Bali: The disappearance of a fishermen’s village
We pushed the canoe through the turf and climbing on board he suggested I take the helm while he would hoist the sail. Being aboard this fast sailing lightweight canoe, carried by the swell of the blue sea, brought back images so vividly described in Hemingway's book The old man and the sea. After leaving the coast, going further onto the sea we eventually changed track and went north. I learned from the fisherman that the daily catch of fish was very meagre. Fishermen had to leave home early morning, around 4 AM, and had to venture out far off the coast to find fish. When I spotted my hotel near the beach we set course for the coast. When we had reached the shore again, I paid the fisherman and we parted amicably, in good spirit.
Today, after having spent a week back in Nusa Dua to attend RSPO meetings, I had again some time to spare and I walked along the beach, heading in the same direction as 6 years ago. However, where I expected to find the fishing village I only saw newly built luxury hotels and beach resorts. Two fishermen were hauling their small canoe onto the beach. When I asked them about the fishing village, they confirmed that the village had vanished. After that conversation they pulled the canoe further and stored it alongside a few other canoes under some bushes on the last remaining piece of barren land, where bill boards already announced that soon that last tract of land would be converted into luxurious villas as well.
When I continued my journey I met two watchman who, when I asked them some questions about the fishing village, vaguely confirmed that this kampong had indeed disappeared. Some of the fisher folk were likely to have found jobs with the hotels, like combing the beaches to make them look tidy, or perhaps with some luck they would earn an income taking tourists on a trip to the sea. The watchmen also said that some of the fishermen families may have settled in the hinterland.
It is cause for concern that such a village can be bulldozed into oblivion, to be erased and forgotten – a village that has been home to probably many generations of fisher folk. It is unlikely the villagers had any choice but to leave. One should have no illusions that the inhabitants of this fishing community were compensated for the loss of their houses, their yard, the jungle which surrounded their village and their free access to the beach and the sea. Although the history of this village may go back a long time, most probably the community had no legal paperwork such as land titles to support the claim they may have had to this land. The beaches are usurped by big players with deep pockets, with the backing of the local government. And I must admit that I myself am also directly involved when staying in these hotels to be conveniently nearby the conference centre where I have meetings to attend.
A culture evaporated
I do not claim to present a researched and documented narrative of this Nusa Dua fishermen village. But nonetheless, its story seems just one more example of a worldwide phenomenon, a process which Saskia Sassen described as 'expulsion'*.
Many would argue that this is an unavoidable consequence of the dynamics of society. And maybe there may be no reason to romanticise the life of these fishing communities. As I mentioned, the fishermen' daily catch of fish was dismally small, already 6 years ago. Moreover, it is a precarious profession, as every day fishermen run the risk of getting caught up in a typhoon, without their canoes being equipped with rescue rafts or safety vests.
At the same time, it is extremely worrisome that such villages are simply destroyed, with their inhabitants getting scattered and the whole social fabric, customs and history evaporating, denying people their legitimate right to self-determination. And with that, a unique culture, with its skills, crafts and stories, is slipping away.
This, I feel, is not something just to leave unchallenged.
*Expulsion: Looking at the way capitalist society values and includes its members, Saskia Sassen came to a definition of social expulsion of those people that reside at the edge of a system - as opposed to exclusion. Exclusion would be the prevention of people outside that system entering it. Expulsion she describes as the act of those already within the system being ejected from it. Source: https://blogs.ucl.ac.uk/events/2012/06/23/beyond-social-exclusion-emerging-logics-of-expulsion-with-saskia-sassen/ And: S. Stassen, Expulsions: Brutality and Complexity in the Global Economy, Harvard University Press, May 2014.
Read more about this subject
News / 22 April 2013
Between 2010 and 2013, Both ENDS, within an alliance of Indonesian and Dutch organisations and universities, conducted a pilot project to improve the spatial planning in the district of Sanggau in West-Kalimantan, on the island of Borneo, Indonesia, to help local communities with the recognition of their land rights. We can show you a beautiful documentary about one of the villages in this district, Terusan.
Blog / 16 October 2018
Photoblog - In 2016, the state forest around the community of Kasepuhan Karang, in Java, Indonesia, was transformed into customary lands. With these newly acquired land tenure rights, the community has started initiatives to use their land in a sustainable and inclusive way. What this means for the community in terms of livelihoods and food security, became clear during a field visit at the start of the Global Land Forum 2018.
News / 15 October 2020
Institut Dayakologi works to preserve Indigenous Peoples' livelihoods and cultures in West Kalimantan. One of their central goals is to gain ancestral land rights for Indigenous communities. This is not only essential for the security of these communities, but also for the forests and ecosystems on which they depend for their livelihood, identity, culture and customs.
GAGGA rallies the collective power of the women's rights and environmental justice movements to realize a world where women can and do access their rights to water, food security, and a clean, healthy and safe environment.
Indigenous communities in Paraguay saw their attempts to regain their ancestral lands thwarted by German investors. In Indonesia, US-based mining companies succeeded to roll back new laws that were meant to boost the country’s economic development and protect its forests. This is the level of impact that investment treaties can have on social, environmental and economic development and rights. Why? Because of the ‘Investor-to-State Dispute Settlement’ clauses that are included in many such treaties.
