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Managing forest resources in Thailand and the Philippines

Public Policy and Forest Management in Thailand

While Thailand lacks the colonial legacy of Indonesia, her forest-management system is very similar to that of her neighbour. This may be due in pan to the important role Europeans played in the development of forest-management concepts and practices in Thailand. In 1896, the British forester H. Slade trained the staff of the newly established Royal Forest Department. Poffenberger (1990b) cites a reference to the late-nineteenthcentury observer in Chiang Mai:

In his work in organizing the Department, Slade naturally met with a good deal of opposition from the local northern chiefs, on whose preserves he had naturally to encroach to a large extent; but in the end, after a hard fight, he won his battle, and this victory weakened the position of the chiefs, who never regained their former prestige. Slade may be said, therefore, to have played an important part in consolidating the Siamese Kingdom (Riggs (1966) cited in Poffenberger (1990b: 18)).

Thus, the Royal Forest Department, as in the Philippines and Indonesia, played a key role in extending the authority of the state over the land rights of indigenous peoples.

The literature on traditional forest-management systems in Thailand is sparse. Swidden cultivators (that is, the Lua', Karen) in the north are reported to have had forestmanagement regimes similar to those found among the Dayaks in Kalimantan, but little has been written about these systems (Kunstadter, 1978). This does not mean, however, that they are not operating in Thailand. In Nepal, their existence was hardly reported before about 1975, but it is now known that traditional forest-management systems have long existed throughout the country.

The history of forest tenure in Thailand is complex. Hafner (1990) and Pragtong and Thomas (1990) have published excellent studies. In 1975, the RFD established the Forest Village Program, under which communities living on state lands were resettled in selected forest areas to supply labour for forest production. However, because forest village projects required heavy capital investment to build community infrastructure, the programme moved slowly and affected few communities. To accelerate the recognition of forest occupants' rights, a land-certification (STK) programme was set up in 1982. Experience indicates that, contrary to expectation, this plan resulted in increased immigration and forest deterioration (Ayuwat, 1990). In 1988, an unusually heavy rainstorm in southern Thailand resulted in a wave of floods and landslides, destroying villages and leaving more than 200 dead. Soon after this event-attributed to forest destruction-the Thai Parliament banned commercial logging in reserved forests and revoked all concessions. In the early 1990s, Thailand is in the process of designing new forest legislation. But, as in Nepal, the change of heart comes too late; most forests have already been destroyed. Fortunately, many villages (if not hundreds of them) have taken action into their own hands.

Lohmann (1991) cites the example of farmers in Ban Toong Yao in Lampoon province. Farmers in this village have, over 60 years, developed a set of written community laws that dictate how the local forest is to be used. Trees can only be cut for genuine necessities, such as to build houses for newlyweds. Those who fell trees for sale on the market or for other purposes face penalties handed down by the village government. These penalties cannot be treated as mere 'costs' by budding timber entrepreneurs, since they also involve a considerable social stigma. The group of villagers who govern the local traditional irrigation system also inspect the forest, taking note of users, reasons for cutting and when it is cut, and preventing exploitation by outsiders; but all locals are responsible for taking whatever action is necessary to ensure that the forest is protected as a source of water, food, medicine and wood. In carrying out this task, Ban Toong Yao villagers do not want the assistance of the government. 'All the government has to do is recognize our rights to it,' says one leader. 'We want to take care of it ourselves, and we can do that better than anyone else' (Lohmann, 1991: 10).

Unfortunately, current forest policy in Thailand does not recognize local forestmanagement systems and most forest-management activities practiced by communities such as Ban Toong Yao are illegal. The RFD has proposed a draft Community Forestry Act, which will empower Thai communities to manage local forest resources (Attanatho, 1991). The details of this programme, however, are not yet clear and even if the Cabinet ratifies the draft proposal, much work remains to be done to develop procedures for implementing these proposals.

