Oil palms in the rice field : An ethnography of large-scale land acquisition foroil palm plantation development in West Kalimantan

Vos, Rosanne Elisabeth de


This thesis explores how people experience and respond to large-scale land acquisition for the development of oil palm plantations. Land acquisition projects lead to conflict when the land targeted for conversion is also claimed, cultivated and inhabited by rural communities. Drawing on ethnographic research in West Kalimantan, Indonesia, the thesis shows how conflicts evolve around multiple issues, including land rights, livelihoods, labour, food security, and perceptions about flexibility and autonomy for farmers. This research also shows that, in contrast to notions of “one grand land grab”, land acquisition processes unfold gradually, involving many actors and activities, dispersed over place and time. This highly fragmented process is too complex be to regulated through sustainability standards or codes of conduct for companies alone. More structural approaches are needed to prevent and address conflicts, including democratic land use planning that is considerate to pre-existing ways of using and governing land.