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close this bookAgricultural Expansion and Pioneer Settlements in the Humid Tropics (UNU, 1988, 305 pages)
close this folder2. Spontaneous and planned settlement in south-east Asia
View the document(introduction...)
View the documentThailand
View the documentClearing and settlement in the highland-lowland transition zone of northern Thailand
View the documentMalaysia
View the documentThe Philippines
View the documentIndonesia
View the documentConclusion: government-sponsored versus spontaneous settlement
View the documentReferences

Indonesia

Land clearing and resettlement in Indonesia deserves serious consideration for several reasons. It is by far the region's largest and most diversified country and at the same time loaded by the most severe population problems. Over-population beyond the carrying capacity in Java, Madura, Bali, and Lombok contrasts with huge regions with an extremely sparse population. About 80 per cent of the country surface is situated within the permanently humid, inner tropical zone, but these islands are inhabited by only 30 per cent of the nation's population. This indicates already the difficulties for habitation and agriculture of these huge land reserves, which even in fairly strongly developed and populated southern Sumatra were calculated by Scholz (1980a) to contain land available for settlement and agriculture equal to about 44 per cent of its area.

Indonesia went through the longest history of a gradual replacement of the "classical" dualism in South-East Asian agriculture of wet-rice cultivation with permanent settlement on the one hand and shifting cultivation on the other.

Beginning already around the middle of the nineteenth century in Java and in Sumatra about 1910, shifting cultivation was gradually replaced by an intensive dry-land cultivation. In the humid, inner tropical zone, Sumatra, West Java, etc., it consists mainly of permanent tree and bush crops (kebun) which have been quite successful as they comprise species endemic to tropical forests (be they rain forests in the humid, inner tropical areas or monsoonal wet or dry forests of semi-humid tropical areas). Thus, the natural vegetation has been replaced by an ecologically suited, fairly similar cultural vegetative cover. This has prevented degradation of the fragile soils and secured satisfying yields. Another alternative has been the replacement of shifting cultivation by permanent dry-field rotation of annuals, applied successfully especially within the semihumid, monsoonal tropical climate, providing during its regular dry season a fallow period for restoring leached soil nutrients. This type of cultivation (tegalan) has been applied successfully in combination with the kebun type just mentioned. Tegalan yields its best results if rotations including legumes (e.g. peanuts, soya beans, etc.) have been used. Both types of land use, contrasting to the textbook stereotype that tropical forest soils have an agricultural capacity limited only to shifting cultivation, have proved to be of fundamental importance for the extension of agricultural settlement and land use in Indonesia during the last decades.

This older type of land development was followed by a further sudden expansion of farm land after the dissolution of the colonial system of land ownership around 19481950. Numerous Dutch plantations, as well as about 70 per cent of the stateowned forests from the colonial period, were settled by landless Javanese, many of whom were former plantation workers (Fryer 1970,306). Much of this happened spontaneously, although there was an official distribution of land (a total of more than 250,000 ha of former plantation land was allotted in Java and Sumatra; Roll 1971). In Java these plantations were located at an altitude above the older farming areas and raised what the Dutch called Bergcultuuren-coffee, tea, cinchona bark-which are native to the tropical mountain forest. In order to produce profitable yields on small plots of land at relatively high altitudes for the tropics, farmers grow mainly market garden crops such as cabbage, potatoes, maize, etc., which are better suited to these altitudes. This writer was able to visit newly settled villages at an altitude of 1,600-1,800 m with a retired agricultural extension worker who in 1950 had himself carried out the surveying and allotment. Settlement on the upper limits of formable land has led to a remarkable density of mountain zone colonization, as well as to a noticeable extension of the upper reach of settlements. In individual cases this upper boundary is as high as 2,100 m.

Despite this interior expansion of settlements, it became necessary even in colonial times to initiate a programme to open up new land on the sparsely settled outer islands by means of an organized transmigration (transmigrasi in Indonesian). This took place decades before the settlement projects of other states in South-East Asia. Between 1905 and the end of the colonial period, this resettlement brought a yearly average of 6,300 people from Java into the Sumatran province of Lampung, near Java (Zimmermann 1980).



