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Life support and deforestation

The new agricultural populations

A major justification for deforestation lies in the settlement of large numbers of new farmers on land that was formerly forest. As reviewed in chapter 3, this has taken different forms in Malaysia and in Indonesia. Malaysian settlement has been dominated by officially sponsored resettlement on quite large cash-crop blocks within an agro-industrial system. In Indonesia, both officially sponsored and spontaneous settlers have, until very recently, been involved primarily in production for their own subsistence. Comparative data are hard to establish, and even in Malaysia data have become more vague in recent years as the resettlement drive has run into difficulties.

Problems in Kalimantan

After nearly 400,000 officially sponsored transmigrants went to Kalimantan between 1980 and 1985 (World Bank, 1988), numbers of new arrivals have been lower, though they are now slowly rising again (Statistik Indonesia, 1992). Spontaneous migrants (mainly from Sulawesi) have gone in large numbers to East Kalimantan, while the other provinces have received significant inflows from Madura. The highest concentration of official schemes has been in South and West Kalimantan, where many have been in tidal swamp areas, which we discuss separately below. Although land selection has been aided in recent years by the research of the Regional Physical Planning Pro gramme for Transmigration (RePPProT, 1985, 1987a, 1987b), most nowoccupied sites were set up earlier, and a number of these are on poor soils and in remote locations (Hardjono, 1977: 67-78; 1986). Whatever the quality of land made available, each settler family was allocated 2 ha, one near the house to function in part as the house yard, the other further away, intended for permanent tree crops or extension of the food-crop area. Often this second hectare has remained uncleared because of household labour shortages.

Not all of the land was originally under dipterocarp forest or even tidal swamp; grassland locations were common. Wet-rice growing has been practiced where possible, as this is the type of agriculture most familiar to settlers who come overwhelmingly from Java, but this has been possible only on a minority of sites. In the uplands, dry-rice yields usually decline after a couple of years. Studies of individual transmigrant settlements (e.g. ORSTOM, 1984) have concluded that incomes are too low for migrants to live from their farms alone. In accessible districts most farmers, both local and transmigrant, are involved in off-farm work (Arman, 1987). In remote areas many settlers often end up practicing shifting cultivation, ironically under the tutelage of the very locals whose farming system they were supposed, by example, to improve (Hidayati, 1991, 1994). Some settlers, anticipating irrigation infrastructure, have had to use dry-farming methods for as much as 14 years before this was provided (Hidayati, 1991).

Transmigrants who arrived in Kalimantan in the early 1980s faced additional problems of severe drought, leading to crop failure. The two very dry years 1982-1983 were followed by further droughts in 1987 and 19911993. Even without these extra difficulties, transmigrant smallholder foodcrop agriculture, as practiced on the soils of Kalimantan, is likely to lead at best to poverty, probably also to erosion or other environmental problems, and in some cases to eventual abandonment. A list of the 37 least successful transmigration projects as of April 1983 (IIED/GOI, 1985, Annex D) included 10 from Kalimantan, and Hardjono's (1977) dismal conclusions concerning all but a few of the Kalimantan projects then active are not greatly in need of modification. The settlements seemingly doomed to failure include several unwisely located on kerangas soils, such as those described in chapter 1.

Almost all of the recommendations for new transmigrant sites in the RePPProT reports are prefaced by warnings that tree-crop projects only are suitable. In recent years there has finally been a shift away from food-crop schemes toward the tree-crop alternative. Sev eral PIR (Perkebunan Inti Rakyat) smallholder cash-crop schemes have been established around a central processing facility or existing government estate. Settlers are given 2 ha of tree-crop and 0.5-1 ha of food-crop land for subsistence, and earn money both as labourers on the estate and by working their own holdings. Although rubber projects have been most common in Kalimantan, coconut, oil-palm, and cocoa, even sugar cane, have also been introduced, and there are plans for rattan. Many of the newer schemes are quite large. One very large palm oil project in West Kalimantan had the physical appearance, in its early stages in 1991 and 1992, of the huge Pahang Tenggara settlement areas in the eastern Peninsula at a similar stage a few years earlier. In all these projects, the possibility of much better income levels than in the food-crop schemes, as well as greater environmental protection, have been noted (World Bank, 1989). It must be remembered, however, that prices received for these products are notoriously variable on the world market. Such developments are also much more expensive than food-crop projects.

