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Shaping collective action for community-based disaster management in Merapi, Central Java, Indonesia

Astrid Meilasari-Sugiana, PhD, Gunardi Endro, PhD


Situated in Yogyakarta’s northern region, Merapi is one of Indonesia’s most active volcanoes. Surrounded by densely populated farming communities, Merapi has had 68 eruptions since 1548. Merapi’s 2010 eruption was marked by bursts of ash clouds, subsidence of its top-most layer, inundation of rivers and soils by lava currents, and the alteration of its surrounding natural landscapes. Local communities depend on the natural resources on Merapi’s slope for farming, livelihood, and subsistence. The eruption had sizable impacts on community lives in terms of living conditions, livelihood, and social and political structures. The dynamics of community life in response to Merapi’s volcanic activities are highlighted. Using a particular focus on farming communities as the case study, the article discusses community user groups’ adaptive management capacity to dynamic natural landscape frequently marked by volcanic eruptions. The discussions support local government in fostering community resilience and social cohesion in response to Merapi’s activities. Empirical findings suggest that social institutions and local rules come into play and the people practice collective disaster management on behalf of the community. These social institutions take the form of neighborly ties, reciprocity, collective identity, and social and ecological responsibilities. Merapi’s pasture is not free access, but dynamically governed by local and informal rules to maintain its benefits for the safety of the community.


rational choice approach, collective action, devolution, power, private property, citizenship, identity, social capital, engagement, patron-client, community of communities

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