Gaharu in Apo Kayan plateau, Kalimantan
Strangers in the backyard
High demand commands more product. The high price fetched on the market triggered and sustained large-scale exploitation, with the involvement of outside collectors and traders. At the higher end of the scale, large and specialized gaharu collecting activities in the Apo Kayan are conducted and controlled by outside collectors.
However, groups of outside collectors hardly include any local villagers, although there might be Dayak people from the lowlands who have local family or ethnic ties.
An altogether different approach to collecting
Outsiders' mode of exploitation drastically differs from traditional practices. As they belong to different ethnic and religious groups, they tend to overlook, if not deny, local adat regulations, or customary law, and often challenge the legitimacy of local rights.
They are less discriminating in the trees they cut, and spend more time in the forest than locals, in larger groups, and are provisioned with supplies flown in by plane.
Consequences of large-scale exploitation
This mode of exploitation has increased the chances of overexploitation of the resource by allowing the collectors to survey larger and more distant areas. As a result, gaharu might not be exhausted in a biological sense, but it might have reached a level of local economic exhaustion.
The consequence? The exploitation of gaharu is no longer viable for local collectors in terms of the money, time, and distance necessary to undertake a successful expedition to the forest.
"Welcome to Apo Kayan"
Outside collectors of gaharu were first welcome in the Apo Kayan area in the early 1990s. They arrived bringing many promises of economic assistance at a time when gaharu collecting was not a common activity among local residents.
Some local people benefited directly from the new business by being employed as motorists, porters, and food providers. The presence of middlemen and buyers also encouraged more local residents to undertake small expeditions to the forest in search of gaharu or other forest products like bezoar stones.