Brief history of Kebumen

The name Kebumen is derived from the previous name “Kabumian” (meaning earthy). The name came about when Prince Mankubumi of Mataram went into hiding here during the reign of Sunan Amangkurat I.

Geographically, Kebumen Regency is on 7”27-7”50 southern latitude and 109”22-109”50 east longitude. The Kebumen regency is bordered to the east by the Purworejo and Wonosobo Regencies, to the west by the Banyumas and Cilacap Regencies and to the north by the Banjarnegara Regency. The area north holds mountains and to the south you will find the Indonesian Ocean. Administratively, Kebumen Regency holds 26 sub-regencies with total area of 128,110 hectares. The majority of the regency is low-land with 68.96% categorised as dryland – which is used as building areas, moorlands and governmental forest – and 31.04% categorized as farming land. The population stands at 1,212,809 people.

Southern Shore Farm versus Urbanization
Out of the 26 sub-districts which spread across the Kebumen district, seven are placed on the Southern Shore: Mirit, Ambal, Bulus Pesantren, Klirong, Puring and Ayah. Since the 1980s, almost all of the population have sustained themselves on farming along the shore. The farming system began to be developed when resources of iron mineral springs were discovered all along the Javanese shore. According to Prof. Supriyanto, Grand Master of the UGM Farm Faculty (2011):

“the iron ore sand’s mineral substance (Fe) along Java Southern Seashore is able to tie the iron element compounds which produce the plain water for the irrigation source; it’s also functioned as abrasion barrier, ecosystem guard, and determinant factor for the sustainability of seashore farming-“ Guru Besar Fakultas Pertanian UGM (2011),

As the technology developed, plain water irrigation systems of joint-wells on the shore, which were initially organized with simple techniques, grew more modern, and increased the productivity of the farming, leading it to operate on much a larger scale. By the end of the 1990’s this farming pattern was affecting the household economy of the farmer, causing the level of urbanization in Kebumen Regency to decrease.

In research conducted by Chusni Ansori, Sudarsono and Saefudin it is noted that the Java Southern Shore is rich in iron ore mineral sands. The southern seashore of Yogyakarta, especially along the river estuary Progo, contains 605 million tons of iron sands in an area 22km long and 1.8km wide. In the map of iron sands on the area of Purworejo and Kebumen Regency, iron sands are present in an area 39.16km long with a varying width. [2] The west part of Kebumen, exactly on the border of the southern Cilacap Regency, is also rich in iron ore minerals, which are unfortunately used for mining rather than farming. This iron ore mining activity is conducted by the mining company PT Antam TBK who, between 1971 and 2002, produced 300,000 tons of iron annually.

The presence of iron sands on the Java southern shore, has lead to the development of certain farming patterns. The water, rich in iron minerals, has become the main water supply for seashore farming irrigation needs. It’s a better alternative to rain fed field farming where irrigation systems are often vulnerable to flooding or drought caused by environmental conditions. This development of seashore farming methods, is not only able to sustain the livelihood of farmers in the seven sub-districts of Kebumen, but can also sustain the livelihoods of more than two million farmers across the Java southern shore. The use of the land for mining is affecting the availability of land for farming on Java Island. Other contributing factors are the high population density, land being occupied for use in industry and the classification of areas as “governmental forest”.

The Threat of Southern Line Road Network’s Mega Project and The Military Interest
Iron sands are an unrenewable mineral, considered valuable in the steel making industry. Millions of tons are found through the whole Java southern seashore, in the Western part of Sumatra and in several parts in the eastern areas of Indonesia. This is geographically affected by the existence of several active volcanoes, leading to the existence of residual iron sands sediment in the river system.

The increasing demands of the steel industry in first world countries, and the birth of new economy powers such as China who also need iron ore minerals are forcing farmers to face off with mining corporations. For more than two decades, private and government owned iron ore mining companies on the southern Java seashore have grown vastly. These companies operations can be found in Banyuwangi, Lumajang, Blitar (East Java); Kulon Progo, Purworejo, Kebumen, Cilacap (Middle Java), Tasikmalaya, Ciamis and several locations in Banten Province (West Java) (FKMA, 2011-2013).

