Community Mapping, Tenurial Rights and Conflict Resolution in Kalimantan

Ketut Deddy

Table of Contents

Land Tenure and Natural Resource Conflict in Indonesia
State-Imposed Tenure Systems in Indonesia
Adat Tenure Changes in East Kalimantan
Community Mapping and Its Implications
The Purpose and Role of Community-Mapping Initiatives
Community-Mapping Activities in East Kalimantan
Community Mapping as a Tool to Reduce Conflict over Land


Conflicts over land and natural resources often occur where there are overlapping resource interests among groups, communities or states. These overlapping interests usually become clear when each party is asked to define their own boundaries. Disputes are mainly related to tenure, which ‘determines who can (and can’t) do what with the property in question and under which circumstances they can (or can’t) do it’ (Lynch and Alcorn 1994: 373–4). Property is defined as ‘a bundle of rights’ (Bruce 1998: 1) and responsibilities (Lynch and Alcorn 1994: 374), which can be held by a state, a corporation, an organisation, a family, an individual or a community. These rights, which are complex and often overlap, have spatial, temporal, demographic and legal dimensions.

In Indonesia, conflict over land usually arises between indigenous communities and the state (Ruwiastuti 1997: 55) because state-created property rights overlap with customary (adat) rights. This is often the case when conflict arises between the holders of timber concessions and members of indigenous communities. Timber concession holders use state forestry laws and maps to define and claim their rights, while indigenous communities claim that customary (adat) rights entitle them to stake ownership over the land that their ancestors have long lived on. Similar conflicts can also arise over protected forest areas and land designated for large-scale development activities such as open-cut mines, transmigrant settlements and plantations. A lack of understanding and recognition  of  indigenous  customary  laws  and  practice  (hukum adat  and hak ulayat) are major factors in these land use conflicts (Peluso 1995: 391; Ngo 1996: 137).

The Indonesian government has long been criticised for managing natural resources poorly within the Indonesian archipelago. During the Suharto era, Indonesia lost over 20 million hectares of forest between 1985 and 1997 (Holmes 2000: 3) and another 10 million hectares of agricultural and forest land was burned during the 1997–98 forest fires (McCarthy 2000: 91). Commercial interests, producing 11.5 million tons of palm oil in 2004 (USDA 2005), have also contributed to unprecedented forest conversion in Sumatra and Kalimantan. In addition, because of the anticipated timber shortage and the need to decrease the exploitation of natural forest, Industrial Timber Plantations (Hutan Tanaman Industri) have been promoted by the government (McCarthy 2000: 114–15). Use of a monoculture of fast-growing species in these estates has changed the microclimate and increased the risk of large-scale fires.

Indigenous communities are often marginalised by these large-scale development activities (de Jong 1997: 188). This is because most of their adat lands overlap with industrial timber estates and oil palm plantations, and the government has categorised these lands as grasslands or unproductive lands to be converted into productive uses. This has led to increasing calls for land reform and more sustainable resource-management options, such as involving indigenous communities in land use decisions and allowing them to incorporate their own approaches to natural resource management into a system of community-based management.

In response to land use conflicts on the ground and the demand for equity in accessing land and resources, some research institutions and non-government organisations (NGOs) have worked together with indigenous communities to use maps as a tool for identifying and obtaining formal recognition of indigenous rights to land and natural resources. This has led to community mapping — termed ‘counter-mapping’ by Peluso (1995) because it takes a bottom-up approach. In order that alternative management systems for natural resources can be proposed, these maps are being used to document indigenous management systems (Peluso 1995; Stockdale and Ambrose 1996).

Peluso (1995) and Sirait (1997) have identified some of the key issues underlying community mapping. On the positive side, it can empower local people and allow them to gain land rights. However, on the negative side, community mapping can freeze property rights and create a static situation for local communities. Therefore, the role of these mapping activities in reducing conflicts over land and promoting indigenous systems in the management of natural resources is ambiguous. This chapter explores this dichotomy and proposes ways in which community mapping can result in more positive outcomes.