Three Agricultural History

Robert W. Hefner

in The Political Economy of Mountain Java

Published by University of California Press

Published in print December 1990 | ISBN: 9780520069336
Published online May 2012 | e-ISBN: 9780520913769 | DOI:
Three Agricultural History

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This chapter presents a brief history of upland agriculture. In his Agricultural Involution, Clifford Geertz observes that the “extraordinary stability or durability” of wet-rice agriculture allowed it to absorb a large proportion of colonial Java's growing population. Although it provided no more than a minimal income, sawah's ecological resilience ensured that that livelihood would not be jeopardized by environmental degradation. The paddy field's ecological qualities contrast sharply with those of upland rainfed land (tegal). Under ideal conditions, sawah is an eminently sustainable agriculture, capable of long-term intensive cultivation. Tegal, by contrast, is dangerously susceptible to degradation, especially in terrains as rugged as the Tengger mountains. The history of agriculture in this region demonstrates this somber reality all too clearly. Farmers here have had to adapt, not only to population growth and a changing political economy, but to the ominous ecological consequences of their own agricultural intensification.

Keywords: Tengger highlands; rice agriculture; tegal; sawah

Chapter.  12566 words. 

Subjects: Anthropology

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