Environments and People of Sumatran Peat Swamp Forests II::Distribution of Villages and Interactions between People and Forests
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I studied the distribution of villages and the interactions between people and forests in a lowland plains of Sumatra. I classified the villages there into four types. <i>Pangkalan</i> villages (river ports at the foot of hills) are located in flood zones. <i>Muara</i> villages (river ports at confluence points) are usually found in central zones. Migrant villages and fishing villages are settled in tidal zones. Different types of villages are found in different habitats, but they are connected by a network. The connections between pangkalan villages and muara villages are especially strong. In the central zone, the lands suitable for agriculture are limited to small areas covered by mixed peat swamp forests, and the other areas can be used only as forests. As a result, people in the central zone (villagers of muara villages) have the closest relationships with forests. In this paper I describe the agricultural, fishing, and hunting practices, the dietary taboos, the logging methods, and the plant usage that I observed in the muara villages of Riau, in the Kampar region. I conclude that the most important reason to conserve peat swamp forests is to secure the survival of the people who live among them, (especially those who lack capital). I also point out that the network connecting the different kinds of villages plays important roles in enabling villagers to adapt quickly to changes in the environment and to avoid overexploitation. Taboos in diets are considered to contribute greatly to the villagers' sense of belonging to the network at the level of everyday life. Since the recent political crisis in Indonesia, the government's protection of the forests has been unreliable. The reason why forests still remain is that the Malays, an influential group, have prevented newcomers from devastating their lives, which are founded on close interaction with the forest.
- Japanese Journal of Southeast Asian Studies
Japanese Journal of Southeast Asian Studies 40(1), 87-108, 2002
Center for Southeast Asian Studies, Kyoto University