Repressive government regulations have led to the seizure of seashore farmers land. The military, police and government supported civilian militias (and lately even religious organisations) enforce these regulations. Since 2010 no less than 20 farmers have been criminalized in the name of iron sands mining interests in south Java (FKMA, 2013). In Kebumen there have been several reasons for the development of anti-mining sentiment amongst farmers. From interviews conducted while doing field research several triggering factors emerged as the root of the agricultural conflict in Kebumen.

First. Disputes over ownership with the military. The military claim a historical right to ownership of the land, based on it’s use by the The Royal Netherlands East Indies Army (Koninklijk Nederlands Indisch Leger/KNIL). Post-indepence they have used the area for military training exercises, heavy artillery testing and as a field laboratory. The farmers claim that the area does not fall under government ownership and should not be used by the military for these purposes.

Second. The death of five children in 1997, caused by an active bomb left by the military. This tragedy occurred when the children were playing and triggered an explosion.

Third. Regional planning mechanisms from 2007 approving iron sands mining in the area and military claims to the land. The conflict became more heated after the Kebumen Regional Government’s published a paper in 2010 granting approval to PT. Mitra Niagatama Cemerlang (MNC) to mine iron sands over an area stretching across six villages in the sub-district of Mirit. The conflict continued to rise when 25 village farmers from three sub-district (Mirit, Ambal, Bulus Pesantren) conducted an action against the establishment of The Center of National Military Battle Exercise and of iron sand mining in Setro Jenar village on the 16th April 2011. The action was greeted by the military with violence: six people were shot and eight others seriously wounded.

Besides facing threats from mining corportations, Kebumen’s farmers are now also facing a large infrastructural project a 57 km expansion of the Southern Line Road Network (Jaringan Jalan Lintas Selatan/JJLS). This mega project is funded by the Asian Development Bank (ADB) through the Islamic Development Bank (IDB). According to the Regional Secretary of the Kebumen Regency, this project would developed in stages. Step I is planned to begin in 2011 with the first 21km stretch starting from Wiromartan village and continuing across the Mirit sub-district until Ayam Putih village. Step II will affect the Luk Ulo bridge, Ayam Putih village, Bulus Pesantren sub-district to Tambak Mulyo village in Puring sub-district.

JJLS will “reclaim” 30 villages worth of local people’s land along seven sub-districts in the Kebumen regency. The military claim to 22.5 km of land, 500 m from the coast, is seen by locals as a method to obtain funds from the JJLS by later selling them the occupied land – to the tune of hundreds of billions of IDR. Additionally it would make things easier for the iron sands mining that has been waiting to occupy the land. The JJLS funding structure, established by the Asian Development Bank (ADB) via the Islamic Development Bank (IDB) could lead to the involvement of Islamic groups from outside the Kebumen area in support of the mining plan.

The Intimate Relationship Between Cement Corporations and Iron Sand
As previously mentioned, iron sands minerals in their raw form are available along the southern shore of Java, a material that is also useful in the production of cement.

The Leader of Indonesian Cement Association (Asosiasi Semen Indonesia/ASI), Widodo Santoso, stated in meeting of the Industrial Ministry on the 12th of February 2013, that he predicted the cement industry would grow 10 percent in 2013. So far in 2013 the amount of cement used is approaching 60 million tons (Tempo¸2013). This rise is partly facilitated by infrastructure development projects that form part of the Acceleration and Development Expansion of Indonesia Economy’s Masterplan (MP3EI), as well as developments in the private properties sector. The private properties are aimed to facilitate the accelerated growth of the middle classes in Indonesia.