Especially in East Kalimantan, however, many settlers arrive independently. The most famous of these are the oft-described Bugis pepper growers from Sulawesi, who are settled along the Balikpapan-Samarinda road in East Kalimantan. Vayda and Sahur (1985), who studied some of these farmers in both Sulawesi and Kalimantan in 1980 and 1984, maintained that this production, which began in 1961, is essentially transitory, as are the growers. They claimed that pepper production without fertilizer on these so-described Ultisols was unlikely to last more than 10 years before declining yields necessitated abandonment. However, the generic view of "Ultisols" may need to be modified, as we proposed in chapter 1. Inoue and Lahjie (1990) suggest that the cycle may be 15 years, and there is some hint that fertilizer may now be applied. Potter has seen serious erosion in the sloping, clean-weeded fields, but there was little obvious sign of retreat by the settlers up to 1992, although there are abandoned fields interspersed among the healthy crops.

A good deal of criticism has also focused on the impact of spontaneous migrants who follow the timber contractors and settle along the logging roads, destroying forest as they go. We believe this to be exaggerated, as often these roads, where they survive, are quite empty of settlers. Local villagers may move from locations nearby to take advantage of the transportation possibilities provided by the road, but these are not "new" settlers. Nevertheless, where there is a tradition of spontaneous migration, as in East Kalimantan, incoming settlers move into logged-over forests in the most accessible districts, because they are easier to clear, especially if illegal loggers have also been active. Hidayati (1991) quotes from Franz (1988) figures of 400 km˛of forest being cleared by 25,000 spontaneous migrants in East Kalimantan. One may also presume that most spontaneous settlers pick their land more carefully than do officials selecting sites for others.

Problems in the Peninsula and Sabah

Although some land developments in the Peninsula and Sabah, and all the little that has been undertaken in Sarawak, have been conducted by underfunded state agencies, the greater part has been heavily capitalized and managed by FELDA (Bahrin and Perera, 1977). Between 1971 and 1990 a total of over 15,025 km˛_ a small part in Sabah - had been developed by this and other agencies, or with the active participation of FELDA (Government of Malaysia, 1981, 1986, 1991a). This was equal to 55 per cent of the total Peninsular agricultural area in 1966 and 30 per cent of the 1982 area, by the land-use surveys of these two dates. Over 300 occupied FELDA settlements, covering some 6,000 km2, had an estimated population of 680,000 in 1989.

Although their production and marketing were tightly controlled, these people had become substantial farmers, with areas of from 4 to 6.5 ha under oil-palm, rubber, cocoa, and some other crops. All preparatory work, including the establishment of tree crops, was completed for them under contract before arrival. Problems of soil loss, and difficulties caused by soil compaction under heavy machinery during site preparation (Mohd Nor Zakaria et al., 1985), were managed with assistance from the scheme staff, and fairly substantial inputs of chemical fertilizer became general during the 1980s. Since soil selection had basically been quite good, nothing resembling the problems faced by many Indonesian transmigrants arose. Possibly, as Goodland, Asibey, and Post (1990: 311) suggest in a more general context, "it may merely be that unsustainability takes longer to become noticeable in treebased than other farming." Be this as it may, settlers of 20 years' standing on the Peninsula widely expressed satisfaction, even though they had heavy debts to repay (World Bank, 1987). By 1985 FELDA seemed in sight of its target of developing 8,000 km˛and settling 1 million people by 1990 (Land Development Digest, 1985).

Yet, as the 1980s wore on, the whole land settlement drive was clearly confronting growing difficulties. There were several reasons. The first generation of settlers was ageing, and many of their older children had migrated to urban employment (Sutton, 1989). Twothirds of the settler population were children of the original settlers and, of those who had completed schooling, a rising proportion were either unemployed or had left the land (Addnan, 1989). Yet, at this same time, many of the earlier FELDA schemes had become due for replanting.

