Grassroots towards autonomy
‘We farm or we die, resist the iron mine.’
This extremely brave slogan was taken from the Manifesto of the Kulon Progo Farmer’s Struggle, written by the Coastal Farmers’ Association (PPLP). For the farmers who live in this regency in the western part of Yogyakarta Special Region , this slogan represents the culmination of all their anxiety, anger and resistance to the mining company Indo Mines Ltd, headquartered in Perth, Australia, and supported by the Yogyakarta Special Region government.
However, Java’s southern coast tends to attract relatively little attention, and so neither have the farmers’ struggles to defend their land there. Java’s economic growth has up until now mostly focussed on its northern shore. The southern coast is rich in valuable minerals. Iron sands, gold, vanadium, titanium, uranium, and also mineral water lie below the earth’s surface. These minerals have not yet been much exploited.
Protected by claims of development and economic growth, local government believes they need to bring progress to the Southern Java coast. One way is through mining projects. This agenda is surely not without its other implications. For example, the plan to build a southern Java trunk road, funded by loans from the Asian Development Bank, for which it would surely be necessary to expropriate land and evict residents.
Facts such as these have become the focus for the Kulon Progo farmers’ nervousness. Especially as they most certainly have to face the planned iron sands mine. A plan which, if enacted, would mean they would lose their farmland.
‘We (the Kulon Progo farmers, ed) were nervous at the time. We would chat about how it would be if we got to know other people in struggle. It wasn’t on purpose, but we got in contact with others in Lumajang and Kebumen,’ said Widodo from PPLP-KP.