confrontation with Malaysia (Sarawak), the eviction of ethnic Chinese from rural areas in Kalimantan, the change from the Sukarno to the Suharto regime and the drought of 1982-83. As more about the local historical experience became known, more time periods or events could be added to the repertoire of historically relevant events. In Bagak, these included the arrival of missionaries and the establishment of the Catholic school in neighbouring Nyarumkop, the split of the village and the migration of some to Maya Sopa, the establishment of the Nature Reserve and the paving of the road to Singkawang. In Sungai Bongkang, significant events included the move from the Sungai Cincun site to Sungai Bongkang and Tnuggu, the specific years in which the illipe nut harvest was most plentiful and the gradual penetration of the network of logging roads from Beduai through their village territory. Other events in other places might include epidemics, fires, a time when the local production of forest products was particularly high or low, the arrival of traders in search of specific goods, and so on. Using these progressive events as guides the researchers can, in group interview, elicit an outline of chronological changes in land and forest use history. A skilled researcher, or one lucky enough to come across a village with several older people with good memories and the willingness to share their experiences, can fill in many details in an evening's group interview devoted to the documentation of local history. Details and alternative interpretations of the same events can be elicited in individual interviews or in the collection of life histories.

Current land use mapping

These local histories documented patterns of forest and tree product trade, production, management, supplies and their sources, over time. Where a great deal of variety over time or a diversity of products was noted, the circumstances triggering change, including the years that activities began and ended, were recorded. Both group interviews and in-depth individual interviews were then conducted along these lines. Probes and direct questions were asked of a range of individuals, men and women, old people, middle-aged people, wealthy, poor, middle income and people in different occupations (if applicable) to elicit different views of changing village-forest relations. In subsequent interviews, the diverse perceptions of these changes could be related to concurrent changes in regional land use, the division of labour, agricultural practices or environmental, political or economic structures.

The villages' territory was defined as all sites used by villagers for agroforestry and forest management. Maps were made, not so much to be accurate reflections of the village territory, but to reflect people's perceptions of important areas and as tools for initiating discussions on resource use, management and ownership or access rights. The maps are a useful tool for interviews on local history, life history or sensitive topics such as land and tree tenure, helping to clarify the issues discussed.

Structured questionnaires

On a second visit to each village, a questionnaire was issued to a random sample of village households. In Bagak, time permitted the administration of the questionnaire to forty households or more than one-third of the residents of the hamlet. In Sungai Bongkang, twenty households, or one-quarter of the residents of the hamlet, were interviewed. In Bagak, all the houses had been mapped in the first visit. Each of these was given a number and forty numbers were randomly selected for interviews. In Sungai Bongkang, a list of households was obtained from the village head and forty households were randomly selected. The first twenty on this list were interviewed.

The questionnaires, beside covering basic topics such as the household's demographic characteristics and location, elicited information on land holdings, claims and access to forest and garden trees, resource management practices, labour allocation within and between households, technologies used in household production and tenure arrangements for locally important tree species and types of land. Income from various trees and estimates of their production were also collected.


List of Maps and Tables

MAP 1 Location map of the Indonesian Province of West Kalimantan on the Island of Borneo
MAP 2 Kalimantan map with the locations of Sungai Bongkang and Bagak
Table 1 Agricultural land use in West Kalimantan
Table 2 Production of selected forest products, West Kalimantan
Table 3 Production of selected fruits in West Kalimantan
Table 4 Seasonal labour calendar: Bagak
Table 5 Forest and land use terms in Bagak
Table 6 Customary fines for cutting another person's fruit trees
Table 7 Seasonal labour calendar: Sungai Bongkang
Table 8 Local forest and land use terms in Sungai Bongkang
Table 9 Production of one team of chainsaw operators