In Indonesian Borneo, a succession of extractive industries multiplies impacts, social fractures
Mining, Plantation, Forestry and Agryculture

In Indonesian Borneo, a succession of extractive industries multiplies impacts, social fractures

  • A lot of the panorama of Indonesia’s East Kalimantan province has been remodeled, its previously huge forests razed for logging, monocrop agriculture and open-cast coal mining.
  • A just lately printed research analyzes how waves of extractive industries have affected the inhabitants of 1 village within the province
  • The cumulative impacts of those industries had been discovered to be extreme, but additionally to fluctuate relying on a number of components together with ethnicity, gender, wealth and age. Ladies, younger folks and just lately arrived migrants had been discovered to be disproportionately affected.

Industrial logging, rubber, oil palm, then coal. The snowballing results of those extractive industries have divided native communities and destroyed livelihoods in components of Indonesian Borneo, a new study finds.

“Communities who’ve had their land ‘grabbed’ by earlier phases of business land use will expertise the cumulative impacts of intensified extraction with out essentially deriving advantages,” lead creator, Tessa Toumbourou of the College of Melbourne, advised Mongabay.

Like a reverse evolution, among the panorama of East Kalimantan province has already been remodeled from the thriving ecology of main forest to reveal rock, passing by means of logging and monocrops, to open-cast coal mining. A lot of the area falls someplace alongside that trajectory, with simply fifteen % nonetheless beneath intact main forest.

The research seemed on the pseudonymous village of “Hongoi,” combining literature evaluate, native mapping tasks, authorities data on land concessions and interviews with native folks. It discovered that when land is launched for one type of industrial extraction, offers are struck between corporations and the federal government for successive permits. Locals not often get a glance in, however must deal with the damaging knock-on results every day, seeing their very own landholdings assailed by pests, floods and hearth as industrial logging, plantations and mining degrade the ecosystem they inhabit.

The continuing further stress on panorama dependent rural life is laying naked inequalities and sharpening cultural and social divides that disproportionately have an effect on girls, cultural minorities, newcomers and the younger, Toumbourou says.

Corroborating earlier analysis in different areas, the research “displays the information on the bottom properly sufficient,” Thomas Reuter, professor of anthropology at The Asia Institute, College of Melbourne advised Mongabay. “After we visited the province of East Kalimantan in Borneo, we noticed widespread devastation of the area’s tropical rainforest.”

A family home and their swidden garden in Hongoi during 2018 flooding.
A household dwelling and their swidden backyard in Hongoi throughout 2018 flooding. Residents say each droughts and floods have turn into extra extreme as forest land is transformed to plantations.  Picture courtesy of Tessa Toumbourou.

Leap-started beneath Crony capitalism

Beneath former President Suharto’s New Order authorities, greater than 75% of Indonesia was designated “State Forest.” Huge concessions had been handed out for large-scale, mechanized logging. Hongoi was no exception: In 1972, two timber tycoons had been granted rights to log 465 sq. miles (greater than 120,000 hectares), an space as huge as town of Rome, throughout the japanese finish of the village’s land.

For villagers this heralded a daybreak of industrialized extraction on their doorstep. It got here devoid of consideration of their rights.

Beginning in 2007, the research notes no less than seven additional large-scale concessions had been granted within the space, amounting to a San Diego sized 201,574 hectares (498,100 acres) of oil palm plantation surrounding Hongoi.  In 2010 the primary permits for open forged coal mining got here into play. Present coal concessions measure 50,313 hectares (124,326 acres), a lot of which overlaps current plantation concessions.

“Open forged mines pock the panorama,” Toumbourou stated. Huge expanses of naked grey-brown earth eat canker-like into the inexperienced of each the forest and older oil palm plantations within the wider area. Coal extraction is extra worthwhile than the lessened productiveness of older plantations. Additionally it is simpler to clear sparse rows of timber than wholesome forest to achieve the coal beneath. This has meant plantation concessions usually pave the way in which for mining permits.

For now, mining concessions in Hongoi have been “land banked” – not but exploited as mines – however it’s only a matter of time Toumbourou cautioned: In 2021 mining corporations arrived to broaden the entry highway to their base camp.

The Indonesian Ministry of Surroundings and Forestry didn’t reply to Mongabay’s requests for touch upon challenges inherent to the social and environmental impacts of land use coverage in East Kalimantan.

Map of overlapping oil palm and coal mining concessions in East Kalimantan
(Left) Overlapping oil palm and coal mining concessions in East Kalimantan, Indonesia. (Proper) Overlapping oil palm and coal mining concessions enclaving and reducing throughout the Hongoi village space. Photographs courtesy of Tim Werner.
A coal mine pit in East Kalimantan.
A coal mine pit in East Kalimantan. Picture by Tommy Apriando for Mongabay-Indonesia.

How did it play out on the bottom?

Intensive logging brought on the usually moist forest to dry out, leaving “a flamable panorama susceptible to repeat hearth injury” the paper says. Crops and homesteads now face annual hearth danger.

