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The Political Economy of Mountain JavaAn Interpretive History$
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Robert Hefner

Print publication date: 1990

Print ISBN-13: 9780520069336

Published to California Scholarship Online: May 2012

DOI: 10.1525/california/9780520069336.001.0001

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Three Agricultural History

Three Agricultural History

Intensification and Degradation

(p.52) Three Three Agricultural History
The Political Economy of Mountain Java

Robert W. Hefner

University of California Press

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

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