During the 1980s the land development schemes ceased to be a single group. Beginning in 1977, some settlers on older schemes were given full title to their blocks, the role of FELDA changing to provision of management and services. A share system was initiated, with the backing of FELDA, under which settlers received wages and dividends from the profits of the settlement scheme (Jamaludin, 1988). However, the authoritarian system of FELDA offered little scope for initiative and, among the better-educated younger blockholders, there was increasing reluctance to accept the tight FELDA discipline (World Bank, 1987). This was especially so in Sabah, where settlers were drawn from among the indigenous Sabahan people, who were inexperienced in the conformism imposed from youth on rural Malays (Sutton, 1989). Most settlers wanted to own their own land, and the government was responsive to this wish. In 1988 it was determined that individual ownership should become the general practice, in a bid to make land settlement more attractive in a time of declining recruitment (Shahril and Abdul Aziz, 1989; Sutton, 1989). In Malaysia as a whole from 1970 to 1990 there was, however, a significant shift of GDP and employment from agriculture and forestry into manufacturing, services, mining, and construction. Agriculture and forestry employed 53.5 per cent of the legally recognized workforce in 1970 and only 27.8 per cent in 1990 (Government of Malaysia, 1991b: 41).

In the mid-1980s the world prices of most of Malaysia's exports declined in unison. Depressed prices hit incomes severely; debts accumulated and settlers found it hard to repay their large loans. Moreover, the cost of land preparation, and hence of loans, has risen sharply as clearance has moved into hilly land and more remote areas. There has also been a general escalation of costs. According to two sources, the mean cost of establishing a family on FELDA land rose by 73 per cent between 1976 and 1985 (Drury, 1988), and by 41 per cent between 1980 and 1985 (Chamhuri and Nik Hashim,

1988). At the end of the 1980s the officially stated cost was $M40,500 (c. $US15,200) for oil-palm schemes and $M57,400 (c. $US21,500) for rubber schemes (Government of Malaysia, 1991a). The difference reflects the fact that rubber, rather than oil-palm, is the preferred crop on hilly land; yet incomes from rubber are far lower than those from oil-palm. Both, however, are high figures, well above the cost of establishing Indonesian transmigrants or of redeveloping village land in situ, which has become increasingly important as a development strategy in the Peninsula.

Crisis in Malaysian land settlement

By 1989 over 100 schemes were still without settlers, and by no means all of these were still in the stage of preparation. For the largest - the 1,000 km˛Sahabat complex on the good basaltic soils of eastern Sabah - few settlers had been found by the end of the 1980s, and three whole groups of schemes were almost without settler families. In Sabah as a whole, production much smaller than that of the private sector was sustained only on a plantation-estate basis, using illegal immigrants from the Philippines and Indonesia as the principal source of labour. By 1986 foreign workers already formed 90 per cent of all labour in Sabah agriculture (Pang, 1990). In the Peninsula, dependence on immigrant labour has not increased to Sabah levels but, according to reports throughout the 1980s, most contract workers clearing land have been illegal migrants. It was also increasingly said that these inexpensive workers were being used to maintain production on operative FELDA schemes, while more and more blockholders' families worked in the cities.

In one way or another, shortage of labour now affects most parts of the rural economy in the Peninsula. In regard to the estates, the Minister of Primary Industries stated that, if immigrant labour were to be ''done away with, my whole estate sector will collapse" (Logging and Resources, 1990). By the late 1980s many FELDA schemes were already being operated as though they were estates, in view of the growing difficulty in attracting settlers to the raw environment of remote areas. In these circumstances, and under a new and more restrictive view of national involvement in productive enterprise that emerged after the mid-1980s depression, a significant cut-back in land development on the Peninsula was foreshadowed in 1989 (Government of Malaysia, 1989). Then, under the new five-year plan promulgated in 1991 (Government of Malaysia, 1991a), all new land de velopment by FELDA, anywhere in Malaysia, was to be terminated after completion of ongoing work. The main emphasis in future would be on in situ development in established rural areas.

On management in the FELDA schemes, the plan makes a revealing statement (Government of Malaysia, 1991a: 117):

While focus will be placed on the formation of plantation companies, FELDA will continue to manage its existing land schemes under the individual ownership system to ensure continued growth and production ... [U]nder the plantation companies, land scheme [sic] will be managed as an estate company with the beneficiaries contributing labour and owning equity in lieu of land ownership. This new management concept will be implemented in all FELDA schemes which have yet to recruit settlers ... The activities of plantation management under the equity ownership system will be implemented in 222 FELDA schemes, covering a total area of 300,000 hectares in the Peninsula.

