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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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  • Possibilities and challenges for forest tenure reform in Indonesia

Possibilities and challenges for forest tenure reform in Indonesia

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In a three-part series, the Center for International Forestry Research’s (CIFOR) Forests News looks at ongoing research from the village of Honitetu in Maluku, Indonesia, as part of the Global Comparative Study on Forest Tenure Reform (GCS-Tenure).

Forest tenure reform has been at the center of the debate, on national as well as international policy agendas, in recent years. The reform is intended to give customary communities, local communities or local governments ownership or some level of rights over forestland and resources. Despite over two decades of experience of tenure reform in most of the developing countries, the impact of the reforms on the ground has fallen short of the expected outcomes. The reforms are either inadequate in conserving forest resources or providing limited livelihood returns for local people.

The research on forest tenure reform has demonstrated that a number of factors including a regulatory framework, administrative management, market forces, resource systems, and community attributes are key in determining the impacts of the reforms. However, there is limited understanding of the extent to which each of these factors affect the outcomes at the systems level. The research accommodates history, scale and power dimensions of reform into consideration, and aims to generate insights by investigating the emergence, concurrent implementation practice, key outcomes and bottlenecks of these reforms.

With field research currently ongoing in Indonesia, Peru and Uganda focusing on the connections between land rights, conservation and livelihoods, this research program builds on CIFOR’s existing body of knowledge on forest tenure reform.

The first article of the recent series, ‘The forest belongs to the community’, looks at tenure reform in Maluku.

As tenure laws continue to change, customary management is under challenge by top-down government control, the entry of private industry with business permits, increasingly limited rights for local people, and a shrinking area of forest for them to forage and farm in, the article states.

The article is accompanied by a video titled Mapping traditional forests in Maluku, Indonesia.

The second article in the series, The power of ‘sasi’: A sustainable taboo, investigates a customary resource management technique that is used to enforce rotational harvesting.

The endurance of the sasi tradition in Maluku is a testament to its effectiveness as a resource management technique. Adapting to changing legal conditions, landscapes and beliefs, it has maintained its power in the local imagination, as well as its results for sustainable forest management, according to the article.

The article features a video titled Sustainable symbols: ‘Sasi’ taboos in Maluku, Indonesia.

Finally, The forest farmers shows the challenges facing indigenous communities in rights over their forests. Indigenous forest users can be left with insecure tenure over the land that sustains them, the piece says.

That piece is accompanied by Changing times: Living off the forest in Maluku, Indonesia.

Following the series was the article Postcards from the field: The view from Honitetu, in which scientist Nining Liswanti, the Indonesia coordinator for a GCS-Tenure, shares her experiences in Maluku.

Her research has brought findings back to Jakarta on the community’s aspirations for tenure reform to recognize customary lands, and the right to manage them according to ancient traditions.

The articles mentioned above were written by Catriona Croft-Cusworth and originally published at CIFOR’s Forests News.

All four articles were produced in collaboration with Aris Sanjaya (video), Ulet Ifansasti (photographs), Aini Naimmah (transcription), Budhy Kristanty (production) and the community of Honitetu village, Maluku, Indonesia.

For more information on this topic, please contact Esther Mwangi at [email protected] or Nining Liswanti 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, the International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD), and the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO).

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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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  • How participatory research gets to the bottom of forest tenure

How participatory research gets to the bottom of forest tenure

Cattle graze on agricultural land in Maluku, Indonesia. Photo by T. Herawati/ CIFOR
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Agricultural land at Seram Barat District, Maluku. Photo by Tuti Herawati/ CIFOR
Agricultural land at Seram Barat District, Maluku. Photo by Tuti Herawati/ CIFOR

Adapted from CIFOR’s Forests News

What are the biggest obstacles that local communities face when ensuring rights to their forest resources? Community leaders say it’s the red tape and the cost of travel from rural villages to the towns where government offices are located. They also see poor-quality education and health care as additional hurdles that make it more difficult for communities to organize. Meanwhile, government officials note other obstacles, such as a shortage of staff or the difficulty of traveling to remote villages. Because these groups do not often engage in dialogue, problems can persist and forest-tenure reforms can stall. A recent workshop in Peru organized under the CGIAR Research Program on Forests, Trees and Agroforestry brought both sides together with technical experts to discuss land tenure and land use rights. Barbara Fraser spoke to the researchers involved.