FIG. 4. Transmigration from Java. Madura. and Bali 1905-1973 (from Zimmermann 1974; see table 5 for data)

The attempts to alleviate the demographic disproportion between overpopulated Java, Madura, and Bali and the sparsely inhabited outer islands certainly represents one of the most striking development problems of the entire South-East Asian archipelago (Scholz 1980a). Some figures may give an idea of the urgency of its population and land problems. The island of Java, which, together with Madura, constitutes only seven per cent of the surface area of Indonesia, contains two-thirds of the country's total population (almost one-fourth of the people of all South-East Asia). At the same time giant Kalimantan has only four per cent of the nation's inhabitants on twenty-five per cent of its area!

After independence, the Sukarno government-mobilizing heavy propaganda- attempted with modest results (in fact with many failures caused by inadequate financing) to give new impetus to Transmigrasi. Not until the 1970s did the government manage to initiate more successful colonization of new lands on the various outer islands. This effort succeeded due to the revitalization of Indonesia under the pragmatic policies of Suharto and to the greater sums of money made available from an economy strengthened by petroleum earnings. In 1972/1973 the number of transmigrants reached 50,000, meeting for the first time a 70-year-old goal. The total number of transmigrants rose to 835,000 from 1950 to 1973 (see table 5).

These figures cover the years nearly to the end of the first national development plan (Repelita 1). According to Arndt (1983) during Repelita 11 another 376,900 were resettled and during Repelita 111 1,169,000 were resettled, for a total of 1,545,900 up to 1982. Between 1905 and 1983/1984 (end of Repelita III) approximately 2.5 million people were resettled by official transmigration. This same figure, however, was the target for the five years of Repelita 111! Clearly it was too ambitious, but nearly half was accomplished. Nevertheless the figure for Repelita 111 indicates the resettlement of some 50,000-60,000 families.

TABLE 5. Transmigration areas and numbers of settlers 1905-1973

 

Number of settlers

Total
Provinces of settlement 1905-1941 1942-1945 1950-1973 1905-1973
1. Aceh

-

- 695 695
2. N. Sumatra 11,426 - 10,582 22,008
3. W. Sumatra 1,945 - 13,150 15,095
4. Riau - - 1,814 1,814
5. Jambi - - 9,771 9,771
6. Bengkulu 7,443 - 7,270 14,713
7. S. Sumatra 25,153 - 146,858 172,011
8. Lampung 173,959 8,819 284,569 467,347
9. W. Java - - 5,032 5,032
10. W. Kalimantan - - 13,824 13,824
11. Central Kalimantan - - 9,825 9,825
12. E. Kalimantan 164 - 21,160 21,324
13. S. Kalimantan 3,950 - 15,546 19,496
14. N. Sulawesi - - 6,322 6,322
15. Central Sulawesi 146 - 17,144 17,290
16. SE Sulawesi 984 - 7,291 8,275
17. S. Sulawesi 13,464 - 13,283 26,747
18. Maluku - - 1,863 1,863
19. W. Nusatenggara - - 654 654
20. Irian Jaya - - 1,132 1,132
Total 238,634 8,819 587,785 835,238

Source: Zimmermann 1975

In the new plan,Repelita IV (1984-1989), again a high priority has been given to accelerating transmigration. Some 60 per cent of all the transmigrants in each of the three fiveyearplan periods have been settled in Sumatra. Kalimantan received 15-18 per cent per year during plan periods 11 and III and the trend seems to indicate a rapid rise in this share in the future. Sulawesi declined from 26 per cent in Repelita I to 12 per cent in III. The Moluccas rose to 7.1 per cent in III and Irian Jaya to 12 per cent!

Although Transmigrasi has resulted in very little noticeable population relief on Java and Bali, it has had a marked effect on the target areas for migration and new settlement. Not only have large areas of land been opened up but economic restructuring has led to an ethnic and social restructuring, which furthers "nation building" by integrating these newly settled regions more closely into the young and independent country.

Mukerjee (1980) summed up as follows: "The rationale of migration is the chance it offers to accelerate agricultural development in the outer islands with such results in mind as hastening self-sufficiency in a country with a chronic food deficit and augmenting its export surplus of lucrative tree-crops like rubber and oil-palm.

Another goal is to meet the needs of the population now drawn into new centres of industry and mining like the Asahan aluminium complex in North Sumatra or the natural gas liquefactions plant in Kalimantan." Aside from these goals, the transformation until now of more than 1 million ha of woodland into small, intensively farmed plots has had considerable geo-ecological consequences. But this transformation has brought with it, furthermore, a remarkable change in socio-ethnic relationships and in the process of land-clearing and in infrastructure development.

