The webinar series "Managing the Remaining forests" Series #6 The Future of Agro-Commodities in Forest Areas

The webinar series "Managing the Remaining forests" Series #6 The Future of Agro-Commodities in Forest Areas

Indonesia - 15 October, 2020

Forest is not a white paper, there is history, with a variety of people's dependency on forest, they shape a variety of cultures throughout the country. That is what the Director General of Natural Resources and Ecosystem Conservation (KSDAE), Ministry of Environment and Forestry (KLHK), Ir. Wiratno, MSc. said, in the 6th Tropenbos Indonesia webinar series entitled "The Future of Agro-Commodities in Forest Areas", 26 September 2020. "That must be acknowledged in a different plan unlike in the past where forest was timber," he said.

Currently, of the approximately 74,000 villages throughout Indonesia, 27,000 of them are adjacent to state forest areas, and around 6,400 villages are directly adjacent to conservation areas covering an area of approximately 27 million ha. "In this conservation area, we encourage the zones to accommodate community dependence which is still very high, including for NTFPs such as rattan, gums, bamboo, and river system important in conservation area and protection forest," Wiratno said.

However, a good space-sharing strategy is needed so that the commodities planted by the community are not damaged by wild animals, as happened in the Tanggamus Protection Forest, where training elephants were finally sent to ward off wild elephants that destroy community crops. "There must be a detailed strategy for sharing space in areas that are sensitive to wildlife," he reminded.

In addition, according to Wiratno, a number of other strategies need to be implemented, such as area strengthening, institutional strengthening, strengthening groups through partnership models, marketing and developing various commodity products so that farmer groups are no longer dependent on middlemen. Strengthening community groups through more advanced agricultural practices is also important to carry out, such as what is done in Gunung Ciremai National Park by IPB where some microbes are able to accelerate the growth of agricultural plants (bioprospecting), so that planting rice no longer needs to use fertilizers and this has been implemented by the community in nearby Gunung Ciremai, then there are also anti-frost microbes and microbes to solve pest problems.

Meanwhile, according to Dr. Hery Santoso, in the era of crisis due to covid like nowadays, the agro sector and SMEs are among the sectors that can survive. The agrarian sector has grown strongly since a century ago, although in 2009 the World Bank published a report that Indonesia, Malaysia and Vietnam were leaving the agricultural countries. However, this report was criticized because the growth of agricultural land in the three countries was actually very large. Malaysia 40%, Vietnam 30%, Indonesia above 20%. Although the population in rural areas has decreased and GDP in the agricultural sector has also decreased, the area of agricultural land in Indonesia has actually increased.

The expansion of agricultural land, in fact occurred inside forests. According to Hery, this happened through a process that is often referred to as "booming", namely the skyrocketing price of a certain commodity in the market, so that people are motivated to plant these commodities. There were times when chocolate, coffee, or rubber became very attractive commodities because of their attractive prices.

However, due to inequality in land tenure, the community has no choice but to use state forest land, which is located close to their village. "Currently, around 21% of poor people in Indonesia are forest villagers," said Hery. Under such conditions, agricultural expansion in the agro-sector in forest areas ultimately has no other choice but to enter deeper into the forest areas. "Agro-commodities in forest areas are an irresistible part of the country's long history," said Hery. There are even villages which territories are completely in forest areas and if such case is not resolved, according to Hery, two things will happen: land marginalization and criminalization.

However, in terms of legality agro-commodities in forest areas are of course not legal. For this reason, according to Hery, there are actually 3 instrument policies provided by the government as guidelines to resolve this issue: 1) Social Forestry (Permen LHK No.83/2016) with a target of 12.7 million ha, 2) Agrarian Reform (Presidential Decree No. 86 / 2018 with a program target of 9 million ha, and 3) Gakum Law No.18 / 2013. Unfortunately, it seems that the instrument policies have not been able to break the chain of neglecting agro-commodities in forest areas. In fact, the serious challenge that awaits is the standard prerequisite (climate bill) of EU countries and other buyers, which of course it will be difficult for smallholders to comply. Culturally, the smallholders' land is in their former fields, and many of them are located in forest areas.

