Jokowi’s sustainable community-based forest management

Jokowi’s sustainable  community-based forest  management

Indonesia - 19 August, 2015

Ideas for community based forest management (CBFM) have emerged since the 1970s, but movements to support it in Indonesia, mainly by NGOs, began in 1995. After a long journey of struggle to convince various parties, finally the ideas have fallen in fertile soil under the current government.

The Indonesian Ministry of Environment and Forestry will distribute 12.7 million hectares to indigenous peoples (IP). Additionally, the President Joko “Jokowi” Widodo will establish a task force to protect the rights of indigenous people and preserve their customary lands, as well as actively participate in the ratification of the draft of the Indigenous Peoples’ Rights Acknowledgment and Protection Bill (The Jakarta Post, Aug. 1, 2015). The hopes are set for a smooth and successful process.

The following are some of the dilemmas that may arise: what will the indigenous people do with their new rights, how will they use them to improve their living standards in a lasting way, and what will happen to the forests and ecosystems under their control.

This probably means a lot of additional efforts by the government beyond the already complicated land issues — in the worst scenario the IP will cash out the land for short-term gain income. If this would be the case, there will be no great difference from past concessionaires’, leading to disappointment.

So far, this issue has not been sufficiently addressed, though not ignored. Most CBFM supporters are very confident that in the hands of IP, the forest resources would be managed in a sustainable way. They generally rely on the romantics of how IP used to manage forest resources in the past. Where, IP used to manage their resources with a spirit of communality; have strong bonds to their ancestral domains, making them more responsible in sustaining the forest and their knowledge which could be a basis for achieving sustainable forest management.

However, times have changed. Media, communications and situations have changed. Sooner or later most IP will change due to the influence of materialism and individualistic culture. CBFM supporters should be aware of this to avoid false assumptions and improper actions.

The challenges in developing CBFM are twofold: the weak internal IP institutions and the strong external opportunists that work in the absence of honest facilitators. The weaknesses of IP institutions are especially the lack of conflict resolution mechanisms and enforcement systems. Also some IP cannot easily adapt to new innovations and opportunities to manage their lands — A limited access to new technologies and methodologies for sustainable forest management, understanding the economies of scale and investments, and how to plant and harvest. While on the contrary, the opportunists keep promoting consumerism and short-term ideals.

CBFM could use the lessons learnt and successes of smallholder oil-palm plantations for its development. Key factors identified by smallholder oil-palm plantation that could be useful for CBFM are: economies of scale of CBFM areas both for individuals and community groups; selection of key commodities to guarantee sustainable incomes for short, medium and long periods; market security indicated by long-term partnerships with the private sector; the establishment of a processing industry for key CBFM products; and tripartite (corporate, IP, government) price determination.

To be sustainable, CBFM should implement the following strategies derived from success in smallholder oil-palm plantation:

  1. Delineate and map the potential opportunities of CBFM priority commodities (agar wood, honeybees, rattan, palm sugar, benzoin, chestnut, rubber, fast-growing tree species etc.) and the potential linkages to markets/processing industries. The map could be prepared by research agencies in collaboration with the Customary Areas Registration Agency (BRWA), established by the executive board of the Alliance of Indigenous Peoples (AMAN) working with the Participatory Mapping Network (JKKP) and Forest Watch Indonesia (FWI).
  2. Considering the slow progress of CBFM in the past, government and NGOs need to identify the obstacles, best practices and lessons learned to redefine strategies to accelerate a CBFM program.
  3. Considering the diverse IP capacity and specific cultural challenges, government, NGOs and relevant stakeholders have to develop strategies and define field facilitators responsible for establishing and strengthening community institutions and conflict resolution at grassroots level.
  4. Considering the need to develop economically viable and environmentally sustainable CBFM models, the government and NGOs have to develop a roadmap on economic infrastructure development to support sustainable livelihoods.

And most important is to find suitable private sector players that voluntarily provide their capacity to help, facilitate and collaborate.

It is now time to implement the real spirit of gotong royong (togetherness). The time has come for NGOs, research organizations, universities and private sector organizations to provide direction, facilitation and technical assistance and to work hand-in-hand with the government at the central, provincial and district levels and IP to build sustainable CBFM models.

Building sustainable livelihoods and strengthening IP organizations are the key to prevent land ownership transfer from IP to sly opportunist actors/agents. Regulation and promotion alone will not be sufficient.

People need genuine leadership and to be easily understood on the ground. It is time for our forester President to make forestry properly managed by the people for the benefit of the people.

Opinion, Jakarta Post - August 15, 2015

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