It will accelerate considerably the all important rice production of Indonesia and also the production of cash crops such as copra, cassava, maize, soya beans, etc., a matter of economic importance. Expectations to create many new employment opportunities in the industrial sector over the next 10-20 years, thus absorbing a significant quota of the surplus of rural labour hands in Java, are fairly limited. This again speaks for the alternative of bringing larger numbers of landless Javanese into the newly cleared, potential agricultural regions of Sumatra, Kalimantan, and Sulawesi and providing them with a satisfactory existence there, even if it is clear that this measure by itself will be of only limited relief.

The argument given by Collier (1980) that successful transmigrants reach, after a few years, a much better income and a higher standard of living in their new settlement areas compared to that of a landless labourer in Java is another point in favour of transmigration, notwithstanding its limited effect in Java itself. He tries to demonstrate this by one example, which, however, seems to be a fairly extreme case because 10 children are no longer the rule. He speaks of a farmer who moved in 1970 from East Java to South Kalimantan. His father owned 4 ha in East Java, to be divided, however, between 10 children! Divided equally, it becomes obvious how little would be left for each of them. Only nine years after migrating to South Kalimantan, however, this farmer was the owner of 1.75 ha of sawah plus a small coconut plantation (Collier 1980)!

Significant for one of the central problems of this paper, however, is the little known fact that officially sponsored migration in Indonesia, too, has been supplemented by a considerable, if not much stronger, flow of voluntary, spontaneous transfers which could in time become a still larger development! This is impressively demonstrated by the following figures: out of the 45 million people living on the outer islands of Indonesia today, some 5 million are Javanese (Mukerjee 1980)! The number of those officially transferred up to now, however, is a mere 1.3 million! Sundrum (1976) reported a total of 2.37 million people moving out from Java, with a share of 1 million by official transmigration up to 1976. This figure is no longer true, as Scholz (1983) speaks of already 3 million Javanese in the province of Lampung alone! (For more details see chap. 10, this volume.)

These facts call for a clearer distinction in the use of the term "spontaneous settlement." Normally-and this is the practice throughout this book too-it is applied to movements into newly cleared areas by people not organized in any form nor relocated under government direction but acting either completely on their own initiative, frequently as pioneering squatters, or in connection with somewhat larger private undertakings. In the official Indonesian terminology, however, "spontaneous transmigration" is used for migrants not fully integrated and cared for by a transmigration project but loosely attached to it. The Ministry of Transmigration has its own "director for spontaneous transmigration" who distinguishes three types of socalled spontaneous transmigrants: (a) those who follow their relatives (into or near established schemes); (b) those who are included in the "nucleus estate system" (i.e. settlers resident in the neighbourhood of an established plantation that extends its agriculture into marginal smallholdings engaged in the same production and recipient of technical advice and possibilities to join processing, marketing, etc., with the "nucleus estate"); (c) those whose transport is paid by the region of origin while the remaining implementation is financed by the government of the transmigration area (Fasbender, Kopp, and Nurut 1981,31).

Clearly there exists considerable genuine spontaneous settlement (or squatting) in Indonesia too, but one should carefully distinguish this from the semi-official spontaneous transmigration in which settlers are incorporated or "drawn" into the purview of state-directed transmigration schemes. Genuine spontaneous settlement or squatter pioneering, clearing, and settling surpasses in volume the official schemes. Recent examples are given for example by Scholz (1982) from Sumatra's northernmost province of Aceh. There former plantation workers who had migrated from Java to Sumatra long before are the driving force behind the spontaneous clearing of new lands. The most extreme case, however, is found in the southern-most province of Lampung, which is steadily being filled by Javanese immigrants to a point far beyond the original official transmigration into this area.

Spontaneous migration and settlement between islands and over great distances has a long history. At first this migration was carried out by some of the very mobile ethnic groups (especially the sea-faring peoples) who had traditionally gone to sea and settled along the coasts before the modern period of land development. These people include the Bugis and Makassarese (from South Sulawesi), the Bajaus (a Malaysian sea-faring people), the Banjarese (South Kalimantan), and the Madurese. Notably the Bugis and the Banjarese have established themselves remarkably in the deltas of the InderagiriBatanghari and the Musi rivers of eastern Sumatra and created the new type of tidal-rice cultivation (sawah pasang surut) which is of growing significance today and has been applied in official transmigration schemes with the aid of technical canal construction (Scholz 1983).

