Oktober 06, 2014

Whose Forest? A Study from Four Villages Adjacent to Bukit Duabelas National Park, Indonesia


THIS THESIS is based on data from fieldwork in four Malay villages in Jambi Province, Indonesia. The villages are all adjacent the recently established Bukit Duabelas National Park. In addition to motives of conservation of nature, the national park was established to secure the habitat of the Orang Rimba, an increasingly marginalised group of hunters and gatherers. The national park has faced resistance from the Malay villagers in the area. The thesis examines two questions:

a) How do the villagers in the communities adjacent to the national park relate to it?
b) What may explain attitudes and actions?

In order to address these questions adequately, I have analysed the local setting within which the park is to be realised. I have identified two aspects of this setting as particularly important; local economy, and local conceptions and practices for distribution of rights in land.

Resistance towards the national park is linked to its potential blocking of access to resources vital to local economic pursuits, in particular timber. Although the forest according to formal law is state property, the villagers have property claims in the area, overlapping with those of the state. These claims are embedded in adat, which may be understood as a body of local traditions, values, norms and regulations.

In general, formal laws are weakly enforced, and issues of rights in land and resources are managed by the villagers mainly outside of the apparatus of the state. The area gazetted for national park is under diverse claims based on adat, and the villagers are involved in a constant struggle over access to valuable resources such as land and timber. Several versions of adat circulate, and when the national park was established, one of these was recognized, more precisely, that of the Orang Rimba.

A result of this is that in negotiations over access to certain resources where the Orang Rimba used to constitute the villagers counterpart, the villagers must now negotiate over access to the same resources with the state. In the thesis, I argue that in order to make sense of the processes at village level, they must be situated within a larger framework of historical, economic and political relations.[]


Geir Erichsrud, “Whose Forest? A Study from Four Villages Adjacent to Bukit Duabelas National Park, Indonesia", MA-thesis, University of Oslo, 2007.

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