Public Policy and Forest Management in the Philippines

Land tenure in the Philippines rests on a concept known as the Regalian Doctrine. This official view holds that since Ferdinand Magellan discovered the Philippines in 1521, all lands not covered by official certificates of title are presumed to be owned by the state. Indigenous people who did not acquire official documentation recognizing their property rights from the colonial bureaucracy are presumed to be squatters on lands owned by the government. In addition, until 'public' land is certified by the DENR to be alienable and disposable, the government maintains that private ownership rights cannot be recognized. As a result, most forest occupants have no incentive to manage the land they occupy (Lynch and Talbott, 1988).

Today the Republic of the Philippines claims ownership to more than 62 per cent of the country's total land area; most of it is located in the mountainous interiors of the major islands. Of the more than 18.6 million hectares classified as 'public' lands in 1987, 15 million hectares were controlled by the DENR. Cruz (1986a) estimated that, as at 1980, at least 14.4 million people resided on these lands.

To provide local people with the security of tenure necessary to encourage investments in land management, the DENR has established a number of programmes to assist forest occupants in documenting their property rights and making claims to state forest lands. These programmes include the Integrated Social Forestry (ISF) Program, the National Forestation Program (NFP) and the Ancestral Land Delineation Task Forces (TF-AD) (Gasponia, 1991).

The ISF Program is centred on the concept of stewardship. Upland dwellers within public forest lands can secure a certificate of stewardship from the DENR and acquire exclusive rights to use and occupy land for 25 years, and they are renewable for a funkier 25 years. Stewardship certificates are issued to individuals and to associations or indigenous communities.

The NFP offers livelihood opportunities to upland dwellers in a variety of ways. One programme, Contract Reforestation, provides short-term employment for replanting government reforestation projects. A subsequent agreement, the Forest Lease Management Agreement (FLMA), allows lease holders to harvest, process, sell or otherwise utilize the products grown on land covered by the agreement for a period similar to the ISF.

Finally, the DENR is presently undertaking a nationwide delineation of ancestral domains, through regional and provincial TF-ADs, as a service to Philippine indigenous cultural communities. The task forces seek to delineate the boundaries of ancestral domains through actual ground survey and, in the process, identify the specific indigenous cultural groups that have rights to these areas as their traditional territories. The communities or individual members thereof are eventually issued Certificates of Ancestral Land Claims (CALC).

While, as in Nepal, these programmes were only initiated after most forests were cut and degraded, the DENR should be credited for providing the means of empowering people to manage local forests. In addition, the Philippines should be acknowledged as the only South-East Asian country to have established procedures for recognizing the rights of indigenous peoples to their traditional homelands.

Management of marine resources

Public Policy and Marine Resources in the Makassar Strait, Indonesia

Moving into a different environment, this chapter now looks at an example of the effects of public policy on the management of coastal resources. Before and during the Dutch colonial rule of Indonesia, which ended in 1949, many small-scale coastal societies throughout the archipelago practiced various forms of limiting and regulating access to marine resources. These common practices may be grouped into three categories of management strategy: entry prohibitions to the fishery based on temporal criteria (seasons, calendar cycle, ritual); entry limitations based on particular groups of people or individuals; and open access, but permission required and fees or rents paid for the rights to fish or for the amount of the catch (Polunin, 1984).2 By contrast, both colonial and post-colonial Indonesian law asserts open-access regimes in marine and coastal environments. In addition, judicial decisions and administrative policies have eroded the power of traditional tenure rights.

Case-study: Roppong Fisheries in the Makassar Strair

Since the late nineteenth century at least, the fishermen of the Mandar area of South Sulawesi (Makassar Strait) have constructed rafts (roppong) which function as floating fishing devices. Fronds of green banana leaves attached to the underside of the roppong attract migrating schools of fish.