ASI has announced the construction of new factory units coming from PT Semen Padang, PT Semen Bosowa, Anhui, Siam Cement Group, PT. Semen Gresik and PT Semen Tonasa’s investments; with a total production capacity of 67 million tons. In 2013 PT Semen Gresik will be operating in Sorong, West Papua. In South Celebes, PT. Semen Tonasa would operate their new factory in Pangkep with 2,5 million tons production. In Banyuwangi, East Java, PT Semen Bosowa would present cement production with 1.2 million tons capacity per year (Tempo, 2013).

The availability of a vast range of natural resources containing the raw materials for the production of cement in Middle Java has lead to the area being targeted as a key industry site.

We now arrive at a situation where both cement and mining corporations are like two giant monsters jointly threatening the sustainability of farming livelihoods along the southern Java shore.

Threats and The Future
In 2012 a new regional law in Kebumen was passed – regional law number 23, Act 34, fifth paragraph: “Areas Aimed for Mining”. The regulation leaves Kebumen land wide open for mining corporations to legally grab and exploit.

The regional law specifies particular areas for mineral extraction. Manganese mining would be placed in Ayah and Buayan sub-regency. Iron ore mining along the seashore. Gold mining in Ayah, Buayan, Karang gayam, Sadang and Karang Sambung sub-regency. Phospate and calcite mining would be located in Ayah and Buayan sub-regency. Andesite and coal also located in Ayah and Buayan sub-regency. Ayah and Buayan are the two areas especially earmarked for mining developments, in particular gold and coal.

Concentrated mining that was initially predicted to be happening only in Kebumen has been expanded north. We should understand this move as a threa to all people who depend on farming for their livelihoods. It is not possible for farms and mines to equitably co-exist. Agricultural conflicts in the 20th century were marked by the structural imbalance of land ownership. In the 21st century these conflicts are also characterized by the ecological damages caused by mining industries.

The future of farming in both southern and northern Kebumen is an area of sure conflict. We cannot compromise on the necessity of social resistance. We need to see resistance that no longer dependant on the success of feudalistic/messiahnistic leadership. For more that two decades of resistance, farmers have proven that this previous style of resistance, based on the charisma of individuals, ended with the imprisonment of those leaders. Styles of resistance reliant on a legal system or that saw the government as an instrument of justice left believers bitter and disillusioned. Even when legal judgements were passed in favour of the farmer’s demands, the farmers were not granted access to their lands, winning only on paper.

In the North Sumatran province of Deli, 16 farmer groups succeeded in regaining their land from the plantation corporations. These groups are not affiliated with NGOs and none of these groups used legal processes to achieve this success. We can understand these methods as “extra legal”, focusing on crippling the plantations production levels, even those these methods would be considered as illegal by the State.

In conflict arenas, NGOs are used to criticize government decisions and provide (emergency) services to those affected by the conflict. The other side of this is that they operate as government agents, providing services and strengthening local market economies through the introduction of international funds and through the softening of the social impacts of economic growth and development. The presence of NGOs can lead to reduced costs in the production of goods, pacification of local resistance and increased dependency on outside funding and resources. It is important to consider how social resistance can be built independently, without dependency on groups that have no relationship to the tools of production. (M. Affandi/ Translated by : Delirious)

Notes Library :

1. Chusni Ansori Dkk, “The Mineralogy Distribution of Iron Sand in Kebumen
Kutoarjo Southern Seashore Route”, Makalah, Buletin Sumber Daya Geologi vol. 6. 2011.
5. FKMA History’s Document, 2011-2013.
7. Kebumen area is total 128.111 acres broad. Noted 39.768 acres (31,04 %) are farm field and 88.343 acres (68.96 %) dry lands. The dry lands used for building 35.985 acres broad, moor 28.777 acres, government forest 16.861 acres and the rest is used for other things.
8. On the Cilacap Regency southern seashore, iron ore mining is done by PT. Antam Tbk since 1960 and has produced 300.000 ton/year. The export destination for this mining is Japan, read Chusni Ansori dkk (2011).


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