Gender Impact of Large-Scale Deforestation and Oil Palm Plantations Among Indigenous Groups in Sarawak, Malaysia

Part of the SpringerBriefs in Environment, Security, Development and Peace book series (BRIEFSSECUR, volume 21)


Land and forest ecosystems form the core of the belief systems and daily lives of indigenous forest people and communities. However, State policies and laws introduced in the colonial period, retained and reinforced by post-colonial states have substantially increased the state’s power and are restricting and removing indigenous rights to land and forest resources according to adat (traditional customs). This chapter examines the impact of changing land use and land tenure systems in Sarawak on human rights, livelihoods, and local gender practices. Conversion of forests to oil palm plantations is regarded as a disaster given the importance of land for customary practices, food security and income-generating activities, and other fundamental rights of indigenous peoples. We use the term ‘disaster’ from a variety of perspectives, foremost is the communities’ perspective placed alongside other perspectives such as gender, legal, socio-cultural, economical, and environmental. To support these arguments, this chapter studies the Iban community of Kampong Lebor whose customary lands were cleared by companies to plant oil palm without free, prior, and informed consent (FPIC). Large-scale plantations on these lands contributed to significant social and environmental risks and other negative socio-economic and climatic consequences. A human-made disaster in Sarawak was partly averted by restoring traditional land rights and tenure systems; however, without restoring women’s access to forest.


Sarawak Oil palm plantations Land grabbing Customary rights Disaster 



Barisan Nasional


Free, prior, and informed consent




Land Custody and Development Authority, Sarawak


National Aeronautics and Space Administration


Native customary rights


Non-governmental organization


Parti Besaka Bumiputra


Sarawakians Access


Sarawak Oil Palm Plantation Owners Association


United Nations


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Copyright information

© The Author(s) 2015

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.KuchingMalaysia

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