According to Sawit Watch data, currently the area of oil palm land in Indonesia has reached 22.34 million ha. This is bigger than the data released by the Directorate General of Plantation, which is 16.38 million ha (2019). From these data, according to Andi Inda Fatinaware, Director of Sawit Watch, 35% are community plantations, 65% are private and state owned (PTPN) plantations. The area of oil palm stores conflicts in the community, and up to present there are recorded 1054 conflicts with 543 cases related to tenure conflicts, 162 related to partnerships, 77 conflicts related to labor, and others were conflicts with indigenous people and criminalization of local communities. "Data about oil palm can also be accessed on the online portal “Tanah Kita’," said Inda.

According to Inda, the implementation of Palm Oil Moratorium and its evaluation is currently still very limited. At the regional level, there are still many regions that have not received information regarding this Presidential Instruction. "The socialization and coordination carried out by the Central Government is still limited. If this Inpres is like a knife, nothing has been cut of,” said Inda. "Even though there should be a report every 6 months from the task force, we don't know whether the team which is under the Coordinating Ministry for the Economy has done its job, or whether there is a road map / technical guidelines," she continued. Indah saw no synergy so far between the central government and the regions related to this moratorium. In fact, if this Presidential Instruction is implemented properly, this could be a step towards solving the problem of oil palm in forest area, whether it belongs to entrepreneurs (large private / state oil palm plantations) or farmers (smallholder oil palm plantations).

To restore oil palm plantation in forest area through agroforestry, Inda proposed the need for a review of licensing and law enforcement by revoking permit as well as auditing company / corporation planting in forest area. As for the community, the settlement can be done through the conflict resolution scheme approach and TORA. In forest areas being threatened by oil palm expansion, agroforestry can be encouraged through the Social Forestry scheme. The development of other commodities which have high economic value, such as durian, jengkol, pepper or jelutong and meranti, also needs to be done.

Meanwhile, on this occasion the Director of Tropenbos Indonesia Edi Purwanto explained about agro-commodity policy option in forest areas, whether through segregation, integration, or inclusion. Agro-commodities have entered into forest areas in line with population growth and economic needs, even in many places they have entered long before the designation of the forest areas. On the other hand, agro-commodities in forest areas are often seen as disturbing the protection function of the forests. "Many people think, if it is not in the form of tree cover, the watershed will not function properly, whereas a good forest function is not only determined by forest cover but also by a combination of various other factors such as geomorphological condition, geology, soil, topography, climate and so on." he explained. Mixed garden still has a watershed protection role that is as effective as natural forest, as well as a solution to conflict between forest managers and communities.

Edi gave an example in Bantaeng and Bulukumba Protection Forest, where the surrounding communities take part in protecting the forests properly so that the frequency of forest fires can be reduced. Then how is the implementation of the concept of integration, segregation and mosaic in protecting the remaining forests? According to Edi, the government needs to determine permanent forest areas which are inviolable. Currently, there are still around 40-70 million ha of primary forests that have not been touched and those can be used as environmental function to protect development in various sectors.

In addition to the need for permanent forest reserves that function as watershed protection, a center for biodiversity and forest fires control, Edi recommended the need to resolve oil palm in forest areas, the need for improved governance to increase forest functions both at the site level and at the landscape level, the implementation of Law No.34 / 2014 on Soil and Water Conservation and Government Regulation No.46 / 2017 on Environmental Economic Instruments, the need for the involvement of government agencies in intensive assistance for large-scale plantations and smallholders in forest areas, and law enforcement for deliberate occupation in forest areas and resolving tenure issues.

Oil palm in the forest, according to Edi, is something that has already happened and there is the involvement of community. However, there is always a solution, refinement period, technology that can be used to improve the situation, to assist the community so that their productivity can remain high while still paying attention and having concerns to the environment. This webinar was attended by more than 260 participants, both via zoom link and youtube.

Watch the recording of webinar: