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Keywords:

  • Kalimantan;
  • new transmigrants;
  • oil palm;
  • plantation labour

Abstract

Transmigration from Java to rural areas of the ‘outer islands’ appeared finished in Indonesia after the fall of the Suharto regime in 1998 and decentralisation in 2001. However, the rapid growth of oil palm plantations in the past decade has led to a renewed call for transmigrants by district heads seeking an expanded labour force. A new system has evolved on a district-to-district basis with applicants in ‘sending districts’ (in Java, Bali and the poorer provinces of East and West Nusa Tenggara) being matched to requests from ‘receiving districts’ (in Sumatra, Kalimantan, Sulawesi and Papua), which largely depend on levels of plantation investment near proposed new transmigration sites. Coordination is in the hands of a rebranded central Ministry of Manpower and Transmigration. Integral to the ‘spatial’ organisation of the new transmigration will be the creation of towns or cities, known as KotaTerpadu Mandiri (‘Integrated self-sufficient city’). A new transmigration region (with its oil palm plantations) will form the ‘embryo’ for the city's growth. Although these arrangements will aim to reduce poverty, their social and environmental costs have not been evaluated. Examples of these new schemes in parts of Central Kalimantan are discussed, with brief comparisons of earlier transmigration projects.