Abstract

Purpose: This study analyzed the expansion of oil palm and its impact on the livelihood vulnerability of rural communities. Furthermore, this study analyzed the livelihood base of rural communities, explained the mechanism of oil palm expansion controlling rural land, analyzed land tenure by oil palm expansion, which caused vulnerability to rural livelihoods, and analyzed the actions of rural peasants responding livelihood vulnerability due to oil palm expansion.

Methodology: The researchers conducted observations inTaludisub district and Popayatosub district, both of which were locations for oil palm expansion in the Pohuwato Regency of Gorontalo Province. Besides, the researchers observed coastal areas in Popayatosubdistrict, especially in Bajo tribal settlements that were affected by environmental damage in the form of floods sent from the mainland when it rained. The researchers also conducted in-depth interviews with various stakeholders who knew about oil palm expansion in Pohuwato Regency. The researchers interviewed village heads, heads of community empowerment institutions in the village, local environmental activists who actively discussed oil palm expansion, oil palm company leaders, and rural communities, both plasma peasants and other communities affected by oil palm expansion in Pohuwato Regency. To support observational and interview data, the researchers conducted a document review of previous research findings relating to the impact of oil palm expansion on local communities.

Main Findings: Oil palm companies get two instruments in controlling the forest area and agricultural land. Those are concession rights, as well as the nucleus and plasma systems. Both instruments close rural communities to access forest areas and agricultural land. It causes livelihood vulnerability in rural communities, besides the ecological disaster in the form of flooding due to damage to the rural environment, as well as drought in the dry season. Rural communities are forced to survive by migrating and diversifying livelihoods in the form of multiple livelihoods.

Implications: This research is significant on both the theoretical and policy levels. On the theoretical level, this research enriches the study of rural sociology, especially the study of rural access and livelihoods. As for the policy level, this research result can be a reference for the government in formulating policies regarding the development of oil palm plantations. In order to avoid livelihood vulnerability, the granting of forest area concessions to oil palm companies should be done at a radius quite far from the settlements of rural communities.

Novelty: A concession permit granted by the government to an oil palm company closes rural communities' access to the forest area. Rural communities get worse when the company implements a nucleus and plasma system policy that causes the transfer of control of agricultural land from rural communities to oil palm companies. The nucleus and plasma system only benefits the oil palm companies as the nucleus and kills the peasants' livelihood base as the plasma. The vulnerability of the livelihood base does hit not only rural communities that are plasma peasants but also hit other communities as a result of environmental damage in the form of floods in the rainy season and drought in the dry season. Vulnerable rural livelihoods due to oil palm expansion forced rural communities to migrate to find new livelihoods and diversify their livelihoods.

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