Event / 28 February 2019, 14:00 - 15:30
This webinar will feature experiences from several grassroots initiatives and highlight how they fight for women's improved access to and control over land and other natural resources and to scale up women's land rights.
Video / 18 November 2013
Between 2010 and 2013, Both ENDS, together with Indonesian and Dutch organisations and universities, conducted a project in the district of Sanggau in West-Kalimantan, on the island of Borneo, Indonesia. The project was meant to help local communities with the recognition of their land rights and. This is a beautiful short documentary about how the people of one of these villages responded to the ever expanding palm oil plantations around them.
Press release / 18 September 2020
Boskalis doesn’t have to share documents on controversial project; fishing communities will not get crucial information
18 september - The court in Rotterdam today ruled that Dutch dredging company Boskalis does not have to make information on the social and environmental risks of its sand extraction operations in the coastal zone near Makassar, Indonesia, available to local fishing communities affected by the activities. Environmental and human rights organisation Both ENDS had initiated legal action against the company. The court declared Both ENDS inadmissible and did not consider the case. Both ENDS brought the action on behalf of Indonesian fishing communities after Boskalis had rejected repeated requests to provide information on the impact of its activities.
Press release / 1 September 2020
Both ENDS brings legal action against Dutch dredging company on behalf of fisherfolk in South Sulawesi
Environment and human rights organisation Both ENDS is bringing legal action against Boskalis, after the Dutch dredging company continually ignored requests for information on a controversial sand extraction project in South Sulawesi, Indonesia. Boskalis is extracting sand off the coast of Sulawesi for expansion of the port in the capital, Makassar. The extraction activities are affecting fishing grounds, making it impossible for local fisherfolk to earn their livelihoods.
News / 9 December 2019
At the end of November, the organisations WALHI South Sulawesi (part of Friends of the Earth) and Both ENDS filed a formal complaint with the Dutch export credit agency Atradius DSB. Despite the warnings from local communities for the negative consequences of a land reclamation project in the bay of Makassar, Atradius DSB advised the Dutch government to provide dredging company Boskalis with insurance for the execution of the project. The consequences for the fish stock, the beach and the lives of thousands of small-scale fishing communities are severe. Atradius DSB has not sufficiently investigated these harmful consequences beforehand.
Blog / 8 March 2019By Tamara Mohr
Together with five women from the Platform Suace Pyvyvõhára, I travel to Mingã Pora in the east of Paraguay. Around 45 families from the indigenous Tekohá Suace community settled here in 2016. In Guaraní, Tekohá means 'the place where we are what we are'. They reside in tents - self-made out of waste materials - on a small strip of land with a soy field on one side and a nature reserve owned by the Itaipu company on the other.
Participatory Land Use Planning (PLUP) is a rights-based approach ensuring inclusive and gender-responsive land governance, especially for those whose rights to land are not fully acknowledged.
The production of palm oil is causing social and environmental problems worldwide. Both ENDS is working to make the sector fairer and more sustainable and is promoting alternatives for palm oil.
Blog / 29 January 2018By Michael Rice
Pak Japin is a quiet, slim, and softly-spoken man from the village of Silat Hulu, West Kalimantan, Indonesia. I met him at a recent documentary screening in Bali on the fringe of the Round Table for Sustainable Palm Oil (RSPO) annual conference, where he spoke about his community's nine year-long conflict with palm oil company Golden Agri Resources Ltd (GAR).
Blog / 16 June 2020
In September 2019, the streets of Jakarta were filled with angry demonstrators protesting against the Omnibus Employment Law. The law will ease the rules for mining, make it much more difficult to hold companies liable for criminal acts and severely restrict the power of the national anti-corruption committee. At the moment, such protests are completely impossible in Indonesia because of the COVID-19 crisis and the associated lockdown measures. And Indonesian people already had few other means of exerting influence on decision-making and legislative processes.
News / 2 July 2019
The water quality of East Java's largest river, the Brantas River, is increasingly deteriorating due to a combination of industrial and household waste. This environmental pollution has a disproportionate impact on women. Yet, their participation in decision-making remains lacking. ECOTON is working to improve the situation.
Blog / 5 October 2018
From the first moment I arrive in Surabaya, I enter the rollercoaster called ECOTON. I'm visiting them to get to know the work of this long-time Both ENDS partner, and have only three days for this. But ECOTON does a lot, and all of it at the same time. Tirelessly, they work on the protection of the Brantas River.
External link / 19 June 2020
In 2019, women from Semanga, Indonesia took action to improve the water quality in their community affected by palm oil. "The pollution needs to be stopped somewhere and it can start with me."
Blog / 21 January 2020By Michael Rice
Photo Blog - Like many communities in Indonesia, life in Semanga Village, West Kalimantan, revolves around a river. The 90 or so houses follow the curving bank of the Sambas River, each with a path down to a small pontoon where fishing traps and baskets are stacked and boats are tied.
News / 23 November 2018
The production of palm oil is often accompanied by deforestation, environmental destruction and land grabbing. Local communities and activists who stand up against these problems are often threatened. Now the RSPO has taken significant steps in recent months to tackle these issues.