Traditional practices, property rights and procedures regulating claims and disputes among roppong fishermen in Mandar include open site selection, subject to certain limitations, namely: (i) once a roppong is successfully anchored and its position stabilized, that roppong acquires priority rights, particularly the right to control the area around its location, and the right to exclude or destroy unstable roppong entangled in its anchor lines or interfering in its operation; and (ii) distances between roppong are informally set at 'as far away as the eye could see'.

When one roppong is carried by the wind or current into another's territory, the long lines of the unstable craft frequently become entangled with the stable roppong's lines. The constant, mutual abrasion of these lines eventually severs both from their moorings. To avoid devastating economic losses associated with these events, Mandar fishermen vested priority rights in successfully anchored roppong. The owners of a primary or stable roppong are empowered with the right to destroy the intruder (unstable roppong) by severing its lines and setting it adrift. The right to destroy the unstable craft, however, was limited. Primary owners first had to convene a meeting, at which they consulted with the intruding roppong's owners before deciding upon a solution.

Until the mid-1970s, the frequency of conflict between entangled roppong was probably insignificant, because the number of rafts in the area was limited. After the mid1970s, resilient, more durable polyethylene lines, in conjunction with the use of powerful outboard motors, stimulated the installation of a fleet of new roppong up to 30 kilometres off the Mandar coast. Under these conditions, local practices regulating rights among adjacent owners apparently failed to prevent overcrowding, conflict and overfishing. Although the customary rule regulated relationships between owners, it failed to establish clear spatial boundaries and minimum distances between roppong

In 1988, these problems crystallized in the first roppong fisheries case brought to court, tried and decided by the Pengadilan Negeri Majene (the equivalent of a district court). In March 1986, a crew of roppong fishermen had towed a new raft out into the Makassar Strait. They reached the vicinity of a previously launched craft that had been anchored for many months. As they passed, the crew of the anchored roppong raised its flag, signalling danger and warning the new crew not to drop their anchor. The arriving crew noted the raised danger flag, ignored the warning and launched the roppong 500-1000 metres away.

Over a period of months, the new craft drifted closer to the primary roppong. When it presented an imminent threat of entanglement, the owner of the stable craft attempted to convene a meeting with the intruding crew. After failing to arrange a meeting, the crew of the primary roppong cut the anchor lines and towed the secondary craft out to sea.

The owner of the secondary craft reported these incidents to the police and charges were filed. The court found the owner of the primary roppong and seven members of the crew guilty of intentionally and wilfully using violence against the secondary roppong and sentenced them to two months in jail. They were also fined under civil tort claims for damages caused by the loss of the roppong.

The court invalidated the Mandar fishermen's customary practices permitting the severance of an intruding roppong's lines and, furthermore, asserted that these customs must be 'nullified' or 'abolished' (dihapuskan) (Petusan Pengadilan Negeri Majene No. 11, hereafter KPNM, 1988). It considered that these practices, 'if tolerated ... may become an obstacle to national development and will also threaten the laws and unity of the people'. Moreover, these customary practices 'will provide opportunities for individuals to play judges themselves, and if this tendency is overlooked and continues to grow, it is not impossible that they will threaten national stability' (KPNM, 1988:73 4).

This decision has convened the Makassar Strait from a common-property resource, managed by traditional rules and regulations, into an open-access resource precisely at a time when steps should have been taken to limit, regulate and rationalize access. By ensuring that claimants of an unstable roppong are given access to the courts and afforded remedies under civil and criminal statutes, the decision constitutes an invitation to newcomers to increase their roppong holdings in any location they wish. At the same time, the decision diminishes local confidence in traditional rules and local disputeresolution practices and institutions.

The government of Indonesia actively promotes settlement and development activities in the coastal zone. These inshore areas are consequently subject to resource overexploitation and environmental degradation. As one way of coping with these problems, a growing number of resource managers are suggesting that elements of traditional systems of marine tenure be incorporated into contemporary coastal resourcemanagement programmes (see, for example, Ruddle and Johannes, 1985). In the South Pacific, for example, this strategy has been endorsed through such agreements as the 1982 South Pacific Declaration on Natural Resources and the Environment, which encourages local conservation practices and traditional systems of land and reef tenure that are appropriate for modern resource management (South Pacific Commission, 1982). In Indonesia, however, as the example cited above demonstrates, policy makers are more interested in destroying local systems of management than in adapting these practices to meet current needs.

