Contents - Previous - Next

This is the old United Nations University website. Visit the new site at

Buginese colonization of sumatra's coastal swamplands and its significance for development planning

Andrew P. Vayda

It is increasingly being said that a lack of understanding of ecological, agricultural, and social systems at the local level is holding back the present push throughout the Third World to develop rural areas (e.g. Ruddle and Chesterfield 1976; Chambers 1978; United Nations University recommendations, cited in Vayda 1979). While agreeing with this, l wish to argue here not only that plans for the development of an area need to be based on knowledge of what is already there and what is already happening there but also that studies pursued within broad historical and spatial frameworks can sometimes contribute importantly to that knowledge. To support this argument, l shall deal with tidal swampland settlement and development in southern Sumatra in Indonesia. More specifically, l shall show how historical studies of the Buginese people and their activities both in their Sulawesi homelands and elsewhere could have clarified the dynamics of Buginese colonization in southern Sumatra and could have indicated the importance of taking it into account in planning projects for the development of the tidal swamplands and their settlement by government-sponsored migrants from Java and Bali. This planning began more than ten years ago and has involved numerous expensive feasibility studies by multidisciplinary teams (Hanson and Koesoebiono 1977), initially with virtually no attention to the Buginese presence in or near the intended project areas. Even when attention finally began to be paid, it was without recognition that assessment of the impact and potential of the Buginese in the swamplands requires knowledge not only of what the people are doing there at a particular time but also of the ongoing process of colonization of which their activities form a part. As Davis (1976) has noted in her study of almost 70 years of Balinese movement to Central Sulawesi, such ongoing processes, which are not to be confused with discrete migrations, may pass through a series of stages that cannot be identified by means of the usual, synchronic field surveys. Accordingly the surveys must be complemented by documentary research and the collection of case histories.

Available information on Buginese colonization in Sumatra allows us to distinguish stages comparable but not necessarily identical to stages of colonization that have been reported from other places (e.g., Casagrande et aI. 1964; Davis 1976; Simkins and Wernstedt 1971). The first stage consists simply of obtaining the information that a particular area is an available, feasible, and appropriate one for pioneers to move to. For gaining such information, the Buginese have long had an advantage over such other Indonesian peoples as the Javanese and Balinese in having a well-established tradition of trading and sailing throughout maritime Southeast Asia.' This dates back to the early sixteenth century, although Buginese were probably plying the waters by their South Sulawesi homelands long before then. The people were, however, relative latecomers to the more extensive commerce of the eastern seas and were, as noted by Crawfurd (1856: 74), not mentioned by the earlier European writers. When, however, the Portuguese conquered Malacca in 1511, Malay traders moved from there to Makassar in South Sulawesi and made it the new entrepot for the trade in spices from the Moluccas and in sandalwood from Timor and Solor. Makassar grew rapidly and Buginese enterprise in trade and shipping grew with it. Dutch attempts in the seventeenth century to monopolize the spice trade benefited the city also, for, being ideally situated at the intersection of various shipping routes, it became a main centre for carrying on the trade "illegally," i.e., in defiance of attempted Dutch control. When the Dutch finally conquered Makassar in 1669, Buginese traders were already moving in their prahus throughout the Indonesian archipelago in search of trade; they sailed with the direction of the prevailing monsoon and returned to Sulawesi for only short periods each year to attend to refitting and repairing their vessels. Significantly, however, they brought back to Sulawesi information about their places of trade so that, when the first great emigration of Buginese to distant parts of maritime Southeast Asia took place in the last decades of the seventeenth century, it was only partly because of the turbulent conditions resulting in South Sulawesi from the Dutch annexation of Makassar and from Dutch support of one Buginese prince, Arung Palakka of Bone, in the military conquest and attempted political domination of other Buginese and Makassarese states. An important additional factor was the knowledge that the emigrants had gained about distant places from Buginese traders and sailors. Moreover, the tracers' prahus provided the means of transport to these places. If not for these factors, war and turmoil in South Sulawesi might have led, both in the seventeenth century and more recently, to a redistribution of population within the region rather than to overseas migration.