Thus it was publicly revealed that up to 40 per cent of all FELDA land in the Peninsula was without clients and was to be allocated to owners rather than settlers. What has been created de facto is a major extension of the estate sector, mainly dependent on immigrant labour. Clearance of about 3,000 km˛of forest, plus perhaps 1,000 km˛in Sabah, will in effect have achieved a form of trans-border extension of Indonesia's transmigrant scheme, but with source areas in Sumatra and Sulawesi and also the southern Philippines, as well as Java. It remains to be seen how far these new measures to end a major period in the history of the Peninsular environment will succeed. For Sabah, the effect is greater. Although there is a plentiful supply of Indonesian and Filipino migrants to work the "estates," all hopes of developing large new agricultural areas by Sabahan land settlement seem to be at an end.

This immigration, which supports the construction industry and domestic service, as well as agriculture, is reportedly well organized at both sending and receiving ends, and unlikely to be ended easily. The popular Peninsular image of boatloads of immigrants spontaneously crossing the Melaka Strait by night is, so it is reported, by no means the whole story. According to newspaper reports, some detained illegals have, from time to time, been put into boats and towed out to sea; it is a simple matter for them to return after dark. Travelling by bus on the one road connection from Kalimantan to Sarawak, Brookfield observed in 1992 not only the hard time received by Indonesian travellers at the immigration and customs post on the border, but also a stringent police check a few kilometres down the road into

Malaysia. No illegals were found. Potter experienced the same system at work on the east coast of Sabah, with one unfortunate being found without papers in a minibus. He was promptly arrested. Most successful "settlers" will be only casual labourers, employed at significantly less than the wages received by Malaysian workers.

The special case of tidal swamp settlements

In Kalimantan, but not in Malaysia, a significant proportion of new land settlements occupy the very distinctive environment of tidal swamps, the characteristics of which were described in chapter 1. The method of reclamation in South and Central Kalimantan was initially developed by Banjarese settlers from the Hulu Sungai late in the nineteenth century, and it entails the use of fresh river water banked up by the tide and channelled into the fields; the channels then carry the acidic water out into the river at low tide, and by this means the development of acid-sulphate soils after clearance is inhibited. The sites chosen must be sufficiently far up river to avoid salt-water intrusion, but not so far up as to be subject to deep seasonal flooding. However, in lands distant from the main canals, water remains stagnant and acid; rice yields remain well below 2 t/ha and sometimes fall below 1 t/ha, whereas on better-drained lands yields reach from 2 to 3.5 t/ha. On most of these soils, traditionally adapted rices with a long period between initial seed-bed sowing and final reaping have persisted. Because of varying water depth at different times of the year, successive transplantations are required. In some areas as many as three transplantations are normal (Hidayati, 1994).

The traditional Banjarese solution to the problem of acidity is to modify the landscape. They deepen the rice fields by building raised mounds that, over time, become a series of raised beds separated by wetland. As these are further developed, the entire agro-ecosystem undergoes change. There is a clear pattern of succession from rice monoculture to a coconut-with-fruit-trees-and-fish system. The process begins with the establishment of a row of raised mounds across a paddy field. Each mound has a single coconut palm. Cassava, sweet potato, or other crops may be grown on the mounds. New mounds are built in between, perhaps with fruit trees and coconuts. Over time, the paddy is further dissected by additional beds. Eventually, deep ditches are formed between the beds, and these are used only for fishing (KEPAS, 1985: 81). Coconuts offer a more stable yield and income than rice, and are much less susceptible to pests. As rice is progressively shaded out by the coconuts, it becomes less and less important. However, new areas are constantly being opened up, so there is a moving frontier of new rice production ahead of older coconut. Emigrant Banjarese also used these techniques from the 1880s when opening swamplands in coastal Sumatra (Potter, 1993a). In West Kalimantan, but earlier, a similar pattern of handling swamplands was evolved by Bugis using slave labour brought from Sulawesi to dig the initial drains (Potter, 1992).