Discussion of common property management

The above case-studies suggest that the forest and maritime communities of South-East Asia possess a wealth of knowledge about their environment and the ways to manage it in a sustainable manner to meet their needs. In the past, forest and marine resources have been regulated by customary land laws, religious beliefs and peer (group) pressure. Villagers viewed their forest and marine environments as inalienable resources to be passed from one generation to the next. Over the centuries, these communities developed social and technological strategies to respond to diverse ecological settings.

Today, while the viability of many indigenous resource-use systems has been substantially eroded, customary laws and local regulation continue to play an important role in sustainable resource-management practices throughout the region; their relevance in this day and age demonstrates the flexibility of these systems. Villagers have continually modified, reshaped or revitalized these systems to make them instruments of local control. With support, they can be adapted to meet the pressures from states, markets and environmental depletion.

Society must be careful, however, not to romanticize the role of community control or indigenous management systems. Not all native societies are environmentally benign. There are examples of pioneer societies, such as the Hmong in North Thailand, who are known to exploit their environment (Keen, 1978). At least two questions concerning community systems deserve funkier research. First, how do these systems deal with pioneer situations? Do resources have to become scarce before community management systems are developed? Secondly, how effectively do these systems manage highly valued resources'? Community management in Nepal may work because forest resources in Nepal are of marginal value. Ironwood in Kalimantan, however, presents another problem. Given the monetary value of the timber species, can a community management system, even one sanctioned by law, ever control the exploitation of this resource?

Since the colonial period, South-East Asian states have increasingly vested control of the region's forest and marine resources in centralized resource-management agencies. Land legislation either ignored or gave little recognition to the customary rights of indigenous communities. Today, the acceleration of deforestation and the destruction of marine environments indicate that these centralized agencies are failing to manage the resources in a sustainable manner. While many scientists argue that environmental problems in South-East Asia are the result of population growth and the commercialization of natural resources, the most significant factor may be the failure of existing institutional arrangements to promote the rational management of scarce resources. National and local policies must change to meet the demands of a changing world.

While sustainability is now accepted as a constraint on economic development, few experts agree on its definition. Through these case-studies, this chapter argues that sustainable resource use in a crowded world depends on the establishment of direct linkages between people's uses of the environment and the personal consequences of those uses. Sustainable resource-management efforts need to emphasize some form of community control and management of local resources.

Efforts to ensure sustainable management of natural resources through decentralized control of national territory face many difficulties. Forest and maritime organizations that attempt to implement such policies are subject to the influence of political, military and commercial interests. The good intentions of these organizations are generally constrained by a complex and changing national policy environment, which often produces laws and regulations that inhibit attempts to decentralize management to and extend increased responsibilities for resource administration to community groups. Many South-East Asian governments are still in the process of extending their authority funkier into local communities, thus, eroding traditional rights and responsibilities.

Despite these problems, foresters in Indonesia. Thailand and the Philippines are attempting to establish policies and procedures for transferring management authority to forest communities. These efforts usually involve co-operation between the state agency and the local community in designing and implementing policies. It is beyond the scope of this chapter to describe these efforts but joint management programmes, such as social forestry, show greater potential for rehabilitating degraded forests and checking further deterioration than do other management efforts. Success depends upon village societies becoming partners with government agencies in managing local resources: ultimately, this will require a national political commitment to resolving resource-management problems and to increasing agency cooperation with local communities. As Poffenberger (1990b: 23) writes, 'It is probably safe to assume that broad-based adoption of joint management systems will not occur before the end of the millennium.'

