Rouse Awards: Elizabeth Follows’ research into Indonesian transmigration
8 Nov 2021
Elizabeth Follows (Upper Sixth) assessed what lessons could be learned from previous transmigration programmes in Indonesia for her Rouse Award-winning research.
The schemes began while the Asian nation was under Dutch rule in the early 20th Century as a means of moving people from densely populated areas to other parts of the country.
Elizabeth, who hopes to study geography at university, became intrigued by the subject after looking at some photos from an Indonesian transmigrant camp that her father had worked at as a junior doctor.
She said: “We’d also just been learning about migration and I thought this would be an interesting topic to look at as a mass population redistribution programme.
“It’s something that’s gone in and out of popularity and I’d originally just planned to look at the effects of the programme historically, but then I saw there were plans to reinstate this again 2020 in light of the Covid pandemic and food shortages.
“However, it seemed to me as if some of the failures of the programme that had been seen before weren’t really being addressed, so I just investigated ways this new programme could be done more effectively by looking at the root causes of previous problems.”
Elizabeth outlined that there had been issues with city slum dwellers moving to rural areas on other Indonesian islands to work as farmers without having the necessary skills, as well as the land they had been given being unsuitable for long-term farming, leading to some transmigrants moving into the illegal logging industry to make ends-meet.
She added: “There have been a few success stories, but for the most part it’s ended in tensions with the native people, more poverty and people trying to return to where they came from.”
In looking to find a way of making the resettlement initiative more effective, Elizabeth devised a model evaluating the suitability of different rural islands around Indonesia based largely on socio-economic and environmental factors.
She also created a table highlighting previous problems and provided possible solutions, such as training people in farming techniques before heading to a new environment. However, she admitted a major flaw remained the communication between newcomers and natives with more than 700 languages being spoken across the country.
Elizabeth said: “I really enjoyed doing this project. A big chunk of my personal statement for university application is about this project because from this, I’ve gone on and done extra research, and it’s really widened my view from quite a niche area.”