The coastal wetlands were seen as a major area for transmigration development, in part because they are without competing claims to the land. Development began in 1937 during the colonial period, the Javanese migrants living for a year on a Banjarese settlement before being allowed to start on their own in a newly drained area (Potter, 1993a). Abandoning traditional methods in favour of a larger-scale system developed by engineers in Java, the authorities opened a number of schemes in swamp areas of South and Central Kalimantan in the 1950s and 1960s (Hardjono, 1977: 72-77). Some were impoldered with embankments, pumps, and deep canals, but those proved hard to maintain. A separate system of drainage canals was provided in only one case, and large pools were usually constructed at the inland end of the canals to assist the replacement of water. By the late 1970s more than 800,000 ha of coastal wetlands in all Indonesia had been opened up for rice production, principally in Kalimantan and Sumatra. However, only varieties with a long growing period are viable, so that just a single rice crop can be grown in a year. Yields remain low, with major problems of pest infestation to compound those of the acid-sulphate soils (Collier, 1979). Spontaneous migrants, who follow the Banjarese practice and allow coconuts to become the principal crop once the land is drained or raised and sufficiently sweetened, have greater success. Up to the late 1970s, several times the area successfully reclaimed for transmigrants had been reclaimed and used by spontaneous settlers using the old Banjarese system (Koesoebiono, Collier, and Burbridge, 1982).

The transmigrant schemes have had very mixed success, and there has been a high failure rate among settlers without experience in managing such a sensitive environment (Oekan Abdullah, 1993). Very large plans remain unfulfilled. Acidity has remained high, and sulphates continue to be a major problem. At one location in the swamplands of Central Kalimantan the soil has been described as thick peat (4-5 m) with a pH of only 3.8. Plant growth was abnormally small, and chlorosis was present (IIED/GOI, 1985, Annex D). Similar ex periences are recorded in swamp reclamation in West Kalimantan, but close to an area progressively and successfully reclaimed for tree crops by the local people (Elysa Hammond, pers. comm.).

Among all environments used for new settlement, the tidal swamps are the most sensitive to short-term fluctuations in environmental conditions. Drought causes river water to fall, admitting saline water higher up the river; flood can wipe out crops. Short-term fluctuations in sealevel related to the El NiņoSouthern Oscillation (ENSO), such as those that flooded low-lying parts of Jakarta in late 1989 and early 1991, can lead to surges of saline water in the Java Sea coastlands (Soegiarto, 1993). Very evidently, too, even a very small rise - or fall - in relative sealevel could pose serious management problems, while more complete reclamation could lead to peat shrinkage, requiring pumping and sluicing on a large and costly scale. However, the basic problems of the tidal swamp settlements are those of all Indonesian transmigration schemes under the old system: settlers arrive untrained and unprepared for the problems of managing a new environment, are given areas that are too small, and receive inadequate technical support (Hardjono, 1986). Often they have to find their own salvation by learning from the farmers around them (Hidayati, 1994).

Endangerment or criticality in land settlement?

By no means all land settlements in the region have failed to achieve the results anticipated. In the Peninsula a new and more prosperous rural population has been created, and in Kalimantan many betterlocated schemes have thrived. None the less, perhaps even as many as one-half, in all areas together, face serious problems, have been converted into something quite different from the original intention, or have failed. Some of these problems are due directly to the environment: either a wholly unsuitable environment has been chosen, or inappropriate management methods have been adopted. In both countries, other problems are due to location and distance from developed opportunities for local crop marketing and off-farm employment. Still other difficulties, however, are due to wider regional changes. The failure in Malaysia is directly related to national development that has made land settlement, as initially conceived, obsolete. Some of the failures in Indonesia, though related to inadequate returns from the land, have also come about through the emergence of new opportunities, perceived to be better, in the towns or in other areas.

We can agree that land settlement has turned fragile areas into endangered or even critical areas, by developing them in inappropriate ways. Tidal swamps, kerangas, and steep slopes are clear examples. We cannot, however, say that the agricultural development of large areas through land settlement has, taken as a whole, created even serious environmental impoverishment, from the point of view of capacity to support people. Rather it seems to represent a historical phase between the natural condition and the evolution of a new rural society, with new forms of land use. What is clearly becoming passe is the tight institutional control of this transformation. There is, none the less, another aspect: has clearance of so much of the forest for land settlement been the best use of resources? To this we now turn.

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