Get the CIFOR publications update

CIFOR publishes over 400 publications every year on forests and climate change, landscape restoration, rights, forest policy, agroforestry and much more in multiple languages.

Shifting cultivation, contentious land change and forest governance: the politics of swidden in East Kalimantan

Shifting cultivation, contentious land change and forest governance: the politics of swidden in East Kalimantan

Swidden has historically been one of the most widespread land uses in upland Southeast Asia. In recent decades, swidden systems across the region have undergone rapid transformation. While most analyses focus on swidden as a livelihood practice, we direct attention to the political nature of swidden. Drawing on qualitative fieldwork and household surveys from two villages in East Kalimantan Province, Indonesia, we examine the politics of swidden along two key dimensions. First, at the household level, we describe swidden as a land control strategy. We identify territorialization and speculation as drivers of ‘contentious land change’ in swidden systems under pressure from expanding plantations and mines. Second, at the village and district levels, we examine the politics of swidden within new forest governance arrangements. Control of swidden has provided a focus for multi-stakeholder forest governance, but with ambivalent effects, developing village land management and livelihoods at a cost of temporary increases in swidden clearing and with minimal impact on deforestation for industrial land uses. Our analysis suggests forest governance efforts will be ineffective in eliminating contentious land change or reducing district-level deforestation until they address plantation and mining expansion as the dominant direct and indirect drivers of forest conversion.

Authors: Thaler, G.M.; Anandi, C.A.M.

Topic: shifting cultivation, forests, governance, household surveys

Geographic: Indonesia,East Kalimantan

Publication Year: 2017

ISSN: 0306-6150

Source: Journal of Peasant Studies 44(5): 1066-1087

DOI: 10.1080/03066150.2016.1243531

Altmetric score:

Export Citation

Related viewing


CIFOR website usability survey

We're conducting research on our website and we'd love to hear from you about your experience on This will help us make improvements and prioritize new features. The survey should only take 5 minutes, and your responses are completely anonymous.

If you have any questions about the survey, please email us:

We really appreciate your input!

Start survey
I don’t want to participate
Remind me later