This paper examines early Dutch policy on the Javanese colonization of Gedong Tataän in Southern Sumatra’s Lampung residency, and its influence on the Lampung society.
Lampung was the location of the first colonization to take place under the guidance and support of the Dutch colonial government in Indonesia. In November 1905, migration began in the Gedong Tataän district with 200 householders from Kedu. Subsequently, five settlements were opened, but they encountered many difficulties which retarded their growth.
In 1913 the Dutch colonial government decided to stop promoting the colonization, because due to the inadequacies of the applicants, they could not fill the numbers to be recruited in the fourth, fifth and sixth residencies.
A few years later however, the condition of the settlements improved a great deal. The arable lands, originally intended as wet rice fields but cultivated as dry fields due to the shortage of water, were eventually irrigated and the yields of paddy increased. This led to the resumption of the colonization policy in 1919. From this time, more and more settlers from central Java came at their own expense.
Most of the migrants were landless peasants or small farmers, mainly coming from some districts of Kedu where they had difficulty finding enough income due to the lack of labor opportunities. They could obtain their own land and earn their own living only by migrating to other islands. A strengthening rice trade caused by the expansion of the so-called technically irrigated rice fields, as well as sufficient labor opportunities, greatly helped the development of the colonies.
From the 1920s onward, a sudden rise in the pepper price resulted in continued economic development in Lampung which extended the labor market. Demand for workers was satisfied by the temporary labor supplied by Bantenese migrants and Javanese settlers. The latter, specializing in rice cultivation, also supplied rice to Lampungers. This development of rice trade was one of the conditions that enabled Lampungers to plant pepper without cultivating any food crops.
In the 1920s, the relations among Javanese settlers, Lampungers and Bantenese migrants had a reciprocal nature, and they coexisted with each other by working to their respective strengths and making up for the weaknesses of others.