  1. This study is based on fieldwork conducted by Nancy Peluso ( 1991 ) in 1989 The pseudonym used for the village is Sungai Dalam, approximately meaning deep or inland river
  2. For a more detailed discussion of traditional marine tenure systems in South-East Asia. see Zerner ( 1990)
  3. This study is based on fieldwork conducted by Charles Zerner (1990)
  4. For a detailed description of social forestry programmes in South - East Asia see Poffenberger 1990c ).

Threatened places: A regional view

Hazards and response
Traditional resource management
Editorial comment


THE two papers by Morgan and Fox deal with important issues in Asia and, in particular, South-East Asia. Many places in the latter region are threatened- threats which have significant consequences for the sustainability of the future environment in the region. The comments here are intended to add more information on the situation.

Hazards and response

Meteorological and Geophysical Hazards

Morgan's paper has primarily discussed the natural hazards. However, he limits himself to the meteorological and geophysical hazards of typhoons, volcanic eruptions, earthquakes and tsunamis. Landslides, which occur quite frequently in this region, have been omitted. In the 1950s, a huge landslide buried villages in the Dieng region in Central Java, and in late 1989, another large one occurred in West Sumatra. Many people were affected in this landslide. The landslides often disrupted road transportation as well. In unstable areas, human activities, such as road construction and rice fields, can intensify the risk. Many of the landslide-prone areas have been mapped.

Biological Hazards

Morgan has also ignored biological hazards, which are important in this region. Mosquitoes transmit many diseases, such as malaria, filariasis and dengue haemorrhagic fever; and schistosomes carry with them the debilitating bilharziasis disease. About 80 per cent of Indonesians harbour parasitic worms. Some diseases (malaria and dengue haemorrhagic fever) are widespread; others (bilharziasis) are localized. In Indonesia, only Java can be considered free of malaria, except for small pockets in coastal areas and some places in the mountains. Bilharziasis is found in an isolated area around Lake Lindu in Central Sulawesi, and in other places in Asia as well.

Some biological hazards (malaria and bilharziasis) are natural, although the spread and intensity of outbreaks are often influenced by human activities. The development of irrigation in Central Sulawesi, for example, has aroused concern among parasitologists that it may facilitate the spread of bilharziasis. Other biological hazards (cholera and hepatitis) are primarily the results of human activities, which are brought about by increasing population densities and unsatisfactory control of sanitary conditions. The diseases have caused misery and deaths, and the chronic nature of some have undoubtedly also reduced the productivity of many millions of people.

Human response to biological hazards has been researched in order to gain more understanding of the biology of the pathogens, their vectors and the physiological response of the human body to disease. The knowledge gained has been successfully used to control many diseases by vaccination, medication, eradication of the vectors by biocides and environmental engineering, and better health services.

Man-made Hazards

Man-made hazards are not discussed by Morgan, except those in the marine environment, although they are becoming ever more important in the region. Transportation and industries are important sources of pollution, and their rates of growth are high. Pollution can also occur as a result of accidents; some could be very serious: witness the Bhopal and Chemobyl disasters in India and the Ukraine respectively. The risk of tanker accidents is also not negligible in the regional seas.

Another man-made hazard is land subsidence which has been reported in Bangkok and Jakarta. These areas have become more prone to floods and, hence, will suffer from inundation by future sea-level rise.

Generally, pollution control is still weak in the region, and perhaps all metropolitan and industrial areas, with the exception of Singapore, are badly polluted. The extraction of underground water is also weakly controlled.

Potential Future Hazards

Potential future hazards are discussed by Morgan, and the sea-level rise has been singled out. However, he has discussed only inundation. But sea-level rise, if it indeed occurs, will also give rise to and/or intensify problems of seawater intrusion into rivers and underground aquifers, and of coastal erosion. The transmigration villages in the tidal areas in southem Kalimantan and eastern Sumatra (in which thousands of families from Java, Madura and Bali have been resettled) and the fish ponds along the long coasts of SouthEast Asia could suffer from both inundation and higher salinities. Salt-water intrusion could plague, for example, Pontianak in Kalimantan, which has periodically suffered from such a problem, and it could render the underground water of Jakarta useless; its quality is already sub-optimal because of salinity problems, presumably due to excessive extraction of underground water. Salt-water intrusion can also endanger the foundations of buildings. While the areas can be relatively easily protected from inundation-a very expensive undertaking-it will be much more difficult to cope with saltwater intrusion.

