Indonesia: Kulon Progo – Farm or Die

Hidup Biasa: Faced with the threat of their land being taken from them and turned into a vast iron mine, 20 kilometres long, the farmers of Kulon Progo on Java’s South Coast have resisted with cries of “Bertani atau Mati!” “We farm or we die!”. Farm or die is a compilation of articles and interviews reflecting their struggle.

If you want to read or download Farm or Die as a pdf you can do that here (to read online) or here (to print). Otherwise, you can read a selection of the articles here:

  • Interview with Widodo: A chilli farmer gives his views on the will farm, the struggle, solidarity and autonomy.
  • Chronology of Struggle: Some key moments in the struggle from 2007 to 2011
  • Interview with Suratinem: In 2011 Suratinem’s husband Tukijo was abducted from his field by police, and sentenced to three years in prison. Suratinem tells her story.
  • SG and PAG: At the root of the land dispute is the local sultanate, who claim the Kulon Progo land despite the farmers clearly having land title. Feudalism may exist informally in other parts of Indonesia, but only here is it protected by law.

For a general background on the Kulon Progo struggle, see A Tale of Sand, which we published in 2009.

There are also a few short films about the struggle, which can be viewed here.

The company the farmers are up against is a joint venture between an Indonesian company (owned by the Sultan of Yogyakarta’s family), and an Australian company Indomines. Recent news from this company is that a majority share has been bought by the Rajawali group, owned by Peter Sondakh, the eighth richest man in Indonesia. This company has been involved in diverse projects which have been met by community resistance, such as the Toka Tindung gold mine in North Sulawesi, and the Merauke Integrated Food and Energy Estate in West Papua. This is an ominous development for the Kulon Progo farmers, as Rajawali has become known for making large investments in new ventures and then pushing forward aggressively to make a profit.

Indeed at Toka Tindung, a controversial project had been making slow progress, very similar to the Kulon Progo project. But soon after Rajawali’s investment, the company was able to start full production at the mine which is now threatening some of the most important land and marine environments on the planet.

Rajawali Group also happens to have the franchise for the Surfer’s Paradise Marriott Hotel on Australia’s Gold Coast. Of course this does not stop them from destroying a paradise for farmers on the south coast of Java, which surfers would surely also appreciate!!!

The next issue of Farm or Die should be out soon, focussing on other communities in struggle around Java which are connected to the Forum Komunikasi Masyarakat Agraria (Agrarian Community’s Forum for Communication), a network of autonomous farmers’ struggles from across Java and nearby provinces.

The Kulon Progo edition of Farm or Die has also been translated into French, and can be downloaded here.

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