It is noteworthy too that, because of the conflicts in South Sulawesi, many Buginese traders, especially those from Wajo', set up new bases beyond Sulawesi for their operations. This dispersal of the traders continued after the seventeenth century, and Buginese trading colonies and emporia were established in Sumbawa, Kalimantan, Ambon, Java, Sumatra, Singapore, and Johore. Bands of Buginese adventurers and warriors sometimes followed in the wake of the traders and took part in local dynastic quarrels and wars; some Buginese even succeeded, at least temporarily, in establishing themselves as rulers of petty states on and around the Malay Peninsula. The connections between the Sulawesi homelands and these scattered areas of Buginese trade and influence were maintained by the prahu traders. Like some Chinese, Lebanese, Ibo, and other ethnically distinct trading groups in Africa (pushing off into the bush and "living off the smell of an oily rag" in order to carry on trade with remote peasant communities (Fallers 1967: 131), the Buginese traders were, as Lineton (1975b: 178) notes, fitting into the interstices in European trade. Ranging between Sumatra to the west and New Guinea to the east. they carried articles of European manufacture to many little-known and barely accessible ports of call and took from each of them small quantities of local products, including some which, like the trepang or sea slug, were especially in demand by the Chinese who were becoming increasingly numerous in Southeast Asia.

These extensive movements of Buginese traders prior to the present century gained for the Buginese in general a widespread reputation for being roving and adventurous. It should be emphasized, however, that most Buginese continued in the meantime to live essentially peasant lives back in Sulawesi and to devote themselves to agriculture and fishing. The trading referred to in the preceding paragraphs is significant in the present context not because it shows any generalized kinetophilia among the Buginese but rather because, as already noted, it served to establish the networks along which information about opportunities in other lands could flow back to whatever potential migrants there were among the Buginese in South Sulawesi at particular times and for particular reasons.

The special opportunities that coastal swamps presented for agricultural colonization were related to the expansion of world demand for tropical agricultural products following the development of steam navigation and the opening of the Suez Canal, which occurred in 1869. As Lineton (1975a: 21 - 22) notes, much of the Buginese homeland in South Sulawesi suffered from a long dry season and erratic rainfall and was therefore poorly suited for the production of such cash crops as rubber and coconuts. However, by virtue of the established trading networks, the Buginese knew that a prahu voyage could take them to low-lying, sparsely inhabited coastal swamps where coconuts could be profitably grown for the production of copra, which, as a source of vegetable oil, was much in demand internationally. Accordingly some farmers who hoped to benefit from the cash crop boom moved from Sulawesi to the swampy rural environs of ports, like Pontianak in West Kalimantan and Johore in southern Malaya, where Buginese traders were already established. Apparently it was in Kalimantan that Buginese farmers first learned the Banjarese techniques of digging canals for drainage and tidal irrigation to facilitate agriculture in the coastal swamps. With these techniques, they could grow rice to sustain themselves initially in what would have otherwise been an inhospitable environment and then, as rice yields declined after a few years, could convert the farmed land to coconut orchards. The proximity of ports from which Buginese prahus sailed ensured that the farmers' production could be marketed.

In addition to the desire for profit from cash crops, a motive that Buginese farmers had for emigration in the first decades of this century, was, as Lineton (1975a: 22 - 23) notes, the desire to escape from the Dutch administration that had just extended its sway in South Sulawesi and had imposed such new burdens on the people as a head tax, income tax, and the greatly resented obligation to work on roads and engage in other forms of corvee. Census records from Johore and Kalimantan indicate that large numbers of Buginese were farming there by 1930 and apparently had been migrating there for some time (Lineton 1975a: 21; 1975b: 180).

Along Sumatra's eastern coast, Buginese adventurers and presumably therefore also prahu traders had been active as far back as the seventeenth century (fate 1971: 245 ff.), but no established Buginese trading colonies were there to attract farmers from South Sulawesi when the cash-crop boom began. Indeed, before this development, most of the whole lowland on the eastern side of Sumatra was, as Lineton (1975a: 179) notes, very sparsely settled. On a few of the larger rivers, there were tiny principalities such as Jambi on the Batang Hari and Palembang on the Musi. Elsewhere, hunters and gatherers still roamed. The vast coastal swamps were almost deserted, and remained so into the present century except for the occasional village of either Malay fishermen or so-called Sea Gypsies ("Orange Laut" or "Sea People"). The first coconut-growing migrants to the swamplands were not Buginese but Banjarese, who began to settle the Indragiri coast of Riau in the first years of the century. They came from both the Banjarese homeland in South Kalimantan and from the Malay states of Perak and Johore, where settlements of rice-cultivating

Banjarese had been established earlier (cf. Fanale 1977). Moving gradually southwards, they were joined by some Javanese and were actively opening new lands along the northern coasts of Jambi in the 1920s. Few Buginese had come yet. The entire regency of Jambi, including inland as well as coastal areas, had about 235,000 people in 1930 (in an area of 44,924 kmē); 7 per cent of these were Banjarese and 5 per cent were Javanese, but the 1,335 Buginese present constituted only 0.57 per cent of the total population ( Lineton 1975a: 179 - 180, citing Volkstelling 1930, IV: 91, and Pelzer 1963: 14).

