peatland conservation

Safeguarding Indigenous Rights and Territories: Integrating Dayak Ngaju Wisdom in Peatland Ecosystem Management



  • Indonesia’s legal system favors state land ownership, marginalizing Indigenous Dayak communities and disrupting traditional practices.
  • Economic development prioritization over conservation results in a limited understanding of the value of peatland ecosystems for the Indigenous Dayak.
  • Community-led solutions, like a peatland zonation system, reveal policy challenges, including conflicts from the lack of informed consent and weak enforcement of laws recognizing Indigenous rights in Indonesia.


Ensuring the Safety of Peatlands: A Continuing Struggle


This research examines challenges faced by Indigenous Dayak communities in Indonesia due to a legal system favoring state land ownership, leading to the marginalization of these communities and disruption of their traditional land management practices. The prioritization of economic development over environmental and cultural conservation has resulted in a limited understanding of the value of the peatland ecosystem for Indigenous Dayak communities, leading to ineffective policies.

To address these issues, the research employs a descriptive qualitative approach, utilizing in-depth interviews and literature studies within the Tumbang Nusa and Pilang villages in Central Kalimantan. The findings reveal that the Indigenous Dayak Ngaju community has established a zonation system for peatland use, emphasizing the importance of specific policies to preserve sacred areas, vital for Indigenous values and practices.

However, the absence of free, prior, and informed consent in certain government initiatives, such as the Mega Rice project, Food Estate program, and Zero-burning policy, has resulted in social conflicts within the Indigenous Dayak community, leading to the destruction of their livelihoods. Despite existing laws in Indonesia acknowledging Indigenous rights and safeguarding customary lands, the research underscores the weak and inconsistent implementation and enforcement of these legal safeguards.


Iber Djamal, Dayak’s community elder and the main resource person for this research. Credit: Sumarni Sumarni.




Author: Sumarni Sumarni, School of Government and Public Policy, Bogor, Indonesia; Muhammad Ery Wijaya, School of Government and Public Policy, Bogor, Indonesia; Astrid Meilasari Sugiana, School of Government and Public Policy, Bogor, Indonesia.

Publisher: Udayana Journal of Law and Culture

Language: English

Year: 2023

Ecosystem(s): Wetlands and Peatlands

Location(s): Indonesia

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