Borneo Transformed: Agricultural Expansion on the Southeast Asian Frontier

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Edited by Rodolphe De Koninck, Stéphane Bernard and Jean-François Bissonnette

Since the 1960s, Southeast Asia's agricultural sector has experienced phenomenal growth, with increases in production linked to an energy-intensive capitalization of agriculture and the rapid development of agrifood systems and agribusiness. Agricultural intensification and territorial expansion have been key to this process, with expansion of areas under cultivation playing an unusually important role in the transformation of the countryside and livelihoods of its inhabitants.

Borneo, with vast tracts of land not yet under crops, has been the epicenter of this expansion process, with rubber and oil palm acting as the spearhead. Indonesia's Kalimantan provinces and the Malaysian states of Sabah and Sarawak have all undergone major changes but the time frames have varied, as have the crops involved. Agricultural expansion in Borneo is both an economic and a political process, and it has brought about profound socio-economic transformations, including deforestation, and development of communication networks. There has also been rapid population growth, much faster than in either Indonesia or Malaysia as a whole, with attendant pressures on employment, housing and social services. Until the end of the 20th century, agricultural expansion in Indonesia and Malaysia was largely state driven, with the goal of poverty reduction. Subsequently, as in Borneo, boom crop expansion has been taken over by private corporations that are driven by profit maximization rather than poverty reduction.

Rodolphe De Koninck is Professor of Geography and Canada Chair of Asian Research at the University of Montreal. His other works include Gambling with the Land and Singapore: An Atlas of Perpetual Territorial Transformation.

Stéphane Bernard is an Assistant Professor in the School of International Development at the University of Ottawa.

Jean-François Bissonnette is a PhD candidate in the Geography Department at the University of Toronto.


Challenges of Agrarian Transition in Southeast Asia Series
Publication Year: 2011
228 pages, 229mm x 152mm
ISBN: 978-9971-69-544-6, Paperback

NUS Press