From River to Road? Changing Living Patterns and Land Use of Inland Indigenous Peoples in Sarawak

  • Ryoji SodaEmail author
  • Noboru Ishikawa
  • Yumi Kato
Part of the Advances in Asian Human-Environmental Research book series (AAHER)


This chapter discusses the restructuring process of the basin society of the Jelalong River in the Malaysian state of Sarawak, with a particular focus on the history of trade in forest resources and recent forest development. The Jelalong basin has long been a source of forest resources. Since the nineteenth century, many different ethnic groups have settled in the basin to access forest resources, resulting in various interactions among the groups. The basin society created through this process is currently undergoing significant changes because of the recent expansion of oil palm plantations. People who previously lived in villages along the river (for example, in longhouses) and made their living through slash-and-burn rice cultivation as well as hunting and gathering now build huts along the roads constructed for the plantations and have begun planting their own oil palm crops. They have not necessarily abandoned the longhouses completely; rather, they regularly commute between the riverside and roadside. In addition, some of these people are also wage earners in the neighbouring town of Bintulu. By moving opportunistically between the three residential hubs, they are building a spatial infrastructure that allows them to thrive in all three economies: the natural economy along the river, the plantation economy along the road and the urban economy in Bintulu.


Sarawak Ethnicity Residential patterns Land use Basin society Oil palm 



This study was partly supported by the Japan Society for the Promotion of Grant-in-Aid for Scientific Research (issue numbers 18401008, 18720224 and 22221010).


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© Springer Nature Singapore Pte Ltd. 2020

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Graduate School of Literature and Human SciencesOsaka City UniversityOsakaJapan
  2. 2.Center for Southeast Asian StudiesKyoto UniversityKyotoJapan
  3. 3.Center for Arts and SciencesFukui Prefectural UniversityEiheijiJapan

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