When the Buginese started to come, it was because colonization in previously favored areas in Kalimantan and Johore had passed beyond the stage in which new land was readily available. This was a hardship not only for new migrants who wanted their own land but also for the older ones whose adaptation had consisted of clearing new land for growing rice and other food crops as previously farmed land was converted into coconut groves. Not having land for the food crops was particularly onerous when rice could be bought only at very high prices. This was the case during the First World War (1914 - 18), which is when Buginese settlement in the Indragiri Jambi border area is said to have begun (Lineton 1975a: 180).Theoralhistoriescollected by Lineton suggest that a common pattern was to move from one settlement area to another to seek a better livelihood:

New immigrants from Sulawesi to Benut in Johore or to Pontianak (southwest Kalimantan) often quickly moved on to greener pastures. Thus Haji Manda', who was born in Paria, Wajo', in 1900, accompanied his parents to Benut in 1917; they remained there only two years then moved to Sungai Terap in Indragiri, where an acquaintance was opening land. Haji Manda' claims that in 1917 "many Bugis" began to enter the coastal region of southeastern Indragiri and northeastern Jambi. [Lineton 1975a: 177]

This pattern of pioneering elsewhere when opportunities diminish in areas of older settlement was, as we shall see, to be repeated in the course of the southward-moving colonization of Sumatra's eastern coast. Apart from government-sponsored transmigration, this colonization has been, for approximately the last three decades, an essentially Buginese process and will be described as such in the succeeding paragraphs. Information on what checked the flow of Banjarese to these swamplands is, unfortunately, not available. It is, however, noteworthy that the early settlements had a multi-ethnic character, with Banjarese, Javanese, Buginese, and indigenous Malays living along the same river and sometimes, although perhaps not usually, even along the same canals that they had joined in digging at right angles to the river; some settlements dating from these early days retain their multi-ethnic character to the present time (see note 3, and Lineton 1975a: 180) and appear to have managed through the years without any appreciable inter-ethnic conflict. The first Buginese coming to settle in the Sumatran swamplands were pioneers not only in the sense of having to fell forest, dig canals, and contend with tigers but also in the sense of moving into a context in which neither their people nor their culture predominated. This second sense is what Davis (1976: 27 - 28 and passim) emphasizes in defining pioneering and distinguishing it from a later stage that occurs in some colonization processes, a stage that will be referred to here simply as that of postpioneering. The fact that inter-ethnic conflicts are now occurring between already established Buginese settlers and recent government-sponsored Javanese and Balinese transmigrants to the Sumatran swamplands may relate to their not having shared a period of pioneering that necessarily involved making mutual adjustments and devising solutions to common problems.

As the Buginese in Sumatra became more numerous, not only were new settlements increasingly dominated by them but also the Buginese from particular Sulawesi districts tended to cluster. Thus, in the years before the Japanese occupation, Pulau Kijang in Indragiri and Sungai Batara in Jambi attracted migrants from Bone, while migrants from Wajo' were drawn to Pangkal Duri in Jambi (Lineton 1975a: 181 - 182). The process operated much like the "chain migration" described in Price's study (1963) of southern European settlement in Australia, i.e., the first migrants recruited family and friends to join them; as numbers and security increased, a community life based on the homeland culture was gradually established; and the existence of this community life attracted more migrants, including some who might otherwise have been too old, too unenterprising, or too timorous to move. Moreover, simply getting to Sumatra had become easier and safer with the advent of regular steamship service. By the time that the Islamic rebellion of Kahar Muzakar was occurring in South Sulawesi (1951 - 65), Sumatra was well established as a receiving area for Buginese migrants. As a result of the economic dislocations associated with the rebellion, thousands fled from the rebel-held or contested areas of Sulawesi and settled in Sumatra (Lineton 1975a: 23 - 24; 1975b: 180 - 181,189).

The economic, social, and psychological support that migrants in the post-pioneering stage of a colonization process receive from earlier settlers is especially noteworthy because an argument sometimes used to justify elaborate efforts and large expenditures in programs of governmentsponsored colonization is that migrants are necessarily cut off from their familiar social networks and that governments must therefore organize "almost everything" for them (see, for example, Davis 1976: 72 - 73, citing Hurwitz 1955).

