Agustus 26, 2015

Sumatra’s Oil Palm Frontier in the REDD+: The Politics of Scale of Land Conflicts

IN INDONESIA and all over the world, frontiers had been constructed as “empty spaces” (Fold and Hirsch 2009: 95) that ignored the presence of local communities and their customary forms of using and governing forests and land. The recent expansion of protected areas and oil palm plantations in the Indonesian REDD+ pilot province Jambi (Sumatra), has been notably disruptive and violent. This article investigates the politics of scale of land conflicts at Jambi’s oil palm frontier involving indigenous groups, frontier migrants, state forest agencies, NGOs and conservation companies.

We built upon multi-sited qualitative research focusing on struggles related to the formation of informal settlements within protected areas and REDD+ demonstration activities. We followed the transnational networks established by different actors involved in, or impacted by, REDD+ and conservation initiatives.

Results indicate that, especially in the context of rapid rescaling (e.g., decentralization and democratization), new power constellations emerge, thereby altering preexistent property relations. The conflicts at Jambi’s oil palm frontier show that conflicts over access and control of forests are increasingly influenced by transnational governance arrangements for mitigating climate change. The emergence of REDD+ leads to a new global scale of forest and land tenure governance, which leads to a new dialectical relationships between structure and agency. Consequently, REDD+ negotiations provide a voice for marginalized actors (e.g., protests at climate conferences) and – at least theoretically – new legal opportunities (e.g., Cancun Safeguards), which marginalized actors, with the support of transnational activists, might increasingly use in the future to defend their property.[]


Jonas Hein & Yvonne Kunz, “Sumatra’s Oil Palm Frontier in the REDD+: The Politics of Scale of Land Conflicts”, Paper presented at the 8th EuroSEAS Conference, Vienna, 11-14 August 2015.

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