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close this book South-East Asia's Environmental Future: The Search for Sustainability (1993)
close this folder Part III - Selected issues: Change and the environment
close this folder 10. The problems of upland land management
View the document (introductory text)
View the document Introduction
View the document The expansion and intensification of upland agriculture, 1850-1950
View the document Upland agriculture, 1950-1990: Logging, roads, markets and cash
View the document The environmental consequences of upland agricultural expansion: Sustainability and unsustainability
View the document Attempted solutions
View the document What is to be done?

Attempted solutions

Attempted solutions

Migration and Resettlement

Throughout the region, numerous attempts have been made to address the problems created by the expansion of upland agriculture in the 1800s and its modern manifestations. Perhaps the best known attempt to reduce the pressure on land in Java-the Indonesian transmigration project which drew many of its recruits from upland areas-is now widely seen as an environmental threat in itself, and as a major contributor to the deforestation taking place in the outer islands. Transmigration settlers are poorly cared for, relative to, for example, Malaysian FELDA settlers; in Kalimantan, they have been required to be largely self-sufficient in food, a factor which has led them into annual cropping on land which has been placed in a capability class for tree crops only.

A good deal of resettlement from upland areas has been of a more spontaneous kind, and it has generally been to lowland areas, especially to the towns and cities. Although a proportion of those who have moved from the highlands of Papua New Guinea now live in planned land-development areas where they cultivate tree crops, a larger number has settled in and around the urban areas. The same has happened in the Philippines and in Java. Within the uplands, there is migration from more remote areas to regions where cash cropping is more rewarding, and where off-farm employment is readily available. There is little data on the basis of which these movements might be quantified, but there can be no doubt concerning their substantial volume.

Social Forestry

Programmes which directly address the problems of deforestation, and the rehabilitation of degraded land, are the social-forestry schemes which are found in a number of SouthEast Asian countries. In the Philippines, social-forestry projects have been concerned with environmental issues, but they are also explicitly designed to improve living conditions, provide employment, augment incomes and make rural communities more self-reliant (Aguilar, 1986). In contrast to previous attempts to control upland forest clearing, which relied unsuccessfully on exclusion of people from the forests, coercion and punishment, the newer projects allow people to remain in the areas under a form of 'managed occupancy'.

Although it is difficult to generalize about the success of these projects because the outcomes have been so variable, it is apparent that, after enthusiastic beginnings, reforestation and terracing targets have rarely been met. The major difficulties facing such projects appear to be the quality of government extension agents, their rapid turnover and a continuing tendency for them to pressure farmers into participation. In one scheme in the Philippines, increasing coercion resulted in extensive burning after a number of years of declining frequency of forest fires (Aguilar, 1986).

Reforestation, or regreening, has a long history in Indonesia. The colonial government recommended planting leucaena on deforested hillsides as a precursor to terracing (Nibbering, 1991b: 169). The independent Indonesian government's first National Regreening Week was held in 1959. Soemarwoto (1991) observes that the outcome of regreening programmes has been variable, but the rate of deforestation is clearly still exceeding the rate of regreening. He also observes that tree planting alone does not necessarily reduce erosion and may even interfere with soil-water conditions.