Cocoa, an necessary money crop many locals depend on for revenue, can’t face up to speedy cycles of scorched then saturated roots, or the pest issues that arrived with industrial oil palm.

One farmer with a 3-hectare cocoa plot advised Toumbourou he’d misplaced 70% of his yield, “Since there’s been palm oil, cocoa has decreased in high quality… The fruit is dry and eaten by illness. What yield we do get is eaten by rats and squirrels. Pests got here with palm oil corporations,” Toumbourou recollects him saying.

Upstream plantations have modified the move fee and polluted the Kelinjau river that some villagers use to wash in and drink from. And destruction of forest habitat has lead animals to hunt meals elsewhere – usually consuming smallholders’ crops as an alternative of diminished wild meals—in addition to decreasing availability of forest merchandise some locals relied on for revenue.

These huge panorama adjustments led to meals and livelihood insecurity the research says. However the adjustments weren’t essentially felt evenly.

Deforestation to make way for a oil palm plantation in Hongoi.
Deforestation to make means for a oil palm plantation in Hongoi. Picture courtesy of Tessa Toumbourou.

The researchers targeted on three totally different teams current in Hongoi: The Dayak Modang, a minority Indigenous folks with roots within the area who settled within the village in 1941; Bugis pioneers, who started migrating from Sulawesi island within the Nineteen Seventies; and “new Bugis” who arrived within the 2000s.

They discovered that the Modang and the Bugis pioneers, who had established landholdings previous to the intensification of business logging and agriculture, had been higher in a position to face up to the adjustments than the brand new Bugis, who stay trapped in a cycle of prospectless poverty with out wealth or land of their very own to cushion them from the impacts of plantations and mining.

Ladies had been additionally discovered to have been significantly affected, dropping social affect on account of authorities insurance policies that now require land to be registered beneath the male head of family for possession to be recognised.

Prospects for youthful generations have shrunk to dependency on low paid plantation work. And farming households with no monetary cushion now face uncooked publicity to more and more frequent crop failure.

Palm oil plantations where Adat Modang forests once stood in Hongoi.
Palm oil plantations the place Adat Modang forests as soon as stood in Hongoi. Picture courtesy of Tessa Toumbourou.

Divided we fall

As folks double down on defending what they’ll of their very own dwindling livelihood prospects, “processes that sharpen inequalities between and throughout folks of various social teams” have been set in movement, Toumbourou stated.

NGOs have aided Indigenous peoples throughout Indonesia to leverage ethnic markers to withstand industrial destruction of their panorama. They’ve labored with Modang teams to help resistance, together with facilitating forest mapping and issuing Adat (customary) fines to corporations that lower down timber or trespass with out Adat approval.

Nonetheless, in Hongoi and elsewhere, migrants just like the Bugis are usually not included even when they’ve lived within the area for many years. This, the research argues, scuppers potential for unified resistance to the unfavourable results of business extraction.

“Any advocacy in favour of the discriminated and oppressed will be criticised for sharpening social divides,” Marcus Colchester, senior coverage advisor with the Forest Peoples Programme, a UK and Netherlands based mostly NGO working to safe rights for Indigenous peoples, together with these in East Kalimantan, advised Mongabay. “However social reforms to uphold Indigenous peoples’ rights are lengthy overdue.”

Hongoi resident, Petrus Nit, in what remains of the old forest close to his village.
Hongoi resident, Petrus Nit, in what stays of the outdated forest near his village. Picture courtesy of Tessa Toumbourou.

Is it fixable?

When native persons are lower out of income and determination making, the method of extraction can catalyze a vicious spiral that ultimately maintains itself: The extra extractive corporations degrade the panorama, the tighter native livelihoods are squeezed, the better social divides turn into, the weaker grows potential for resistance, the extra locals launch extra land to outlive, the much less survival is feasible.

“All are impacted by the results of business palm oil,” Toumbourou stated. However recognising that not all are impacted equally by extractive trade is necessary.

“How and why historic processes of extractivism and land accumulation work…can present deeper insights into how social differentiation and livelihood insecurity unfolds” the paper says.

Toumbourou says she hopes a rising motion within the area to construct stronger, cross-group alliances will higher signify and assist shield the livelihoods of all folks topic to catastrophic land use change.

Banner picture: Clearing a web site with dynamite to entry the vein of coal in East Kalimantan, Indonesia. Picture by Cassidy Okay. / ILO through Flickr (CC BY-NC-ND 2.0).


Toumbourou, T. D., Dressler, W. H., & Werner, T. T. (2022). Plantations enabling mines: Incremental industrial extraction, social differentiation and livelihood change in East Kalimantan, Indonesia. Land Use Coverage, 119, 106157.

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Agriculture, Coal, Conservation, Deforestation, Degraded Lands, Surroundings, Environmental Legislation, Environmental Politics, Forest Destruction, Forests, Land Battle, Land Grabbing, Land Rights, Land Use Change, Logging, Mining, Monocultures, Oil Palm, Palm Oil, Plantations, Rainforest Deforestation, Rainforest Destruction, Rainforests, Threats To Rainforests, Tropical Forests