Webinar series “Managing the Remaining Forests” series#23 People, Forests and the State - Half a Century of Social Forestry in Indonesia

Webinar series “Managing the Remaining Forests” series#23 People, Forests and the State - Half a Century of Social Forestry in Indonesia

Indonesia - 11 October, 2021

With the theme of “Communities, Forests, and the State – Half a Century of Social Forestry in Indonesia”, the webinar of Tropenbos Indonesia this time feels special because it marks a year that the webinar series have been held regularly and there is a discussion of a book with a similar title, namely “Communities, Forests, and the State." Being held on September 25, 2021, this webinar also examines 50 years of Social Forestry in Indonesia.

Providing remark to the content of this book, Bambang Supriyanto, Director General of Social Forestry (SF) and Environmental Partnerships said that indeed there have been at least three decades of Social Forestry in Indonesia: 1970-1990, 1990-2015, and 2015-present. The first decade was actually a “forest for the community”, where communities around the forest who depended heavily on forests had the rights to social welfare, although in reality bigger support was actually given to corporations, which was marked by the emergence of many HPH (forest concession rights) and HTI (industrial forest plantations). From the community side, new elites emerged at the village level so that various problems, including tenure problems also increased.

In the next decade, forest institutions started to become legal entities, although various problems were still rampant and there was no solution on tenure problem so that the interests of the community had not been addressed. "These two periods required improvement with a more integrated program," said Bambang.

It was only in the third decade that a more holistic approach has begun to be carried out through the 5 schemes of Social Forestry (SF) with a term of 35 years so that it is hoped that the rent-taking elites will no longer be able to enter into the structure to obtain SF. "Farmers receive assistance to increase capacity, local wisdom of the community can be improved; in addition to institutional strengthening there is also strengthening of market and production center," he said. Now, space and time are no longer a barrier thanks to the support of technology, so assisting community can be done online and offline. The Minister of Home Affairs has even issued a distribution letter to governors and regents throughout the archipelago to include the SF program in their respective regional expenditure budget (APBD).

According to Hery Santoso, one of the authors of this book besides Edi Purwanto, instead of being a complete encyclopedia, this book is intended as a kind of snapshot which, although not very complete, can represent the entirety of the long journey of 50 years of SF in Indonesia. The introductory chapter of the 7 chapters in this book, begins with a narrative that raises the story of the Samin community’s resistance in Java which stemmed from forest issues. “When you look back, the relationship between people, forests, and the state, is indeed colored by tensions especially when state institution is present to consolidate natural resources, especially forest resources,” he said.

Prior to the emergence of SF, according to Hery, various models of community forestry in the form of mixed gardens or agroforestry had actually developed throughout Indonesia. Simpul, tembawang, repong, and so on have been implemented long before the SF target was launched by the government. "With the start of SF by the community, this community investment can be a big strength compared to if the government had to start it from vacant land," he said.

However, regarding tenure formalization, according to Hery, in the early stages of SF, it was not easy to get a 35-year license. Long-term permits have only been obtained since 2007, and even after going through a long advocacy and political processes. "After SF was issued with a national strategic target of 12.7 million ha, it then boomed and became the main pillar of intensification by the state," he said. An example of a successful SF management model is Kalibiru in Jogjakarta covering an area of ​​27 ha. "In addition to institutional strengthening, additional income/economic improvement, it turns out that there are other things, such as tenure conflicts," said Hery.

One of the chapters in this book also discusses specifically the result of the Tropenbos Indonesia study in West Kalimantan, which found a mismatch in potential areas of SF in which many SF areas after permit turned out to be unsuitable for community economic improvement because of their far location from settlements, steep land slopes, or difficult to access, and various other reasons.

According to Christine Wulandari, Head of the Forestry Master Study Program, University of Lampung, “A complete and sustainable management of SF areas will ensure synergies and minimize conflicting trade-offs between economic, social, and ecological goals.” In SF management, the stakeholder platform provides space to share information, develop a common understanding of various issues, negotiate processes, outcomes and agree on working mechanisms in deciding and implementing action plans for managing forest resources.

In addition, Christine also reminded the importance of looking at the gender aspect. Although women play a role in making history flow, egalitarian aspect and local culture often have an effect on the emergence of high disparities and according to him, SF has not fully encouraged equality. Another problem is the inadequacy of field facilitators who also have the concept and understanding to advance the group. "There needs to have capacity building and proper test to find out if they are suitable as facilitator," she said.

Meanwhile, according to Rudi Syah, Director of KKI Warsi, although the authors of this book see that the communities around forest are still poor, local wisdom is getting eroded, there is exploitation, and the dominance of power holders is still very large in the management of natural resources, based on WARSI's experience in assisting communities in nearby forest areas, it is still visible that there are people who manage their natural resources with signs of wisdom, such as in the forbidden forest, imbo ulu aek, imbo pusako, imbo prabukalo, tanah bedewo, and so on. He also sees that CSOs can play an important role in encouraging communities to get involved in managing forests and maintaining their natural resources. “Indeed, areas that are well managed by the community should receive SF legalization. This can be the role of CSOs to save what the author of this book is worried about in the future,” he said.

Rudi sees that the current challenges of SF are to encourage SF management by multi-sectoral collaboration, to be aware of corporations that want to take advantage of SF, especially after the UUCK, to strengthen concrete and real support for forest management communities, and to encourage the issuance of equitable regulations for communities to manage and directly access forest benefits in an equitable manner. He gave an example of the interesting development of 4 nagari forests in West Sumatra which succeeded in increasing their forest cover after obtaining a nagari forest permit. "Analyzing the Lansat TM satellite imagery, SF cover in West Sumatra increased by 466 ha (2017-2020)," he said. He hopes that other places that have obtained SF permits can also record a success like this.

According to Rudi, some of the differences he saw from what was written in this book with what he found in the field was that SF was able to provide support and become a poverty alleviation if properly managed. He gave an example of the carbon blessing of Bujang Raba, where zero deforestation and no destruction by the community made this area successful in entering the carbon scheme and receiving grants in the framework of environmental services by calculating the carbon that can be maintained in this area (PES).

Another note that was conveyed by Rudi was the SF challenge which was widely opened to establish partnership with corporations. According to him, the entry of corporations with partnership patterns in collaboration with SF permit holders is risky because whoever has more power is usually more powerful. The company's limited operations make this SF opportunity a place to grab the chance to make profit, so for HTR and HKm, for example, new capitalists emerge where the company tries to embrace SF license holders. "This is what I see happening in field. In Jambi, for example, 6 HTR and 1 HKm have been included in this phenomenon, where corporations are the perpetrators of SF but hide behind the community," he said.

Also present at this webinar, Soni Trison, Lecturer of Forest Management, Faculty of Forestry and Environment, IPB, who said that the SF development policy requires broader dimensions including agroforestry development in terms of quantity, quality, and continuity. Community empowerment assistance also requires improvement through institutional management, regional management, and business management. "This is a big homework to be able to implement SF so that it has significant benefits and plays a role in the welfare of the community," he said.

The presentations available for download HERE

You can watch the full webinar in the following link: