Sylvia Ebersberger, Robert Weber:
Migration, Population Growth and Forest Conversion -- Exploring the Link on the Village Level


1University of Kassel, Institute for Socio-cultural and Socio-economic Studies (ISOS), Germany
2Georg-August Universität Göttingen, Cultural and Social Geography, Germany

The degree of forest degradation and conversion of forest inside and bordering Lore Lindu National Park in Central Sulawesi, Indonesia varies considerably. The commercial extraction of timber and rattan and the permanent conversion of forest into arable land is much higher in villages that have experienced rapid and high population growth. However, the simple formula ``rural immigration equals deforestation'' obstructs the view on the complex multi-causal relationships underlying deforestation. Based on the analysis of semi-structured interviews with selected households in several villages in four districts we emphasise the necessity to examine the reasons why migrants move to certain villages but not to others. Generally speaking, affluent migrants from other provinces are attracted by the relative ease to purchase fertile land in certain villages. In these particular villages the community forest has nearly vanished completely. Plots are cleared by locals first in order to establish ownership rights and are then sold to migrants. While the latter have the means and knowledge to invest into labour extensive cacao cultivation, which is rapidly becoming the dominating cultivation system, the former face difficulties to seize the benefits of the cultivation of perennial crops. The national park authority fails to control illegal logging organised by members of the village leadership, that constitutes the inroad for clearing forest for fields. It is important to note that it is the not the migrants who initially establish plots inside the national park. Rather locals open these fields and then may sell them to the migrants. Often the aforementioned village leaders are involved in these land transactions, conveying the impression to the migrants that these are legal arrangements. In contrast, in other villages the local leaders support the national park and aim at preserving the community forests. As they actively restrict the further conversion of forest resources they put a constrain on the amount of land available to migrants, making their village less attractive for newcomers. With mounting market and population pressures and lack of enforcement by the central state, it depends on local governments and institutions' to which extent migration can lead to forest conversion in their village.

Keywords: Forest conversion, local institutions, migration


Contact Address: Sylvia Ebersberger, University of Kassel, Institute for Socio-cultural and Socio-economic Studies (ISOS)Steinstraße 19, 37213 Witzenhausen, Germany, e-mail:
Andreas Deininger, September 2004