Another serious problem related to sea-level rise is coastal erosion. According to the Bruun rule, for each centrimetre in sea-level rise, the coastal line will retreat an average of I metre. Thus, with a 20-centimetre sea-level rise, which is considered plausible in the first half of the twenty-first century, the coastline will retreat by 20 metres. Therefore, coastal fish ponds, settlements, industries and hotels, among other activities and structures, which are located within 20 metres from the present coastline would be threatened, even though they would not be inundated.

It has also been predicted that climatic change resulting from global warming could increase the frequency and intensity of storms. However, the degree of uncertainly is still high. Intensive international negotiations, which formed parts of the preparations for the UN Conference on Environment and Development (UNCED) held in Brazil in June 1992, are now under way to reduce emissions of greenhouse gases, but there are still many difficulties before agreement can be reached. Some developing countries feel that they are being unfairly treated, and there are many uncertainties involved.

Still another potential future hazard, one which would affect the region and its people, is the so-called ozone hole which would expose the people to more Ultraviolet-B (UV-B) radiation. Although dark-coloured people are believed to be less sensitive than lightskinned people to the threat of skin cancer caused by UV-B radiation, the effect on cataract formation is known to be undiscriminating. The disease can be corrected by a simple operation, but many people in this region cannot afford such an operation and, hence, an increase in the number of blind people could occur as a consequence of the ozone hole. There are also indications that more UV-B radiation could reduce the yield of crops and fisheries.

There is general agreement that the cause of the ozone hole is the emission of chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs). The Montreal protocol is intended to reduce CFC emissions but, because of their long life, the ozone hole may well last far into the twenty-first century and beyond, even under the best circumstances.

Risk Perception and Assessment

Morgan has discussed at length the theoretical background of natural hazards and human responses. He correctly stated that there is still incomplete knowledge in the way people perceive and assess risks. Although many risks can be evaluated scientifically and objectively, subjective judgement still prevails and may often dominate. Traditional people, who constitute the majority of the inhabitants in this region, are willing to accept certain risks from natural hazards, partly because when a hazard strikes they consider it an act of God, and partly because resettlement somewhere else, if such is possible, brings new uncertainties which are considered more hazardous than the current risk they are facing. The resettlement by transmigration of the people on the slope of Mount Merapi and in Dieng, both in Central Java, for example, has met with considerable resistance. Many people who did transmigrate returned to their original habitation; the soils in the resettlement areas were less fertile than in their home villages.

Subjective assessment is also very common with educated people. For instance, accidents are far more likely to take place on roads than in nuclear plants, yet many people refuse to accept the risk of radioactive exposure resulting from relatively rare nuclear accidents, but they are willing to accept the far higher risk of death in road accidents.

Many studies have been carried out on risk perception, assessment and management. Since they are strongly influenced by culture and education, it would be useful for such studies to be introduced and/or strengthened in South-East Asian universities and research institutes, in order that policies for dealing with risk management can be based on more reliable scientific bases.

Traditional resource management

Fox's paper has considered traditional versus government management of common properties. It is hypothesized that local traditional management is superior to a centralized government management. Although this is true in many instances, Fox warns society 'not to romanticize the role of community control or indigenous management systems'. In addition to the fact that not all indigenous systems are benign to the environment. he correctly asserts that the social and economic changes which are occurring in this region are also affecting many communities. Studies in East Kalimantan have shown that, even in remote areas, communities have been influenced by the market economy. As a result, they grow food and other commodities not only for their subsistence but also to sell them in the market. This requires a surplus, such as rice, which in turn makes it necessary to clear more forest for shifting cultivation. It also shortens the slash-and-burn cycle which makes it more difficult for the forest to regenerate.

