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Junior Scientist Symposium: Social Sciences

Junior Scientist Symposium: Social Sciences

Report on Junior Scientist Symposium: Social Sciences and Humanities

Date: 28 January 2014
Chaired by Dr. Yunita Winarto and Dr. Mario Rutten

IMG_8211The session on Social Sciences and Humanities consisted of three presentations:
1. M. Mustopa Romdhon on Land Optimization to Improve Rice Farmers’ Income: A study on rice land conversion in Bengkulu
2. Nia Kurniawati Hidayat on Impact of Certificiation on Palm Oil Smallholders’ Livelihood: the capacity of sustainable certification 3. Henky Widjaja on Jarak: The Commoditization of an Alternative Biofuel Crop in Indonesia Jatropha in South Sulawesi: Cultivation, Trade & Discourses

All three presentations in this session dealt with social science research related to agricultural issues. Until the 1980s, changes in rural society and developments in agriculture was an important theme in social science research on Asia in general and on Indonesia in particular. Over the past few decades, however, the focus of social science research has shifted to urban problems and away from developments in agriculture. At the same time, as substantial part of the population in Indonesia still lives in the countryside and depends for at least part of its livelihood directly or indirectly on agriculture. The (re-)awareness of the urgency of food security and environmental problems adds to the relevance of continued attention in research to the social aspects of developments in the agricultural sector. For these reasons alone, the three presentations in this session of the Junior Scientist Symposium in Makassar were timely and dealt with important contemporary issues in Indonesian society. All three presentations illustrated the importance of a social science perspective in order to understand what at first seem to be mainly technical problems in agricultural development. They also pointed out the way in which agricultural changes often influence the physical and human landscape through changes in cropping patterns and social relations.

M. Mustopo Romdhon shows the implications of the conversion of rice land to oil palm and rubber plantations in Bengkulu. This change in land use has resulted in declining income for the smaller farmers. The project aims to develop a model to optimize land allocation and cropping pattern in rice production in order to improve output and maximize income for the farmers, and thereby prevent further rice land cultivation. In the long run, these measures will result in more sustainable agriculture.

The project by Nia Kurniawati Hidayat deals with issues related to certification of oil palm production in Indonesia. The expansion of oil palm plantations is highly debated and certification is expected to make the oil palm production more sustainable in the future. The project shows the need to take into account the interests and positions of the various stakeholders. There are differences in access to certification between producers within large plantation schemes and independent small holders. The livelihood concept seems to be a useful approach to analyze this problem.

The study by Henky Widjaja focuses on the implementation of jatropha projects in South Sulawesi, which have become partly viewed as an alternative way to meet the rising demand for oil. The research shows the failure of these projects, which sometimes resemble a hype more than a reality. The spread of jatropha in South Sulawesi is driven by the specific characteristics of the region and by the economic and social interests of the various actors involved. At the same time, it points out that earlier examples of the implementation of new crops sometimes also took a long time to become successful, while in other cases, so-called ‘failed’ projects were successful in other ways than expected.