Back to the river. Changing livelihood strategies in Kapuas Hulu, West Kalimantan, Indonesia

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Over time, inhabitants of the Kapuas Hulu region of West Kalimantan, Indonesia have changed their livelihood strategies, evolving from collecting forest products, fishing, and swidden agriculture to involvement in forest industry, the latter in response to broader social, political and economic changes of the post-independence and post-reform eras. In the last decade, however, the inhabitants of the villages of Bunut have returned to dependence on fisheries and water resources as important natural capital connected with timber and other forest products. Some observers trace these changes to power struggles brought about by decentralization policies in post-Suharto Indonesia. My ethnographic observations identify more complicated reasons for villagers’ re-involvement in water-based livelihoods, including the rise of ethnicity, adat or customary laws, a national moratorium on logging, and the conservation movement. Livelihood has not involved only economic activity but also social and political issues throughout the history of the community.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)141-157
Number of pages17
JournalForests Trees and Livelihoods
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - 3 Jul 2018


  • Indonesia
  • Kalimantan
  • Livelihood
  • forest dependent people
  • forest resource
  • river
  • strategy


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