Lineton's dissertation (1975a), based on field work both in Jambi and in the Wajo' district of South Sulawesi, provides valuable information on the support and assistance that new migrants receive from earlier settlers in Sumatra and from other non-governmental agencies. For making the journey itself, sometimes there is help from Sumatra, either in the form of money sent to cover travel expenses or in the form of a kinsman who returns to Sulawesi to fetch the migrants and personally handle travel arrangements for them. Many migrants do not receive such help, but they are still given assurance of support upon arrival in Sumatra. Because rice harvesting is completed in Wajo' in November and does not begin in Jambi until March, it is possible for a migrant to finance his travel by selling his newly harvested crop-and often also his house-in Sulawesi and then arrive in Jambi in time to help with the harvest there. Many migrants employ the services of a Buginese "migration organizer" ("Pengurus Perantau"), who arranges not only the travel by ship from Ujungpandang (Makassar) to Jakarta and then on to the Sumatran ports but also accommodation in the cities and the necessary letters of authority from the police. At the time of her research in 1971 - 72, Lineton (1975a: 200) found that one organizer was receiving Rp. 12,000 per migrant. Total ship fare per person from Ujungpandang to Jambi at this time was Rp. 8,000-but it is reported that a migrant not using an organizer's services and ignorant of what costs should be could find himself spending as much as Rp. 20,000 on the trip. It is understandable that migrants should prefer to rely on an organizer, especially since some family connection with him can often be claimed.

On arrival in Sumatra the migrant joins relatives who assist him in finding work and accommodations. Favoured entry points, reception centres, or transit places for new arrivals are those where their labour is needed for rice harvesting and for opening up forest areas for agriculture. For their help with the harvesting-often on the land of the kinsmen who have invited them to Sumatra-the new arrivals receive shares that provide them with enough food to sustain them until they can obtain crops from their own land. Sometimes, according to my Jambi informants, a newcomer spends his first year-and sometimes, according to Hidajat's informants (Agro Economic Survey 1977b: 4.18 - 19), longer-in sharecropping an earlier settler's land; a good farmer can obtain a yield of approximately 6 tonnes of rice from cultivating 2 ha of land under favourable conditions and must then give 1 tonne per hectare to the landowner. Not only working capital for opening up one's own land but also experience in swampland cultivation techniques is gained during this initial period.

Both relatively recent arrivals without land of their own and earlier settlers whose existing land can no longer produce rice economically are active in opening up new areas. The process may be illustrated by an account that I received from a pembuka tanah ("land opener") on the Mendahara River in Jambi in 1977. The man, in his mid-30s, had been taken by his parents from Wajo'to Pangkal Duri in the 1940s. He moved in 1965 to the downriver centre of Mendahara (Mendahara Hilir), where he married and eventually became co-owner of a rice mill. As rice production in Mendahara Hilir declined, he cast about for opportunities elsewhere. From some Wajo' men who had gone upriver for logs and nibong palm to sell to timber companies, he heard reports about an area about 30 km from the sea. As someone versed in recognizing the suitability of land for agriculture, he went to check the area personally and found various favourable signs such as that nibong palm and kayu pulse (AIstonia) were growing, that there was clay soil more than 50 cm in depth, and that some parts of the area with peat soil were nevertheless usable because the peat layer was less than 50 cm deep. Back in Mendahara Hilir, he obtained the necessary licence to develop the upriver area by paying a fee of Rp.150,000 (called pancung alas) to a relative of the head or pesirah of the local marga, a traditional Sumatran administrative unit that retains certain rights over land. He also found 20 Wajo' families in Mendahara Hilir to move with his own to the new area. Together, they recruited 19 additional families by sending word of the opportunities to relatives living elsewhere. Three of the families recruited came directly from Wajo' and the rest, including recently arrived migrants, from Pangkal Duri and other Sumatran localities. It had been the land opener's desire to have all the families related, and he told us that they all were. Possibly, however, the ties of kinship were not precisely known in some of the cases and were simply assumed by virtue of the fact that the families in question had a common village of origin in Sulawesi. As Lineton (1975a: 56) notes, such assumption of kinship can be an important source of the mutual trust needed to make exchanges of labour and goods effective. Kin, being sejiwa (lit., "one spirit"), are thought to be the only people that can be really trusted (Lineton 1975b: 198).

Felling forests, digging canals, and the other work of opening up the new area began in 1972 and proceeded cooperatively. At the time of my visit in 1977, the main canal, 3 m wide, was 600 depa in length but could, l was told, be extended to a total length of 2,000 depa. The land opener, as is generally the case, had become kepala pares, the head of the settlement along the canal, and had his land and house by the confluence of the canal and the river, a location convenient for business in trading and rice milling (cf. Lineton 1975a. 185 - 186). Subsidiary canals had been dug at right angles to the main canal at 50 depa intervals and extended for 150 depa in each direction so that between the canals there were rectangular (150 x 50 depa) rice fields. These fields had been allocated in equal shares to the families that had participated in opening up the area except that those without money to give to the land opener in return for his having paid the pancung alas to the marga had been required to give him part of their allotments (cf. Agro Economic Survey 1975b: 2.5 2.6). The first year's rice harvest, because of pests, had been negligible, but 1 tonne per ha had been attained in the second year and production in the year of our visit had reached a peak of 7 tonnes per ha. None of the 40 families had left, and some were engaged in opening up new canals in the area, to which others, mostly Buginese but also a few Javanese (Agro Economic Survey 1977b: 2.6 - 2.8), had already been attracted. Thus, in 1977, an area that had first begun to be developed only in 1972, had a population of almost 5,500 and 20 major canals in operation and 20 more either planned or under construction. Buginese land opening and settlement have been comparably rapid elsewhere in the Sumatran swampland. Thus, one report cited by Collier (1979: 50) notes that in the area of southern Sumatra's Marga Sungsang, which in 1964 had only 35 Buginese families that had opened a total of 50 ha of swampland, the number of families had increased to 5,000 by 1975 and the swampland opened by them for agriculture amounted to 20,300 ha.

