Labor Migration in Indonesia’s Rural Industrial Agriculture and Forest Landscapes

Collaborators: Nancy Peluso (PI), Kim Carlson (co-PI), Suraya Afiff (co-PI), Jacqueline Dean, Andika Nur Perkasa, Agung Prabowo, Armadina Azra

Funding: National Science Foundation, Geography and Spatial Science

Migrant labor to and from agrarian regions of the Global South has grown significantly over the last 10 years, driving an estimated $689 billion in remittance investments in 2018. Simultaneously, agrarian environments have been transformed by large-scale land acquisitions for industrial agriculture and forestry. In this project, we are interested in how labor migration and large-scale land enclosures are combining to shape gendered and generational shifts in agrarian labor relations and resource investments, and in how these dynamics may be shaping new patterns of landscape change. Our research, situated in four contrasting sites of plantation expansion and labor mobility in Indonesia, combines ethnographic research with long-term and fine-grained analyses of land use and cover change.

Mixed-use smallholder land and a rumah kebun in Konawe, Sulawesi, Indonesia

Bottom left through top right: Lisa Kelley, Andika Nur Perkasa, Armadina Azra, Agung Prabowo

Morning fog over/on the way to the oil palm plantation in the distance

Land-Livelihood Transformations in Sulawesi, Indonesia’s Smallholder Cacao Sector

Student Collaborators: Safaruddin Sains, Emma Yip, Sabah Saberi, Narayan Gopinathan, Batara Soepraba

Funding: National Science Foundation, Graduate Research Fellowship Program; US Department of State; US Department of Education; World Resources Institute; USAID; AIFIS; Luce Foundation; World Agroforestry Centre

This project focused on histories of land-livelihood transformation in Sulawesi, Indonesiaʻs smallholder cacao sector and explored these with reference to both histories of state territorialization and the emergence of public-private initiatives for promoting sustainable cacao production from roughly the mid-2000s onward. In past and ongoing work, I have drawn on remotely sensed datasets and Google Earth Engine to document the role of the smallholder tree crop economy in driving widespread “woodland resurgence” from the 1970s onward. I have also drawn on long-term ethnographic research in four villages in Southeast Sulawesi to explore how recent market-based efforts to promote sustainable cacao intersect with earlier regimes of resource use, access and governance, driving highly uneven patterns of commodity expansion and landscape change.