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New guidebook helps community members and policymakers understand social forestry schemes in Indonesia

Cattle graze on agricultural land in Maluku, Indonesia. Photo by T. Herawati/ CIFOR
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Women cross the Way Bulak River in Lampung, Indonesia, carrying resin from damar trees Photo by U. Ifansasti/CIFOR

One challenge with social forestry is that its inner workings are not always understood – often among the communities most involved in it.

This is why a team of scientists has published a new guidebook that makes this complex form of forest management easier to understand. By explaining in simple terms the legal logistics of how local communities manage different forest areas, the guidebook serves as a reference to government officials and community assistants in the field.

Through this, it aims to help local communities gain tenure for the forests they manage, as is summed up in the title of the book: Practical Application Guidelines on Social Forestry Policy in the Acceleration of the Forest Tenure Reform.

“One of the major challenges causing slow forest tenure reforms is the lack of knowledge of people on the ground on its legal aspects and stages of the reform process,” says Nining Liswanti, Researcher at the Center for International Forestry Research (CIFOR), who led the project of producing the guidebook, which also forms part of the CGIAR Research Program on Forests, Trees and Agroforestry (FTA).

The book – which CIFOR developed in cooperation with Jakarta-based lawyer Asep Y. Firdaus – is part of the Global Comparative Study on Forest Tenure Reform (GCS-Tenure) that investigates implementation of forest tenure reforms and their effects on tenure security.

“Results of our research showed that many forest-dependent people – natives and migrants both – do not know what social forestry is,” says Liswanti. “They don’t know the legal basis, rights and obligations, processes, or whether or not there is tenure security for the forests their communities manage.”

The first step to changing this is education. The guide can be considered a requisite textbook.

Read moreSocial forestry impacts local livelihoods in Indonesia

PROCESS PROGRESS

It’s not just local communities that are lacking knowledge.

“There are many implementing agencies at the subnational level that still face limitations in terms of literacy in the implementation of social forestry and community forests,” says Liswanti.

Cattle graze on agricultural land in Maluku, Indonesia. Photo by T. Herawati/ CIFOR

And it is little wonder why. Indonesia has five different social forestry schemes (hutan kemasyarakatan or community forests, hutan tanaman rakyat or community plantation forests, hutan desa or village forests, partnership forests and adat customary forests).

For years, obtaining licenses for any one of these was complex and fragmented, involving different processes at national and subnational levels that could take between two and three years.

However, these procedures were overhauled in 2016 by a ministerial regulation on social forestry. Now, acquisition procedures are more streamlined and can be processed between 24 and 37 days – as explained in the guidebook.

With a practical compact design, the book is an easy yet informative read containing an FAQ-style explanation of specific terms, clear diagrams for the application of each social forestry scheme and a complete appendix of underlying regulations.

“The guidebook illustrates the phases of application for the five different social forestry schemes. It also contains information on the recognition of customary communities post-MK35,” Liswanti says, referring to the Indonesian Constitutional Court’s 2013 decision that removed customary forests from their categorization as state forests, thereby recognizing the rights of local communities over their traditional territories.

In short, it seeks to teach both local people and policymakers about forest communities’ options and rights.

LOOKING AT LAMPUNG

GCS-Tenure research has found that people implementing forest tenure reform both directly and indirectly have challenges and questions that need to be addressed. The guidebook tackles these issues by drawing on lessons learned in social forestry areas, and Liswanti says the research site of Lampung in particular informed the book.

In 2014, Indonesian President Joko Widodo set a target of bringing 12.7 million hectares of forest landscapes under social forestry schemes; as of 2017, less than 10% of this target had been reached.

Lampung is one of the few places contributing successfully to this percentage. With almost 20 years of experience implementing social forestry, Lampung has at different points implemented all of the social forestry schemes, save for customary forests.

“Initially, the book was a collection of inputs from stakeholders in both communities and implementing agencies,” says Liswanti. “Findings from community workshop activities and results of participatory prospective analysis [PPA] workshops involving stakeholders in Lampung – and Maluku – have led to the development of this guidebook.”

Now, these stakeholder contributions are being used to help others learn, even within their own communities.

“This guidebook has been our main material in providing legal literacy training at the community level,” says Liswanti. “They happily welcome this manual.”

Read more: Possibilities and challenges for forest tenure reform in Indonesia

By Nabiha Shahab, originally published at CIFOR’s Forests News.

