Creation of the State Forest System and Its Hostility to Local People in Colonial Java, Indonesia

Mizuno Kosuke, Hayati Sari Hasibuan, Okamoto Masaaki, Farha Widya Asrofani

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

1 Citation (Scopus)

Abstract

Indonesia has a vast area of state forests (kawasan hutan) covering 65 percent of the country’s land surface. State forests provide timber and enable the protection and conservation of forests. They also provide a living environment for local people, which comes with many problems, including overlapping land rights, illegal logging, and serious environmental degradation. This study looks into the origin of the state forest system during the colonial era, paying particular attention to the establishment of the Forest Service. Faced with deforestation at the end of the eighteenth century and the middle of the nineteenth, a forest administration system was established in the name of forest protection and conservation, to implement a bureaucratic system of administration based on wage labor. Finally, the Forest Service was set up. The Forest Service supplied timber for the government’s infrastructure development, such as state railway construction, and supplied timber and firewood for local people. The Forest Service’s revenue covered its expenditure and even created a budget surplus that contributed to state revenue. The system was quite unsympathetic to local people—for example, slash-and-burn practices were prohibited, and defiant locals were punished—and the government never attempted to involve local people in the implementation of the forest conservation program. The government attempted to stabilize the system in part by issuing permits allowing certain activities. However, the permit system barely functioned, and almost nobody tried to get permits. The number of forest offenses such as stealing trees increased until the end of the 1930s. The fundamental problem was that local people regarded their use of the forest—such as for cutting trees and gathering fallen trees, leaves, and branches—as their customary right; the colonial govern-ment, on the other hand, denied them this right, confining it within the permit and police system.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)47-87
Number of pages41
JournalSoutheast Asian Studies
Volume12
Issue number1
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 27 Apr 2023

Keywords

  • customary rights
  • forest offenses
  • forest police
  • Forest Service
  • state forest

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