chapter  7
17 Pages

The problem of going home: Land management, displacement, and reconciliation in Ambon


Introduction Secure access to land is recognized as one of the most important prerogatives for the prevention of violent conflicts on the Indonesian archipelago (Clark 2002).1 At the same time, land is of primordial significance in peace-building efforts and processes of reconciliation all over the country. The reasons for this are twofold. First of all, access to land has an impact on everyday livelihood strategies. Although major parts of Southeast Asia are witnessing vast and quick processes of urbanization and industrialization, agriculture still plays a major role for millions of households in the region. The Indonesian archipelago is no exception with some 43 percent of the population that is to a certain extent employed in agriculture (CIA World Factbook 2007). This means that for almost half of the total Indonesian population, land is a determining factor in the organization of their livelihood. Being denied secure and satisfactory access to land puts people in a vulnerable economic position for which they have to find alternative coping mechanisms. This can be done either by looking for alternative income-generating strategies outside the agricultural sector – very often in informal survival economies in an urban or semiurban setting (Kamungi et al. 2005) – or by switching towards short-term crops that are less risk-prone. For instance, research carried out in the Eastern Democratic Republic of the Congo illustrates how populations that are confronted with insecure property rights tend to shift towards a cultivation of low-risk and seasonal crops with immediate but low profits (Vlassenroot 2006). In both cases, these adaptations result in an impoverishment of the community, especially in a context of post-conflict transition where the majority of the population has incessantly been confronted with insecurity and economic hardship.