The Journal of Transdisciplinary Environmental Studies' (TES)
Volume 13, Number 2, 2014

ISSN 1602-2297

Land-Use and Livelihoods – A Malaysian Oil Palm Scheme and its Social and Ecological Impacts

Nico Wilms-Posen, University of Copenhagen
Mali Boomkens, AgroParisTech, Montpellier
Sarah d’Apollonia, University of Copenhagen
Amanda Klarer, SupAgro, Montpellier
Eva Maria Kraus, University of Copenhagen
Lena Lyngholt Tynell, University of Copenhagen

University of Copenhagen, Bülowsvej 17, 1870 Frederiksberg C, Denmark
AgroParisTech, 648 Rue Jean François Breton, 34090 Montpellier, France
SupAgro, 2 place Pierre Viala, 34060 Montpellier, France
Corresponding author:

Abstract: Livelihoods and land-uses in rural Malaysia have undergone a series of changes in the past 40 years affecting both livelihood security and the environment. The rapid rise of oil palm cultivation has been associated with high deforestation rates and biodiversity loss and has therefore triggered concerns regarding the long term sustainability of this land use change. On the other hand, oil palm development has stimulated the national economy and it aims at promoting socio-economic development in rural areas. This study researches pathways through which the Sarawak Land Consolidation and Rehabilitation Authority (SALCRA) oil palm scheme affects livelihood security and environmental sustainability. The study seeks to combine findings of both areas of research. It thus contributes to the evaluation of such government promoted schemes through an integrated, mixed-methods approach.
In terms of livelihood security, SALCRA was found to diversify income sources of households at the study site in Sarawak, Malaysia. This diversification occurs through direct and indirect ways. Notwithstanding the positive effects and the general positive perception of SALCRA at the study site, concerns about the environmental sustainability of oil palm development have been expressed regarding soil quality. An analysis of soil active carbon in different land-use types could only partly support those concerns. The amount of labile carbon is to a large extent dependent on management practices in the oil palm plantations. Incentives for soil quality conservation and the application of sound management practices in the plantation will be crucial for creating an environment in which future livelihood options are not harmed, while present generations can still benefit from increased livelihood security.

Keywords: Livelihood security, oil palm development, Sarawak, land use change, environmental sustainability

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