It has also been suggested that to make the harvest of forests sustainable, non-wood products (for example, rattan) and different kinds of latex, fruits and bamboo should be substituted for wood. This will only be successful if the harvest of these non-wood products remains at a low and subsistence level, as mentioned by Fox in the case of a village which refrained from exploiting rattan for commercial purposes. If the alternative product satisfies the demands of national and international markets. traders will lure local people to supply them with the desired quantity of the commodities and over-exploitation would soon occur, with disastrous effects on the environment. This excessive harvest would not be sustainable. Few local people, including their leaders, would be able to resist the temptation to enjoy such amenities as radios. tape recorders, televisions, cameras and other modern gadgets.

Population growth is another important factor which may threaten the sustainability of traditional management. It is widely known that in many places, it forces people to shorten the slash-and-burn cycle, to the extent that the forest is replaced by shrubs or even a/ang-ulang grass (Imperata cylindrica). Although the alang-alang is not always useless or noxious, it poses fire hazards, and in many places, it is not desired. Given time, communities could presumably adapt management methods to the changing situation. An example is the shifting cultivators in a/ang-alang regions in North Sumatra.

Another interesting example is the talun-kebun method in West Java. This is essentially shifting cultivation in a talun. which can be a monoculture of bamboo (talun bambu) or a mixed culture of perennials with some annuals. In the case of a talun bambu) a patch of about 1 000 square metres is cleared by harvesting the bamboo. In a mixed culture, trees to be harvested (for example, Albizzia falcataria are selectively cut and the branches of those left standing are pruned and used for firewood. Small twigs and leaves are sun dried and burned. Annuals, such as tobacco, onions, lablab beans (Dolichos lablab), and cassava are planted in the clearings created by treefelling. Fertilizers and compost from the village are applied. Bamboo, logs of the harvested trees and products from annual crops, are sold in local markets and nearby cities. After the harvest of annual crops, the bamboo and perennials have resprouted and regrown. Another patch is harvested and the process repeated. In the region studied, the slash-and-burn cycle was eight years. In this modified shifting-cultivation system. the natural forest has been replaced by the talun and the crops have been selected to suit the market economy. The system is capable of supporting higher population densities than can be sustained by a traditional shifting-cultivation method.

In West Java, fish ponds are traditionally used to recycle wastes, including human excrete, by building overhangs to serve as latrines. However, the people do not use the water from the polluted pond for their daily needs: instead, they pipe it from upstream sources by using bamboo. When population density was low, the interval between use and reuse, both in terms of space and time, was great. The water had sufficient time to undergo a natural repurification process and the system worked well. However, with the growth of population, the interval between use and reuse became smaller and smaller, until finally the water did not have sufficient time for repurification. Outbreaks of diarrhoea have now become common. These outbreaks have undoubtedly been factors in the high infant mortality rate in West Java.

The above examples show that, in some instances, the indigenous people do indeed have the wisdom to develop alternative methods which show every indication of being sustainable. In others. however, modifications to the traditional systems had proved unsustainable. There are also cases in which methods remain constant and, although basically they are ecologically sound, they are maladapted to the changing environment and may even become hazardous. Adaptation is possible if people perceive the changes, and these changes are slow and not too radical. Even when the changes are slow, but if they are not perceived by the people, then failure is the result. This is reflected in the fish ponds of West Java. Therefore, successful adaptation and adjustment may be the exception rather than the rule, particularly when environmental changes are rapid and occur on a large scale.

Consequently, the general assumption that traditional wisdom can deal with the problems if only the people are left alone cannot be made. In many cases, intervention will be needed, but it is not easy to devise a management system in a changing world. Another major challenge is how to do it wisely, that is, not to impose a top-down process but to co-operate with the people. To achieve this goal, government officials and scientists must recognize that villagers, even in remote areas, do have ecological knowledge and wisdom which can be tapped and productively used in the process of devising an adaptive management system.

