Main content

The Dyak Iban Way of Farming

View on The Global Environmental Justice site

If Not Us Then Who? Film 3 (12:30) 2021
The Dayak Iban Way of Farming

This is one of seven short films about sustainable living in the forests of Indonesia, Costa Rica and Brazil. Taken together, they tell a story of oppression, resistance, accomplishments, and confidence for the future.

Laura Miller
Applied ethicist and instructor, Southwestern Illinois College, St. Louis Community College, Fontbonne University, and Webster University

Please download the teacher's guide for maps, background information, suggested subjects, questions and activities.

"Then came the companies taking the trees, destroying the forest and ruining nature, and we became their scapegoat."

The Sungai Utik, Dayak Iban way of farming is that of their ancestors. Their cultivation techniques involve rotating fields and crops so that some fields lie dormant while others are farmed. It is this traditional method of opening a field for planting that has been deemed problematic, even illegal, since the Sungai Utik use carefully controlled burning to open their fields for planting. These fires have been said to cause pollution and forest fires, though the clearing of land by palm oil plantations, said to be the main source of these problems, faces little scrutiny. The loss of this traditional method of farming, including the right to burn the fields, would fundamentally change what it is to be Sungai Utik, Dayak Iban. Lost would be their way of farming, the rituals used to open fields, blessings and offerings, and their ability to provide for themselves.

This guide was created with the intention of exploring the lived experiences of Indigenous peoples in the Global South. These experiences demonstrate the resilience of the people born in these locations and their struggle to maintain the connections to their ancestors through their cultural practices, rituals, and defiance.

I consider this to be a legacy project in which the contributors are seeking to honor the lives of their elders and those who have come before them. As an educator, I cannot replace seeing the faces, places, and lived experiences through the eyes of another. No matter how graphic a text depiction might be, the essence of experience conveyed through film is far more powerful. I encourage you to embrace this ethnographic approach to cultural anthropology and to embrace the narratives of peoples who have overcome modernization and threats from commercial interests and other harms, and who have found unexpected alliances and opportunities to thrive.


Other titles in the If Not Us Then Who? Collection:
3. The Dyak Iban Way of Farming

Related Films

Brazil's Women Warriors

* New title added January 2023 *If Not Us Then Who?  Film 6 of 7  400,000…

Sustainable Forests in Costa Rica

* New title added January 2023 * If Not Us Then Who?  Film 5 of 7 Costa…

Sungai Utik :The fight for recognition

* New title added January 2023 * If Not Us Then Who?  Film 1 of 7  Kynan…