Creative farmers, climate politics, and lowland rice production in Indonesia

Authors: Sophie Webber*, University of Sydney
Topics: Cultural and Political Ecology, Environment
Keywords: climate services, climate change adaptation, rice production, Indonesia
Session Type: Paper
Day: 4/14/2018
Start / End Time: 4:00 PM / 5:40 PM
Room: Endymion, Sheraton, 8th Floor
Presentation File: No File Uploaded


In the context of agricultural production, providing seasonal rainfall forecasts is expected to improve planting strategies and thereby optimise outputs. To this end, the Indonesian Ministry of Agriculture, along with the Bureau of Meteorology, Climatology, and Geology, provides an online, integrated planting calendar system that is intended to guide rice farmers, increase commodity production, and improve food – and national – security. These ‘climate information services’ are narrowly prescriptive, reflecting the common state agency assumption that farmers do not understand, and are responsible for declines in, their agroecological conditions and production. In parallel, a collective of university, extension workers, and civil society agrometeorologists have initiated Science Field Shops that are focused on mutual learning to build adaptive capacities and resilience. In this paper, we analyse how lowland rice farmers engage with and against these two state and extra-state projects of environmental control in order to craft their livelihoods. We find limits in both form and content of the two initiatives. Despite these failures, however, we find that the projects have expansive social and environmental effects. We show that farmers “play” with and between the two projects, manipulating their inputs and outputs in order to subsidise their livelihoods and assert their political status. The farmers are creative in reworking, reproducing, and reformulating the intentions of scientific and bureaucratic regimes. Nonetheless, the projects may contribute to intensified agricultural production with negative environmental consequences, and intensify inequality through new social hierarchies.

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