Yesterday, a day after Indonesian Presidential advisor Kuntoro announced a potentially major shift in forest management policy, Rainforest Action Network (RAN) staff documented a test case for the government’s plans in the remote village of Muara Merang, in the Province of South Sumatra. The Indonesian government’s announcement includes the new allocation of 89,000 hectares for community-managed forest areas, a designation known as Hutan Desa. It also includes a commitment to implement provisions of a decade old national law that requires the government to identify and register (gazette) areas within the national forest estate that are in conflict with existing forest community land rights.
Muara Merang is one of only a handful of forest areas in the country already licensed under Hutan Desa. RAN interviewed Haji Rusdi, head of the Hutan Desa Cooperative and the former village head of Muara Merang.
His statement, translated from Indonesian, follows.*
“The community in Muara Merang wanted to have gardens but these are not allowed within the National Forest Estate. Under the planned extension of the pulpwood plantation license (HTI), part of the village would have been evicted without compensation. So I looked at the situation and thought about applying for the Hutan Desa as an alternative.
“I worked with the government and with WBH (a local NGO) to put the proposal in front of the Forest Minister. He approved our request and this resulted in more than 7000 hectares being removed from the proposed pulpwood concession expansion and placed instead under community management. Hutan Desa will allow us to plant rubber gardens and other crops in degraded areas and to preserve all of the forests located on peatlands in the Hutan Desa.”
Following the visit, RAN forest campaigner Lafcadio Cortesi issued the following statement.
“This is a watershed moment for the people and forests of Indonesia as well as the future health of our global climate.
“On the day following Pak Kuntoro’s groundbreaking statement, we saw first hand that Hutan Desa holds significant promise for improving the livelihoods of Indonesian forest communities while maintaining Indonesia’s priceless ecological, cultural and climate values.
“Our experience in the field yesterday and working with customers that buy forests products, suggests that certainty around land status and tenure is a crucial element for ensuring Indonesia becomes a go-to supplier for the international marketplace. Hutan Desa and implementation of the legal requirement to identify existing land claims over areas in the national forest estate are two vital elements for creating such certainty.
“Although Hutan Desa and “gazzeting” forest claims are important tools for clarifying land tenure, improving planning, decreasing social conflict, and improving local livelihoods, both will require allocating new resources and capacity to fulfill this promise. Indonesia will also need to develop and implement new policies and exercise concerted political will in order to meet its economic and carbon emission reduction targets.”
* original video interview available upon request
Rainforest Action Network runs hard-hitting campaigns to break North America’s fossil fuels addiction, protect endangered forests and Indigenous rights, and stop destructive investments around the world through education, grassroots organizing, and non-violent direct action. For more information, please visit: www.ran.org