Participatory Prospective Analysis (PPA) is an innovative approach to discussing tenure problems that combines the knowledge of technical experts and decision makers with the knowledge of people from the communities. This happens in workshops which are part of the Global Comparative Study on Forest Tenure Reform, undertaken by the Center for International Forestry Research (CIFOR) in Peru, Indonesia and Uganda. This helps to identify factors affecting forest-tenure reform and design scenarios that could lead to better policies.

The workshops show participants how they can best address the complex issues of forest-tenure reform. Thy identify potential pitfalls, such as obstacles to the reform and to putting it into practice. This allows them to come up with strategies for mitigating negative factors.

“The first challenge is identifying the stakeholders, because you don’t know the people and their skills,” says Iliana Monterroso, coordinator of the study in Peru. “The process itself takes time, given the amount of discussions and brainstorming. And people have to listen to each other, so you don’t want people who are too dominating.”

It all begins with a workshop in which participants identify the social, technical, economic, political and environmental factors that affect the process of securing land tenure.

GCS-Tenure Project, Ambon  Seram island. Photo by Tuti Herawati/ CIFOR
GCS-Tenure Project, Ambon
Seram island. Photo by Tuti Herawati/ CIFOR

The researchers enter this information into a computer program, and participants use the results to examine how those factors influence each other directly and indirectly. After eliminating factors that they cannot control, they choose about five that they agree are most important. They then envision different scenarios to explore how land-tenure policy could change, depending on those factors and the actions that they and their organizations take.

This sounds complex, but it is worthwhile, says CIFOR researcher Nining Liswanti. “Discussing these scenarios help people think about strategies for avoiding outcomes that would not be as positive.”

Focus on Maluku, Indonesia

In Indonesia, the workshops included community leaders, officials from government forest, land and water agencies, and representatives from the private sector, non-governmental organizations and universities.

The goal was to design scenarios for implementing forest-tenure reforms on the densely populated island of Maluku, where no reforms have taken place, and for improving the livelihoods of people who depend on forests in the district of Lampung, on the southern tip of Sumatra, where most people are migrants and reforms are already under way.

The participants outlined possible future scenarios that ranged from the ideal—in which all stakeholders would make some concessions—to others in which the government or private interests had more power.

Participants all considered the government’s willingness to support forest-tenure reform as crucial for positive scenarios. Enforcement of forest regulations, community participation in forest management and respect for local cultures were also mentioned frequently.

Forest landscape in Uganda. Photo by Douglas Sheil for Center for International Forestry Research (CIFOR).
Forest landscape in Uganda. Photo by Douglas Sheil for Center for International Forestry Research (CIFOR).

Migration part of the picture in Uganda

In the western district of Kibaale, Uganda, immigration has swelled the number of people who depend on forest resources. This creates uncertainties about tenure and rights, which are further complicated by absentee landholders.

Masindi, also located in western Uganda, is marked by the destruction of forests for corporate farms and ranches, as well as the imminent possibility of oil production, which could harm forests, but which could also create better-paying jobs that might reduce people’s dependence on forests.

The Ugandan participants envisioned scenarios in which the government made and enforced clear rules for immigration and resettlement, budgeted for forest management and provided enough personnel to enforce regulations, while traditional community leaders received training in sustainable forest management.

Madre de Dios in the Peruvian Amazon is the third location of the study. Photo: CIFOR
Madre de Dios in the Peruvian Amazon is the third location of the study. Photo: CIFOR

PPA in Peru

In Peru, the analysis was done with government officials and representatives of non-governmental organizations and leaders of communities scattered along rivers in the Amazonian regions of Loreto and Madre de Dios.

One persistent obstacle for the indigenous communities is that that they are not free to make decisions about forest use, because forests are considered a public good, governed by national laws as well as regional regulations. This makes building local and regional scenarios difficult, because they are still subject to the limitations imposed by national laws, according to researcher Alejandra Zamora, who is leading the application of the methodology in Peru.

Tensions also arise over overlapping land rights. Community leaders said they felt regional governments lacked the will to resolve tenure problems, while government officials said they were limited by budget constraints.

“These discussions help participants arrive at implementation processes that are more effective at improving tenure rights and resource access, as well as identifying who should be responsible for these actions,” says Monterroso. “They discover that there is not only one possible scenario, but rather various potential futures.”


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