In general, as Lineton (1975a: 188 - 190) notes and as my own observations in Sumatra confirm, a feature of the Buginese pattern of settlement there is marked changes in the manpower needs and population of particular localities. These changes include rapid declines as well as increases. In the case of Pangkal Duri, the area was first opened around 1937. In 1959, when there was still forest to be felled, new canals to be dug, and rice to be harvested, the population was 18,000, but this shrank to 6,000 by 1973. At the time that I visited Pangkal Duri in 1977, the settlement area consisted of 24 canals, along which there were only coconut groves and no rice fields. About 90 per cent of the households were said to obtain their rice by purchase. The 10 per cent growing it were doing so not on the Pangkal Duri River but on the Mendahara, which they could reach by paddling in their boats for an hour or more. Some of the Pangkal Duri people owned land there and some rented it. The role that Pangkal Duri had long enjoyed as a reception center or transit place for new arrivals from Sulawesi had been taken over by other centers to the south, the direction in which Buginese settlement in coastal Sumatra has been moving from its inception.

In contrast to the Buginese farmers whose mode of land use has resulted in the rapidly spreading colonization just described, some Javanese interviewed by me in 1977 in the Rasau transmigration area by Jambi's Batang Hari River were continuing to grow rice in fields which, because they had been used for ten consecutive years, had to be weeded at least twice and preferably three times. A man, his wife, and children devoted 30 days from morning to evening to each weeding of each hectare. Even with the three weedings, rice yields were only 1.5 t/ha, and pests had destroyed all the secondary crops (see Agro Economic Survey 1977b: 3.10 - 3.11 for Hidajat's report of the interview). Long before weeding had become so onerous and yields so low, Buginese farmers would have moved on to new areas for food production-an option possibly not available to Javanese transmigrants who lack networks of kin to rely on in Sumatra for information, labour, and other forms of support. As Lineton (1975a: 188) notes, there is evidence enough of the capacity of the Buginese for hard work and so the contrast between them and the Javanese should be regarded as indicating not their laziness but rather their unwillingness to expend their energies for small returns as long as more profitable alternatives are available. It was, after all, in pursuit of these alternatives that they had migrated from Sulawesi.

As already indicated, the continuing influx of migrants from Sulawesi has been encouraged, facilitated, and welcomed by the earlier Buginese settlers in Sumatra, who have needed help, preferably from kinsmen, in rice harvesting and developing new areas. From the standpoint of those in Sulawesi, the attraction of Sumatra has been not only the opportunity for economic betterment through opening new land for agriculture but also the associated opportunity for rising in social status. In the Buginese homeland, the hierarchical nature of society and the prestige accorded to high birth are such that there is little social mobility for men of lower birth. In Sumatra, however, as Lineton (1975b: 195) observes, a poor settler can gain wealth by working hard and taking some risks and then can use his wealth in two ways for status advancement. One way is through marriage, for a man who is a commoner can marry into a noble family if he pays a high enough bride price. Moreover, in Sumatra but not in Sulawesi, wealthy and/or politically influential offspring of such unions can claim the status and titles of their mothers rather than of their lower-born fathers.

The other way of using wealth for social advancement is by using it for the haji; (pilgrimage) to Mecca. In most areas of Buginese settlement in Sumatra, the hail has as much prestige as does a man of noble descent. The advantage of migrating to Sumatra for following this route for social advancement is suggested by the fact that one Buginese area in Jambi with a population of just over 11,000 was estimated to have 1,000 hail, whereas the Wajo' village where Lineton worked in Sulawesi had, at the most, 20 haji in a population of 4,000 (Lineton 1975a: 201 - 202; 1975b: 195).

