Skip navigation
Skip navigation

Village and state regimes on Sumatra's forest frontier: a case from the Leuser ecosystem, South Aceh

CollectionsANU Resources, Environment & Development Group (RE&D)
Title: Village and state regimes on Sumatra's forest frontier: a case from the Leuser ecosystem, South Aceh
Author(s): McCarthy, John
Keywords: Sumatra;South Aceh;resource management;socio-legal orders;adat;forest;land resources;property rights;policy change;Sama Dua;agroforestry;Seuneubok;tigers
Publisher: Canberra, ACT: Resource Management in Asia-Pacific Program (RMAP), Division of Pacific and Asian History, Research School for Pacific and Asian Studies, The Australian National University
Series/Report no.: Resource Management in Asia-Pacific Program (RMAP) Working Paper: No. 26
[Introduction]: In a context where the notion of adat is so contested, there is a need for more nuanced accounts of the role of these local institutional arrangements in the management of natural resources. Based on research carried out over 1996-9, just prior to the current crisis in Aceh, this paper will consider the nature of the customary (adat) forest regime in one community in South Aceh. Specifically, the paper will explore the complex ways in which adat institutional arrangements interact with external legal and political influences. Considering adat institutional arrangements as dynamic and evolving, the paper will examine the role of adat in shaping forest outcomes. This research reveals that, while the ambitions of a State to impose its own systems of authority have had some impact on resource management, the reality in the field is far more complex than is often suggested. At the local level, during the New Order State institutions increasingly penetrated local society, subsuming and to some degree displacing indigenous institutional arrangements, particularly those relating to village government. On the one hand, this has meant that local adat regimes have come under pressure. To continue to operate, to some extent adat leaders have had to make accommodations with the State. In this process, adat arrangements have also become dependent upon and embedded within the State institutional order. On the other hand, there have been real limits to the capacity of the State system to make the rules at the local level. As this case shows, despite the increased reach of State agencies over the New Order period, in many respects institutional arrangements have not worked according to the State management system or the formalised norms of the bureaucratic system. On the contrary, in many ways the norms and assumptions derived from longstanding practices associated with older localised institutions (referred to as adat) have continued. In effect, these institutional arrangements often play the primary role in determining practical outcomes – such as who gains access to local natural resources – at times in direct contrast with the rules laid down in state legislation and forestry policy.3 In other words adat concepts and practices have proved surprisingly dynamic and resilient. Moreover, at least in this case, the community has successfully defended its property rights, maintaining territorial control over their adat territory against outside claims supported by the Government. This is despite the almost invisible status of adat claims over forest under State laws during the New Order.


File Description SizeFormat Image
rmap_wp26.pdf281.56 kBAdobe PDFThumbnail

Items in Open Research are protected by copyright, with all rights reserved, unless otherwise indicated.

Updated:  17 November 2022/ Responsible Officer:  University Librarian/ Page Contact:  Library Systems & Web Coordinator