Flooding, agrarian stress, and land use change in Southeast Sulawesi, Indonesia

Authors: Lisa Kelley*, University of Hawaii - Manoa, Agung Prabowo, Ininnawa Community, Sulawesi 90561, Indonesia
Topics: Human-Environment Geography, Cultural and Political Ecology, Agricultural Geography
Keywords: flooding, vulnerability, agrarian change, land use, Indonesia
Session Type: Paper
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Flooding is a routine occurrence throughout much of the monsoonal tropics. Despite well-developed repertoires of response, agrarian societies have been ‘double exposed’ to intensifying climate change and agro-industrialization over the past several decades, often in ways that alter both the regularity of flood events and individual and community capacity for response. This paper engages these dynamics by exploring everyday responses to extreme flood events, focusing on a village in Southeast Sulawesi, Indonesia which has also been the site of corporate oil palm development since 2010. We first reconstruct histories of flooding using oral histories and satellite imagery. We then outline a common smallholder response to flooding extremes: the sale or lease of flood-prone lands to corporate land investors and smallholder sand mining operators. We highlight how such transactions allow local elites and corporate actors to profit from distress while enclosing access to previously common property lands. We also discuss how associated ‘inscriptions’ in the biophysical landscape (including land clearance and river dredging) may increase systemic vulnerability to floods moving forward.

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