The inducements to migrate include both those which, like the opportunity for rising in social status, may be presumed to operate more or less constantly and others which operate either intermittently or with notably varying intensity. Various economic and political disruptions that have punctuated Buginese history belong in the latter category. An early example, previously noted, is the disruptions that followed the Dutch conquest of Makassar in 1669. More recently, the Islamic rebellion of Kahar Muzakar in South Sulawesi (1951 - 65) served to enhance markedly the economic attractiveness of Sumatra in comparison with the homeland conditions. Those conditions during the rebellion have been described as follows by Lineton (1975b: 189):

The effects of the rebellion upon the economy of South Sulawesi were indeed disastrous, particularly in the eastern and northeastern region which was the stronghold of the rebels. Within Wajo', large areas were depopulated in the mountainous, well-wooded countryside around Anabanua, Kalalo and Gilireng, and along the coastal belt. Roads were destroyed and are only now-a decade later-being repaired. In 1963, the three districts which had been the main areas of rebel activity-Luwu, Wajo' and Bone-showed the largest food deficits. Large areas of sawah remained unworked, not only because of fear of disturbance by the rebels but also because many of the water buffalo required for ploughing had been slaughtered by the rebels for food. In Wajo', the number of buffalo declined from 54,000 to 18,000 in ten years (1951 - 61); in Bone the decrease was from 50,000 to 5,000. (In Anabanua in 1971 the Kepala Wanuwa [headman] considered that lack of sufficient numbers of buffalo was still one of the major impediments to increased rice production.) Horses, the chief means for transporting goods, were also killed for food. Production of goods and produce, such as dried fish, for export ceased, since there was no guarantee that they would not be seized by the rebels (Shamsher, 1967: 67 - 77). It is not surprising that in these conditions a large proportion of the population emigrated rather than suffer deprivation at home.

What had been perhaps a constant trickle of migration to Sumatra since the 1930s became transformed suddenly into a flood. Fox example, more than 10,000 Buginese are estimated to have passed through Tanjung Priok, the port of Jakarta, on their way to Sumatra in 1955, the peak year for migration during this period (Lineton 1975a: 24). In Sumatra itself, the effect of the massive influx was that Buginese settlements in the late 1950s and 1960s spread, as Lineton (1975a: 182) says, "like wildfire, leaping from one river mouth to the next in a seemingly inexorable march towards the south." In areas like Jambi's Sungai Ayam, first opened for settlement only in 1952, land remaining to be developed was already in short supply by 1958, and people were shifting further south to other rivers. In addition to the rush of migrants from Sulawesi, other factors operating in Sumatra in the early 1960s helped to accelerate the movement. Lineton (1975a: 182) refers to the fact that the inflation of food prices in Indonesia at the time of confrontation with Malaysia (1962 65) hit the inhabitants of the older settlement areas especially hard, since they were not growing their own rice but rather purchasing it with their income from the sale of copra. Hidajat and l learned in our interviews in 1977 that the coconut trees in these same areas had become severely infested in 1961 by the rhinoceros beetle (Oryctes rhinoceros) (Agro Economic Survey 1977b: 2.1). Many of these earlier settlers had to join more recent migrants in moving south so that they could grow rice and other food crops in newly opened land.

Since the end of the Kahar Muzakar rebellion, crop failures have occurred intermittently in the Buginese districts of South Sulawesi to induce increased migration to Sumatra. Following the prolonged drought of 1971 - 72 there was again a great rush to migrate-to such an extent that, in Wajo', some would-be migrants seeking to raise funds for steamship travel could find no buyers for their houses and other property and had to make the voyage to Sumatra by prahu (Lineton 1975a: 199).

Though some migrants eventually return to Sulawesi, the combination of irregularly occurring mass movements in response to economic and/or political crises and the steady flow of migrants attracted by the prospects of gaining wealth and status in Sumatra has already served to turn into areas of Buginese settlement most of the Jambi and South Sumatra coastal swamplands that are suitable for agricultural development by non-capital-intensive means. The areas not yet fully opened by the Buginese for their preferred sequence of rice and coconut growing are the areas into which they were moving (especially in southern Sumatra) at the time that the Indonesian government began developing projects there for Javanese and Balinese transmigrants. What has been shown in the preceding paragraphs about the dynamics of Buginese colonization makes it seem likely that the Buginese would have soon completed their transformation of the swamplands into settled and agriculturally productive areas if not for the advent of the government's transmigration programme. As that programme has moved into the implementation phase the government has in some places, such as Sungai Samut in the northern part of South Sumatra's Upang Delta, even moved away Buginese settlers who have been opening land at no cost to the government in order to make room for Javanese transmigrants who are being settled at a cost of several thousand dollars per hectare (Collier 1978: 22). Such episodes of project implementation have prompted Collier (1978: 22) to ask whether the government is achieving its goals if all it accomplishes is the displacement of one migrant group by another from a different island. To add even more force to the question, we should bear in mind the expensiveness of the government projects in the coastal swamplands and the uncertainty of future success for the government sponsored transmigrants, who are pioneering without the kinds of institutional supports that

Buginese migrants in Sumatra have enjoyed.

