Sawah First! The Cultural Ecology of Alang-Alang in a Rain Forest Margin Community

Günter Burkard


Imperata cylindrica, or alang-alang as it is often referred to in writings on SE-Asia, is one of the most intensively studied weeds of the world. In investigating alang-alang related problems in a small holder community in the vicinity of the Lore Lindu National Park on the island of Sulawesi, Indonesia, this paper challenges some common claims about the origins, attached values and future perspectives of alang-alang. The sources of imperata infusion in the research area are neither linked to population pressure, nor to inadequate cropping techniques in dry land cultivation. Rather, alang-alang expanded as a reaction to the development of the wet rice sector which absorbs most of the time and labour of the farmers.Of ten being forced to abandon their dry land plots in order to manage their wet rice fields, farmers create ideal conditions for the grass to expand.Ho wever, whereas on the one hand alang-alang represents a major element of “criticality”, the alang-alang plot as such offers important opportunities provided by other plants growing naturally in imperata sites.A culturally defined preference for rice subsistence as well as an orientation aimed at securing survival rather than enhancing profitability make an effective control of the weed difficult.


Indonesia; rain forest margin; socio-economic security; weed control; wet rice; alang-alang; Imperata cylindrica

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