With regard to the question of state-directed versus spontaneous settlement in Indonesia it is interesting to note that a recent survey by Scholz (1983,143) arrives at the amazing figure of some 100,000 Javanese entering each year the neighbouring Sumatran province of Lampung on their own initiative. Seasonal workers return to Java, but many try to establish themselves permanently.

Besides the ethnic problems one cannot forget the difficulties of transferring substantial population groups from their native regions into quite different territories. The differences are not only social and cultural but also include the change from the tropical monsoon climate of Java or Bali with marked wet and dry seasons to the permanent humid equatorial climate of Sumatra, or from highly-developed, traditionrich and densely populated cultural landscapes to the swampy tropical rain forests of Sumatra or Kalimantan.

Mukerjee (1980) points to some of the difficulties facing the transmigrants:

Much of the interior of the outlying islands is in many ways terra incognita because soil characteristics, weather and ecology have still to be explored in detail. Some of the failures are due to this lack, resulting in the collapse of farming plans in the face of nature's backlash.... Given the basis on which settlers are selected-two-thirds from the poorest rural stratum, 10 per cent from urban homeless-and soon most villages will have few farmers with the know-how and the experience needed.... The new villages will also be short of nonagricultural skills. In theory, artisans are to constitute 10 per cent of each settler group, but in practice few skilled people are willing to migrate.... Starting from scratch in the wilderness far from markets, their costs are high and their returns low, allowing them little scope for investing on yieldraising inputs like better seeds and fertilizers. In other words, they are pretty much stuck at a subsistence level, and breaking out is not going to be easy.

In the last few years the difficult (even spartan) phase of initial settlement has become more tolerable, though it is still hardly satisfactory. Particularly after national independence newly transplanted settlers were brought into the virgin forest under primitive conditions and with inadequate equipment. Pelzer (1945) had already recongized that in modern times it is neither economically sensible nor socially responsible to shut up one or two generations of transmigrants in the forests as landclearing pioneers until the cleared land is eventually consolidated.

The political and economic stabilization of Indonesia has increased the possibilities for a thorough preparation of new settlement land, through state investment, mechanized land-clearing, and infrastructural organization. This also means providing the settlers with the necessary assistance, tools and instructions, seedlings, pesticides, etc. It even means improving the troublesome sea transport through the use of aircraft. Incidentally, this would give the settlers more opportunities to visit their old homelands; not too many years ago transmigration meant usually farewell to the old homelands forever, considering Indonesia's great distances. With easy access by road this is much less a problem in Malaysia or Thailand.

In the preceding the question of the feasibility of clearing tropical forest soils and taking them into permanent dry-land cultivation was touched upon. Most scholars concerned with tropical regions will have been brought up with the textbook stereotype of the classical dualism between permanently cropped, naturally or artificially irrigated wet-rice lands and, alternatively, shifting cultivation on forest soils. Historically these two have constituted the prevailing land-use systems of South East Asia and regionally they still do. Gradually the pressure for more food and also for various cash crops other than rice has changed, or rather extended, that structure; apart from plantation agriculture (mainly tree crops, ecologically well adapted to tropical forest soils), various kinds of dry-land cultivation, including more and more annuals, have emerged on small farms, too.

On a larger scale, recent pioneer settlement into vast areas of forest land is extending nowadays with similar types of tropical agriculture over many parts of South-East Asia. Obviously this contradicts the classical experience and the argumeets against shifting cultivation, which are based on the rapid impoverishment of tropical forest soils after replacing the forest canopy by annual field crops. Whereas normally the reversion of shifting cultivation land after one to three years of cropping into bush fallow (secondary forest) for a period of about eight to fifteen years is regarded as essential to restore the nutrients of the soil (and the man-induced imperata cylindrica savannas appeared to be the irreversible climax vegetation after a degradation of the forests and the soil), the new pioneer farmers seem to have established themselves quite successfully with various types of permanent dry-land crops, frequently on non-volcanic soils too. Annual crops predominate in the monsoonal, perennials in the humid tropics.

Why this should be possible in contrast to former experiences with shifting cultivation and despite a number of scientific arguments underlining the ecological handicaps of the tropics (Weischet 1977) is still not yet clear.

Soil fertility in tropical forest areas depends mainly on three factors (Weischet 1977): (a) the residual mineral contents, i.e. calcium, magnesium, potassium, phosphate, and sodium; (b) the property of organic matter (upper soil layers) incorporated into the nutrient cycle of crops; and (c) the cation-exchange capacity, a measure of the ability to preserve plant nutrients by accumulating them for some time within certain soil structures for subsequent release to the roots or soil solution to nourish the plants.

