Human Ecology

, Volume 45, Issue 5, pp 711–717 | Cite as

The ‘Capitalist Squeeze’ and the Rise and Fall of Sumatra’s Krui Agroforests

  • David E. GilbertEmail author


Around 1875, forest-farmers in Krui along Sumatra’s southwest coast began cultivating the native rainforest tree species damar (Shorea javanica) to sell its resin as a commodity crop in an area of forested foothills resembling lowland tropical rainforests (Marsden 1783; Rappard 1937; Michon et al. 2000: 178). Their efforts soon attracted the attention of Dutch colonial foresters and researchers struck by Krui forest-farmers’ cultivation methods and the high value of the damar resin they produced (Endert 1935; Verhoef 1937).

By the late 1980s, Krui damar agroforests covered more than 75,000 ha (Budidarsono et al.2000). Collaboration among forest-farmers, academics, and environmentalists protected the agroforests from state plans in the early 1990s to convert much of the area into logging concessions and industrial oil palm plantations (Michon et al. 2000).

In January 2016 I conducted a two-week rapid appraisal of the Krui agroforests to assess the impacts of declining damar...


Political economy of environmental change  Agroforestry Deforestation Oil palm Indonesia 



I am grateful for the forest-farmers, researchers, and activists that shared their knowledge and experiences with me during my time in Sumatra. Unfortunately, because of the dangers rural workers and environmentalists face in the countryside, they must remain anonymous. I thank the journal’s three referees for their constructive comments.

Compliance with Ethical Standards

Grants from the National Science Foundation (#1524490) and Wenner-Gren Foundation (#8676) funded this research.

Conflict of Interest

The author declares no conflicts of interest.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC 2017

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of AnthropologyStanford UniversityStanfordUSA

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