Two hopes may be expressed to close this paper. The first is that in future projects there will be due attention to determining whether such dynamic processes as the paper has illustrated are operating in the intended project areas. The second is that recognition of the processes will lead to projects in which the government works with such people as the Buginese settlers of Sumatra's coastal swamplands rather than ignoring them or regarding them as an obstruction to the implementation of project plans.


1. Historical information in this and the succeeding paragraph is drawn from Andaya 1975; Bastin and Winks 1966: chapter 4; Crawfurd 1856; Schrieka 1966; Tate 1971; and especially from Lineton 1975a and 1975b.

2. On the techniques as practiced in the South Kalimantan homelands of the Banjarese, see Driessen and Ismangun 1972 and Hardjono 1977: 72 - 73.

3. In 1977,1 interviewed some of the original Banjarese settlers of this area. Along one canal visited near Kuala Tungkal in 1977, there were 70 households, of which ten were Javanese, one Buginese, and the rest Banjarese.

4. "Mass migration," the label Davis, following Peterson 119581, uses for this stage is avoided here so as not to make the main basis for distinguishing between the stages seem to be the number of migrants rather than the contexts into which they are moving It should be noted also that a stage of post pioneering migrations is not inevitable in colonization processes; sometimes nobody from their homelands follows the pioneer settlers to particular areas (see Price 1963: 129 - 133 for examples from Australia).

5. On similar centres established by pioneering farmers without government assistance in another part of the world, see Berry's historical study 11975: 74 - 75) of Western Nigerian cocoa farming.

6. These practices might be regarded as a Buginese version of the relatively successful bawon system used in government colonization programs in Indonesia in the 1930s (Hardjono 1977: 17 - 19; Hurwitz 1955: 16; MacAndrews 1978: 461; Peekema 1943; Pelzer 1945:203).

7. Hidajat, who was with me when the account summarized in this and the succeeding paragraph was being received, notes that, while the official pancung ales for opening land with a 1,700 m canal was Rp. 120,000, the actual fee exacted could go as high as Rp. 250,000 (Agro Economic Survey 1977b: 2.51.

8. The depa is an Indonesian measure based on the distance from fingertips to fingertips of one's arms when stretched sideways. A depa can be roughly reckoned as being somewhat under 2 m.

9. Comparable differences among ethnic groups in their success in developing agriculture and making it profitable in frontier areas have been reported from the cocoa growing region of Western Nigeria and have been attributed to the fact that networks of "communications and mutual assistance" were, as a result of chain migration, available to Yoruba cocoa farmers and not to non-Yoruba (Berry 1975: 72 - 78).


Agro Economic Survey 1977a. Agro Socionomic Study in the Tidal Swamp Area of Karang Agung, Sub-P4S South Sumatra: Dry Season Survey Report (Hidajat Nataatmadja, Team Leader). Bogor: Ministry of Public Work and Electric Power.

_____________1977b. Agro Socionomic Study in the Tidal Swamp Area of Lagan, Sub-P4S Jambi: Dry Season Survey Report (Hidejat Nataatmadja, Team Leader). Bogor: ministry of Public Work and Electric Power.

Andaya, Leonard Y., 1975. The Kingdom of Johor 1641 - 1728. Kuala Lumpur: Oxford University Press.

Bastin, John, and Robin W. Winks (eds.) 1966. Malaysia: Selected Historical Readings. Kuala Lumpur: Oxford University Press.

Berry, Sara S., 1975. Cocoa, Custom, and Socio-Economic Change in Rural Western Nigeria. Oxford: Clarendon Press.

Casagrande, J. B.; S. I. Thompson; and P. D. Young 1964. Colonization as a Research Frontier: The Ecuadorian Case. In Process and Pattern in Culture ( R. A. Manners, ed.). Chicago: Aldine Publishing Co., pp. 281 - 321.

Chambers, Robert, 1978. Simple is Sophisticated. Development Forum, Vol. 6, No. 6 (July), Pp. 1 - 2.

Collier, William L., 1978. Development Problems and Conflicrs in the Coastal Zone of Sumatra: Swamps Are for People. Paper presented at the Programmatic Workshop on Land-Water Interactive Systems, Bogor, September 18 - 22. Mimeographed.

_____________1979. Social and Economic Aspects of Tidal Swamp Land Development. Paper presented at the Symposium on Tidal Swamp Land Development Aspects, Palembang, 5 - 10 February, Mimeographed.

