Atmaezer Hariara Simanjuntak

Grant Type

Dissertation Fieldwork Grant

Institutional Affiliation

Northwestern U.

Grant number

Gr. 10728

Approve Date

April 15, 2024

Project Title

Simanjuntak, Atmaezer (Northwestern U.) "Replanting the Future: State Speculation and Debt in Replanting Indonesia's Palm Oil Plantations"

Indonesia’s palm oil smallholder plantations are entering their unproductive age. After twenty-five years of planting, the state reinstates its ambition to replant, citing climate concerns as a further motivation. However, despite promises to renew and transform the sector to double its future profitability in the green market, the replanting effort has been largely unsuccessful. This research examines the role of credit relations in constituting the state’s nationwide smallholder replanting program (PSR). The PSR credit, assembled from a blended financing scheme from palm oil export levies and commercial bank credit, incentivizes smallholders to replant and provide the necessary infrastructures. By tracing credit as simultaneously a material exchange, power relation, and lived social and moral experience, I highlight two dynamics structuring the credit and its embedded aspirations: the persistence of state speculation and the abundance of debt. To investigate, I will conduct multi-sited ethnographic research in Jakarta and West Kalimantan and Riau’s plantation belts. I have completed nine out of twelve months of interviews with state officials, financiers, and corporate managers in Jakarta and participant observation among smallholders in West Kalimantan. The Riau fieldwork will be conducted between July and November 2024. The ethnography is complemented by extensive document and archival research.