The Autonomy and Sustainability of Small-Scale Oil Palm Farming in Sarawak
Although it is true that the vast majority of oil palm is grown on plantations, the participation of the indigenous people of inland Sarawak in the oil palm industry is steadily increasing. This chapter discusses the autonomy and sustainability of farming management by small-scale farmers in the Bintulu region, which has witnessed a significant increase in the number of such farmers. The nature of oil palm farming is different from that of other commercial crops that Sarawak’s small-scale farmers have cultivated in the past. This crop involves investing in the land and recovering the returns from such investments—a relatively modern agricultural economic system. This system is believed to place restrictions on time, location and area of the agricultural activities of indigenous communities. In reality, however, people engage in relatively flexible small-scale farming, by following their traditional customs and incorporating aspects of the plantation mode of operation. In addition, the active involvement of urban wage earners in oil palm cultivation is also observed. Such agricultural activities are thus not necessarily confined to the villages. Rather, the cultivation of oil palm has led to a strengthening of social and economic ties within households that are divided between urban centres and rural villages. There is, however, uncertainty concerning the future sustainability of small-scale oil palm farming. A salient issue will be finding a way to enable farmers to shift to another method of earning a livelihood when oil palm cultivation becomes stagnant or unprofitable, while still maintaining secondary fallow forests and rubber fields.
KeywordsSarawak Indigenous people Agriculture Plantations Oil palm farming Land use
- Cramb, Rob A., and Deanna Ferraro. 2012. Custom and capital: A financial appraisal of alternative arrangements for large-scale oil palm development on customary land in Sarawak, Malaysia. Malaysian Journal of Economic Studies 49 (1): 49–69.Google Scholar
- Department of Agriculture Sarawak. 2002. Agricultural statistics of Sarawak 2002. Kuching: Department of Agriculture Sarawak, Planning Division.Google Scholar
- Ichikawa, Masahiro. 2011. Factors behind differences in depopulation between rural villages in Sarawak. Borneo Research Bulletin 42: 275–288.Google Scholar
- Ishikawa, Noboru. 2010. Rekishi no naka no baiomasu shakai—nettai ryūiki shakai no dansei to isō ten’i [Tropical biomass society in history: resilience and transformation of riverine communities]. In Chikyū-ken seimei-ken ningen-ken: jizoku-tekina seizon kiban o motomete [Geosphere/biosphere/humanosphere: Seeking a sustainable and survival base], ed. Kaoru Sugihara, Shuichi Kawai, Yasuyuki Kōno, and Akio Tanabe, 251–280. Kyoto: Kyoto University Academic Press.Google Scholar
- Kanazawa, Kentaro. 2005. Sarawaku no shinrin to senjuumin Punan no genzai [Commercial logging and the Penan in Sarawak]. In Nettai Ajia no mori notami: shinrin shigen riyou no jinruigaku [People in forests in tropical Asia: Environmental anthropology of resource utilisation], ed. Kazunobu Ikeya, 273–301. Kyoto: Jibun Shoin.Google Scholar
- Malaysian Oil Palm Board [MPOB]. 2012. Senarai pekebun kecil mengikut daerah, mukim—Sarawak 2012. http://www.eqcmpob.com.my/e-lesenpk-reports/sarawak.php. Accessed 1 Aug 2018.
- Soda, Ryoji. 2007. Mover-oriented approach to understand rural-urban interaction: A case from Sarawak, Malaysia. Journal of the Graduate School of Letters 2: 47–58.Google Scholar
- ———. 2008. Sarawaku ni okeru purantēshon no kakudai [Expanding plantations in Sarawak, Malaysia]. In Tonan Ajia no morini naniga okotte iruka: Nettai urin to monsūn rin karano houkoku [What is happening in the forests in Southeast Asia: Reports from the tropical and monsoon forests], ed. Tomoya Akimichi and Masahiro Ichikawa, 223–251. Kyoto: Jinbun Shoin.Google Scholar
- ———. 2009a. Mareishia Sarawaku shu ni okeru kankyō kaihen to ‘kankyō mondai’ [Environmental changes and ‘environmental problems’ in Sarawak, Malaysia]. Shirin 92 (1): 130–160.Google Scholar
- ———. 2009b. Sutokku no shakai, furō no shakai—nomaddo no shigen riyō [Stock societies and flow societies: Resource use of nomadic people]. In Ningen katsudō-ka no seitaikei nettowāku no hōkai to saisei—Heisei 20-nendo FR 1 kenkyū purojekuto hōkoku [Collapse and restoration of ecosystem networks with human activity: Fiscal report on FR 1 Research Project, 2008], ed. Shoko Sakai, Reiichiro Ishii, and Norio Yamamura, 98–99. Kyoto: Research Institute for Humanity and Nature.Google Scholar