Crawfurd, John, 1856. A Descriptive Dictionary of the Indian Islands and Adjacent Countries. London Bradbury and Evans.

Davis, Gloria, 1976. Parigi: A Social History of the Balinese Movement to Central Sulawesi, 1907 - 1974. Ph.D. dissertation Stanford University.

Driessen, P. M., and Ismangun 1972. Pyrite-Containing Sediments of Southern Kalimantan, Indonesia: Their Soils, Management and Reclamation. In Proceedings, Acid Sulphate Soils Symposium, Wageningen, pp. 345 - 358.

Fallers, L. A. (ed.), 1967. Immigrants and Associations. Mouton: The Hague

Fanale, Rosalie, 1977. The Banjarese in Malaya: An Historical Case Study of Agricultural Development. Unpublished manuscript, Department of Anthropology, Catholic University, Washington, D.C.

Hanson, A. J., and Koesoebiono 1977. Settling Coastal Swamplands in Sumatra: A Case Study for Integrated Natural Resource Management. Bogor: Center for Natural Resource Management and Environmental Studies, Bogor Agricultural University.

Hardjono, J. M., 1977. Transmigration In Indonesia. Kuala Lumpur: Oxford University Press.

Hurwitz, Joachim, 1955. Agricultural Resettlement of Javanese Farmers in the Outer Islands of Indonesia before World War II. Paper prepared for Center for International Studies, Massachusetts Institute of Technology. Mimeographed.

Lineton, Jacqueline, 1975a. An Indonesian Society and Its Universe: A Study of the Bugis of South Sulawesi (Celebes) and Their Role within a Wider Social and Economic System. Ph.D. dissertation, School of Oriental and African Studies, University of London.

_____________1975b. Pasompe' Ugi': Bugis Migrants and Wanderers. Archipel. 10:173 - 201.

MacAndrews, Colin, 1978. Transmigration in Indonesia: Prospects and Problems. Asian Survey 18:458 - 472.

Peekema, Wibo, 1943. Colonization of Javanese in the Outer Provinces of the Netherlands East-lndies. Geographical Journal 101 (4):145 - 153.

Peizer, Karl J.,1946. Pioneer Settlement in the Asiatic Tropics. New York: American Geographical Society.

_____________1963. Physical and Human Resource Patterns. In Indonesia ( R. T. McVey, ed.). New Haven: HRAF Press, pp. 1 - 23.

Peterson William, 1958. A General Typology of Migration. American Sociological Review 23:256 - 266.

Price, Charles A., 1963. Southern Europeans in Australia. Melbourne: Oxford University Press.

Ruddle, K., and R. Chesterfield 1976. Change Perceived as ManMade Hazard in a Rural Development Environment. Devolopment and Change 7:311 - 330.

Schrieke, B.,1966. Indonesian Sociological Studies: Selected Writings of B. Schrieke, Part One. The Hague: W. van Hoeve.

Shamsher, Ali, 1967. Development Planning in Practice: A Case Study of South Sulawesi (lndonesia). Unpublished typescript, Australian National University.

Simkins, P. D., and F. L. Wernstedt 1971. Philippine Migration: The Settlement of the Digos-Padada Valley, Davao Province. Yale University Southeast Asia Studies, Monograph Series No. 16. New Haven.

Tate, D. J. M., 1971. The Making of Modern South-East Asia, Vol. 1. Kuala Lumpur: Oxford University Press.

Vayda, Andrew P., 1979. Human Ecology and Economic Development in Kalimantan and Sumatra. Borneo Research Bulletin, Vol. 11, No. 1 (April). Pp. 23 - 32.

Volkstelling 1930. Volkstelling 1930. Batavia: Department van Ekonomische-Zaken.


Bird: You mentioned the "eye for country" of the Buginese-their talent for perceiving the best land for agriculture within a swamp and forest environment. What are the principal pioneer crops?

Vayda: The first aim is to select land to grow coconuts.

Bird: And the necessity for repeated weeding of the rice fields-where do these weeds come from?

Muluk: Possibly salt intrusion.

Bird: I wondered if they derived from seed released and made viable as the peat was cultivated-in Britain there have been some surprising reappearances of species thought to be extinct when seed that had lain dormant in peat was able to germinate after the past was disturbed in wetland nature reserves such as Woodwalton Fen. The pattern of weed growth in the rice fields would be interesting in this respect.

Missen: Two weeks is a short time for such a study.

Vayda: Yes, but use was made also of documentary evidence.

Hehanussa: In South Sulawesi there is a "legend" that the Buginese were the discoverers of America.

Vayda: Probably based on stories of the remarkable mobility of the Buginese.

Contents - Previous - Next