The Biofuel Boom and Indonesia’s Oil Palm Industry: The Twin Processes of Peasant Dispossession…

The Biofuel Boom and Indonesia’s Oil Palm Industry: The Twin Processes of Peasant Dispossession and Adverse Incorporation in West Kalimantan

By Claude Joel Fortin

The sharp rise in global demand for biofuels and food has prompted widespread land grabbing in the Global South. In the case of Indonesia, it has prompted an unprecedented expansion of oil palm plantations that are expected to triple in land area over the next decade. The province of West Kalimantan has recently been targeted as the site of greatest expansion across the archipelago, giving rise to new social vulnerabilities and intensified conflicts over land. In the wake of large-scale enclosures of ‘national forests’ and ‘idle land’ by state actors allied with agribusiness and global capital, users of forest land under customary tenure are having to confront the pressures of neoliberal globalization and transnational circuits of accumulation and production linked to the oil palm sector. Field research conducted in Sanggau district has revealed highly uneven access to land and distinct labour regimes determined by on-going class differentiation within characteristic patterns of exclusion and various forms of inclusion, notably adverse incorporation. The oil palm expansion is enflaming outstanding and unresolved conflicts over land and labour which date back to earlier development schemes, and resistance is on the rise as the state, allied with domestic and transnational private interests, rely on deception, coercion, and violence to quell opposition and to allow for continued expansion at an unbridled pace. This thesis thus examines the political economy of Indonesia’s current oil palm industry in the upland district of Sanggau, West Kalimantan, and it identifies the mechanisms and processes of agrarian transformation as they relate to the changing social relations of production where land and labour are being reconfigured to serve the interests of capital.

File: Claude Fortin Final.pdf