For tropical soils the capacity of these factors, or the possibility to manipulate them by fertilizers, is decisive for fertility. According to Weischet (1977) the high degree of chemical weathering in the humid inner tropics causes ferriallitic soils which retain little residual mineral content and show a limited capacity for the exchange of cations. This condition would not be sufficient for an intensely practised, permanent cultivation of annual upland crops. Traditional shifting cultivation, however, or similar land rotations with bush fallow might be feasible. The ferriallitic soils in dryer parts of the tropics (e.g. fully developed in dry tropical savannas) appear to be more favourable. Reduced effects of weathering results in a somewhat higher potential of fertility (and consequently higher densities of land use and population). It has still to be proved to what extent this applies to the climatic conditions of the South-East Asian tropical monsoon countries, with a marked dry season, yet with sufficient moisture being accumulated during the rainy season (5.6-8 humid and 4.4-6.5 "arid" months in our study areas of SE Thailand, but fairly similar conditions prevailing over large tracts of mainland SE Asia and of Central and East Java, the Lesser Sundas, and the western Philippines).

Some aspects of successful dry-field cultivation are touched upon in this paper, for example the positive Indonesian experiences with multiple dry-land cropping systems and rotations and some others using soil analysis from the areas of the two case studies in south-east Thailand. Apart from the more favourable conditions of the monsoon tropics as compared to the permanently wet inner tropics, two observations may be of importance. First, the deterioration of certain tropical forest soils seems to be less disturbing under application of deep ploughing by tractor (a similar effect was obtained on small plots under very intensive and deep cultivation with hand-tools). This helps in the elimination of the tremendous competition of remaining roots and tubers, weeds, and bushes under shifting cultivation which absorb much of the nutrients and prevent further cultivation with traditional tools, due to their heavy root systems, once they have established themselves in the form of a grass savannas (Imperata cylindrica et al.) If the intruders are fully eliminated by deep ploughing, dry-field crops can be grown successfully. Moreover a considerable degree of mineral nutrients will be recovered (or gained from hitherto untouched lower soil layers) this way.

Second, in regions of the monsoon tropics with a regular alternation between five to eight humid and an equivalent number of dry months, the evaporation of the soil moisture during the dry months may carry to the surface layers ("ascension") parts of those nutrients which had been washed down into deeper strata during the rainy season (resemblant to the two-field fallow system of agriculture in the mediterranean countries!). Both deep ploughing and the possibility of a return of soil fertility through ascension may at least ease the problem in regions under a periodically changing wet and dry tropical climate.

And yet, though continuous tractor ploughing through many years may show a remarkable success in the first three to five years, especially after a full clearing from the soil of all remaining roots, stumps, tubers, etc., within five to ten years a decrease in yield may occur, caused by the loss of soil nutrients (especially if not counterbalanced by fertilizer application) and by severe rill and gully erosion. This happens especially on steeper slopes, which can be ploughed only in a down-hill direction. Besides direct soil erosion this may lead to landslides and thus the complete loss of considerable agricultural land. Riethmuller (chap. 5 this volume) offers some relevant examples from the mountains west of the Mae Nam Pa Sak valley (Phetchabun, Thailand).

The distinction between monsoonal and permanently humid tropics cannot be emphasized strongly enough. The former show quite good results under dry-land cultivation of annuals, provided a proper crop rotation is observed, as the tegalan dry fields of Java or the Philippines (including dry-land rice in permanent arable rotations) clearly demonstrate. The humid inner tropical zone should preferably be planted with tree and bush crops for continuous cultivation, using species endemic to the tropical forest or introduced from similar areas of other continents, as described by Weischet (1977) and others.

Acid, swampy, or highly podsolic soils under tropical rain forest, widespread for example in large parts of Kalimantan, are ill-suited to agricultural use, as revealed again by the extremely small percentage of potential agricultural lands uncovered by the recent surveys of East and West Kalimantan. Although of a similar climate Sumatra, having larger soil areas derived fully or partly from volcanic ashes, seems to be better off. As shown by Scholz (1982) and others, recent forms of spontaneous settlement for permanent cultivation are spreading into areas there of tropical rain forest, which, traditionally, was thought to allow for no more than shifting cultivation by dibble accompanied by long phases of regeneration under secondary forest after one or two crops at the most.