For more information on this topic, please contact Nining Liswanti at [email protected] or Tuti Herawati at [email protected] or Esther Mwangi at [email protected].


This research forms part of the CGIAR Research Program on Forests, Trees and Agroforestry, which is supported by CGIAR Fund Donors.

This research was supported by the European Commission, the Global Environment Facility (GEF), the International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD), and the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO).

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  • Social forestry impacts local livelihoods in Indonesia

Social forestry impacts local livelihoods in Indonesia

Women cross the Way Bulak River in Lampung, Indonesia, as they carry resin from damar tree areas to their village. Photo by Ulet Ifansasti/CIFOR
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In a two-part series, the Center for International Forestry Research’s (CIFOR) Forests News examines ongoing research from Lampung province, Indonesia, as part of the Global Comparative Study on Forest Tenure Reform (GCS-Tenure).

The first article, Why social forestry: Keeping the coffee, looks at the village of Tri Budi Syukur in Lampung, Sumatra, which developed from a destroyed landscape to profitable plantations, showing the benefits of social forestry schemes.

Having implemented versions of social forestry schemes for nearly two decades, Lampung is the pioneer province for social forestry in Indonesia, and Tri Budi Syukur has been its flagship village.

Between 2014 and 2017, the GCS-Tenure team measured the impact of social forestry on local livelihoods, using three indicators: income from coffee bean harvest, family food security, and initiative to invest in land recovery. Livelihoods and the landscape were found to be thriving hand-in-hand, largely due to the institution of social forestry.

Watch: Why social forestry: Keeping the coffee

One of the key lessons learned in Tri Budi Syukur was that despite local capabilities, outside support is still needed. Whereas once the government and villagers were pitted against one another, success has grown since they began working together.

The second article, Why social forestry: Securing the sap, addresses how tenure security from forestry schemes can help communities stabilize their economies and reduce conflict.

In Pahmungan village, Lampung, people have used damar trees and the sap they produce as their main source of income for more than a century. However, the land has been a place of contention, as governmental changes to land status have clashed against customary tenure practices.

Watch: Why social forestry: Securing the sap

Without proper land rights, the community lacks bargaining power to set the price of damar sap and keep it from fluctuating, putting not only local livelihoods but also the forest at risk, as it can lead to the felling of trees for extra cash.

Outside help is beginning to step in. Local environmental NGO Watala Lampung not only helps the community manage repong damar sustainably, but it helps educate villagers on the benefits of social forestry and provides platforms for government engagement, to promote the importance of repong damar.

In looking at these tenure insecurity issues, scientists found that implementation of social forestry schemes could be the answer to the latent challenges.

Read more: FTA at the Asia-Pacific Rainforest Summit 2018

These articles were written by Nabiha Shahab and first appeared on CIFOR’s Forests News

For more information on the topic, please contact Tuti Herawati at [email protected] or Esther Mwangi at [email protected].


This work is part of the CGIAR Research Program on Forests, Trees and Agroforestry, which is supported by CGIAR Fund Donors.

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  • Changing times: Living off the forest in Maluku, Indonesia

Changing times: Living off the forest in Maluku, Indonesia

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  • Sustainable symbols: ‘Sasi’ taboos in Maluku, Indonesia

Sustainable symbols: ‘Sasi’ taboos in Maluku, Indonesia

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In Maluku, Indonesia, a traditional land management system known as ‘sasi’ ensures a sustainable supply of forest products like cacao, resin, coffee and fruit. By tying branches together in a certain way, or marking a tree with a crucifix, people who make ‘sasi’ let others know when forest products are off-limits, and when they are ready to be harvested.

This video was originally published by CIFOR.

This research forms part of the CGIAR Research Program on Forests, Trees and Agroforestry, which is supported by CGIAR Fund Donors.

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  • Mapping traditional forests in Maluku, Indonesia

Mapping traditional forests in Maluku, Indonesia

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As tenure laws change in Maluku, Indonesia, work is underway to recognize customary rights to forests. Researchers are using a participatory mapping technique to work with communities and their customary leaders to facilitate tenure reform that benefits forests and people.

This video was originally published by CIFOR.

This research forms part of the CGIAR Research Program on Forests, Trees and Agroforestry, which is supported by CGIAR Fund Donors.


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