The impact of development on interactions between people and forests in East Kalimantan: A comparison of two areas of Kenyah dayak settlement
The approach advocated and used in this study has produced some findings which are important for development planning in East Kalimantan and which may be relevant to other tropical forest areas. In the Apo Kayan, contrary to the popular image of shifting cultivators that is prevalent among government officials in East Kalimantan, the Dayak people are not reckless destroyers of the forest. Rather, they maintain and re-use sites, farming almost entirely in secondary forest with a long history of land use. Their migrations are not, in most instances, caused by a shortage of land but are mainly responses to economic problems brought about by their geographic isolation.
The Telen River lowland area is quite different. Despite the hopes of government planners that ‘resettled’ shifting cultivators could be induced to use more intensive agricultural methods, shifting cultivation there is more, not less, extensive than in the Apo Kayan, and it is being practiced mainly in primary rather than secondary forest. This is not due to any ‘backwardness’ on the part of Dayak farmers but is a result of inappropriate methods, such as irrigated rice cultivation, being promoted by extension workers and of economic circumstances that, on the one hand, encourage extensive agricultural production (access to markets) and, on the other, make the clearing of large areas of primary forest relatively easy because of the ready availability of chain-saws, outboard motors, and fuel. A related factor is the low inherent fertility of soils in the area which precludes intensive sedentary agriculture.
It is concluded that development planners should pay close attention to circumstances which may vary from one locality to another and which can have important influences on people's actual behaviour. Such circumstances are usually more important than generalities such as the ‘type’ of agriculture practiced or a group's ‘level of development’ or ‘culture’. The generalization that ‘shifting cultivation is destructive and therefore should be eliminated’ (or the reverse, that shifting cultivation is not destructive) is bound to be wrong some of the time because ‘shifting cultivation’ includes a great variety of actual practices, and these occur in a diversity of environments and under many different specific circumstances. Development plans that recognize this diversity and take account of local needs and circumstances will, we believe, be more successful both in benefitting people and in protecting their environment.
KeywordsSecondary Forest Primary Forest Rice Cultivation Geographic Isolation Economic Circumstance
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