Gaharu in Apo Kayan plateau, Kalimantan
Winds of change in attitudes to outsiders
As the number of outsiders grew bigger local people started to challenge their presence. It was not biological depletion of the resource that local people were reacting to, but the lack of respect of outsiders to local adat authority.
In the case of gaharu, local groups started to coalesce in opposing outside traders when initial promises of help and economic development went unfulfilled.
Dealing with outsiders
The imposition of a user fee did not limit the number of outsiders, but it ensured that some of the benefits from the trade were flowing back to locals.
In practice, the local leadership was often unable to properly monitor the size of collecting groups and exact any payment. People in the communities often complained about long overdue fees but hesitated to act firmly and force the traders to pay.
Following the most recent surge in gaharu exploitation, an increasing number of people in Kayan Hilir are opposed to the presence of outside collectors and want to impose strict measures to exclude all of them except for buyers.
However, some villagers stand to gain from collusion practices with traders and outside collectors, and the booming business in transport and logistics to support the collectors in the upper Iwan River.
Customary law, or adat, regulates the use of forest products and all other natural resources in the territory like Apo Kayan. In most Kenyah villages, it is mandatory for gaharu collectors to report and pay a fee to the village treasury or the council before going on a forest expedition.
Examples of current regulations endorsed by adat in the Apo Kayan customary land include the need for outside collectors to ask permission of the village chief and kepala adat to collect gaharu in the village area and to pay a fee to the village treasury which goes towards village development, among others.
For the most part, local practices conform to the above regulations. In particular, local people do not usually fell young trees.
Local practices seem to have prevented continued and intense exploitation of forest resources in the communities of the interior. Moreover, trips to the forest are not exclusive, highly specialized expeditions: Locals might hunt wild pigs, kill langur monkeys for bezoar stones, catch songbirds and collect gaharu on one expedition.