In and Out of the Forest: Decentralisation and Recentralisation of Forest Governance in East Kalimantan, Indonesia


  • Cathrin Bullinger University of Freiburg
  • Michaela Haug University of Cologne



Decentralisation, East Kalimantan, Forest Governance, Indonesia, Local Livelihoods


The ‘big bang’ decentralisation reforms Indonesia embarked upon in 2001 went along with a decentralisation of the forestry sector. Hopes were high that this would improve local development and contribute to more sustainable forest management. However, undesired outcomes of decentralisation have been counteracted by an immediate effort to recentralise forest governance. In this paper, we address the question what actual impact both de- and recentralisation of forest governance had on the livelihoods of local communities in East Kalimantan. Our findings are based on field studies conducted in two villages using ethnographic methods. We show that under decentralised forest governance, unclear functional competences and overlapping authorities of the central and local governments triggered a logging boom that increased inter- and intra-village conflicts, exacerbating inequality, and leading to further deforestation. On the other hand, the recentralisation of the forestry sector and the increased central state control of illegal logging deprived villagers of lucrative income sources without offering adequate alternatives, while ending therewith associated conflicts. Our case studies thus show that de- and recentralisation had both positive and negative effects on a local level. However, we argue that continual decentralisation eff orts would be more promising for the improvement of local communities in East Kalimantan.

Author Biographies

Cathrin Bullinger, University of Freiburg

Cathrin Bullinger studied Social and Cultural Anthropology, Political Science, and Environmental Conservation at the Universities of Freiburg and Basel. She is currently research associate and project coordinator of the BMBF-Southeast Asian Studies programme at Freiburg University, Germany.

Michaela Haug, University of Cologne

Michaela Haug studied Social and Cultural Anthropology, History of Art, Philosophy, and Indonesian Studies in Karlsruhe, Cologne, and Yogyakarta. She gained her PhD from Freiburg University in 2009 and is currently working as scientific assistant at the Institute for Social and Cultural Anthropology at the University of Cologne, Germany.




How to Cite

Bullinger, C., & Haug, M. (2012). In and Out of the Forest: Decentralisation and Recentralisation of Forest Governance in East Kalimantan, Indonesia. Advances in Southeast Asian Studies (ASEAS, Formerly Known As Austrian Journal of South-East Asian Studies), 5(2), 243–262.



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