Editorial comment

The discussion focused on the institutional issues raised, in the contexts of hazard impact and changes in the conditions of exploitation. It was suggested that the question of disaster relief has become so politicized that politics, rather than the nature of the event, may really determine what does or does not happen. It was also asked if indigenous institutional arrangements really related to environmental resource management, or simply to property, and should be interpreted as an outcome or resolution of conflict over scarce resources (McCay and Acheson, 1987). In this case, it would not be surprising that when the conditions of conflict change, so do the arrangements. Conditions of access to property change, but do not collapse. In this view, environmental conservation and environmental degradation are unintended side-effects of the different conflict resolutions.

James Fox called attention to the shifting nature of biological hazards. Problems change, go away or resurge over time, presenting new environmental hazards and challenges. Twenty or more years ago, there was great confidence that malaria was on its way out as a major hazard in most parts of South-East Asia. Now, everywhere there is a resurgence. Mosquito species have changed habitats, and the parasite itself has changed. Worst of all, where formerly P. vivax ma/aria was the principal form in the region, now P. falciparum has increased to become dominant, with no really reliable prophylaxis. This serious development is symbolic of a good deal that has happened in the biological field in the last 20 years.

14. On threatened peoples

Threatened peoples: Contrasts in composition and environment
Tribal peoples of south-east Asia: Causes and nature of threat
The indigenous socio-economic system: Is it sustainable?
The penan and the timber blockade
Responses to the problems of the threatened peoples of south-east Asia



THE countries of South-East Asia display remarkable ethnic and social as well as economic and environmental diversity. Almost every one of these countries comprise a multitude of ethnic, social and economic (and political) divisions. In the early 1990s, after almost three decades of rapid economic growth, during which parts of the region and its people have come to share more social characteristics with the developed nations than with the underdeveloped, the disparity between the rich and poor socio-economic groups is widening in almost all these countries. Thus, poverty (both urban and rural) and socioeconomic inequality remain on the central agenda in development planning.

Malaysia serves as a good example. Notwithstanding two decades of concerted efforts, which sometimes have involved the deliberate mobilization of political authority-and its social and economic power-to achieve national unity through the eradication of poverty and the restructuring of the economy, these goals remain as ever on the agenda. The New Development Plan (NDP) of 1991 now hopes to achieve these objectives only by 2020 (Government of Malaysia, 1991b). Regional disparities in economic benefits and differences between ethnic groups remain among the problem issues in ethnic and political relationships. Yet Malaysia has recorded significant progress in poverty alleviation and redistribution of wealth; official figures on poverty show an overall decline from 64 per cent at the start of the implementation of its New Economic Policy (NEP) in 1970 to approximately 29.2 per cent in 1984 (Government of Malaysia, 1986).

In South-East Asia, Malaysia is among the forerunners in social and economic development. However, this chapter emphasizes that, in many cases, the degree of improvement differs widely between the urban and rural poor, between the different components of the agricultural sector, and between different ethnic groups. In some cases, the percentage figures provide a misleading picture: for example, while the income level of the lowest four deciles of the population of Peninsular Malaysia increased from M$76 in 1970 to M$186 per month in 1979-more than a twofold increase-the later income figure is still well below the poverty income level for 1979 (Government of Malaysia, 1986).

The same plan admitted that since the late 1970s, the performance of the agricultural sector in Malaysia had not only declined but the number of smallholder farmers with plots of uneconomic size was still very high. Elsewhere in SouthEast Asia, similar situations, especially among the rural sectors of the economies, are also observed. In Thailand, a study conducted by the International Labour Organization noted that despite the resilient nature of the overall economy and despite the dynamism of commercial agriculture and the strength of exports, the incidence of tenancy and landlessness in fact increased, especially in the frontier areas (Peter Richards, 1982).

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