Keeping the land: indigenous communities' struggle over land use and sustainable forest management in Kalimantan, Indonesia

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Despite the great emphasis on sustainable forest management in the 1998 Indonesian reform movement, deforestation has only accelerated since then, with Kalimantan (Indonesian Borneo) exhibiting the highest rate of forest loss. Some forested areas have, however, been preserved by local communities. We investigate how and why two of these communities in Kapuas Hulu district, West Kalimantan, have managed to maintain their forests against the pressures of illegal logging and conversion to oil palm plantations. One village community had the capacity to act on its own, while the other needed additional capacity through intercommunity collaboration. Motivations behind these villages’ decisions were both economic and eudaimonic; their desire for meaningful lives related to the community and environment and to past and future generations. The findings enrich the literature on land use change because description and analysis of successful resistance against logging and oil palm is still rare. As such, the findings offer a different way to understand and interrogate the challenges confronting present-day forest communities in Kalimantan and beyond, standing out against the mainstream impression that communities are still powerless or unwilling to resist the short-term economic lures. We also refer briefly to the environmental justice perspective.

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