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  • What is success? Gaps and trade-offs in assessing the performance of traditional social forestry systems in Indonesia

What is success? Gaps and trade-offs in assessing the performance of traditional social forestry systems in Indonesia

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Despite the growing interest in social forestry (SF), how much do we understand the social, economic and environmental outcomes and the conditions that enable SF to perform? In this article, we use a content analysis of literature on existing traditional SF practiced throughout Indonesia. It examines the outcomes of these systems and the conditions that enabled or hindered these outcomes to understand possible causal relations and changing dynamics between these conditions and SF performance. We discuss the gaps in how SF is assessed and understood in the literature to understand the important aspects of traditional SF that are not captured or that are lost when the diverse traditional systems are converted into other land uses. It aims to understand the potential trade-offs in the State’s push for formalizing SF if these aspects continue to be ignored.

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  • Fostering the social forestry program: Inclusive business models (IBMs) in community-based wood and NTFP-based production

Fostering the social forestry program: Inclusive business models (IBMs) in community-based wood and NTFP-based production

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

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


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.


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 n.liswanti@cgiar.org or Tuti Herawati at t.herawati@cgiar.org or Esther Mwangi at e.mwangi@cgiar.org.

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 t.herawati@cgiar.org or Esther Mwangi at e.mwangi@cgiar.org.

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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  • Social Forestry – why and for whom? A comparison of policies in Vietnam and Indonesia

Social Forestry – why and for whom? A comparison of policies in Vietnam and Indonesia

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Community forestry or social forestry (henceforth referred collectively as SF) programs have become new modes of forest management empowering local managers and hence, allowing integration of diverse local practices and support of local livelihoods. Implementation of these initiatives, however, face multiple challenges. State-prescribed community programs, for example, will remain isolated efforts if changes in the overall economic and social governance frameworks, including the devolution of rights to local users is lacking. Financial sustainability of these measures remains often uncertain and equity issues inherent to groups and communities formed for SF, can be exacerbated.

In this article, we pose the question: Whose interests do SF policies serve? The effectiveness of SF would depend on the motivations and aims for a decentralization of forest governance to the community. In order to understand the underlying motivations behind the governments’ push for SF, we examine national policies in Vietnam and Indonesia, changes in their policies over time and the shift in discourses influencing how SF has evolved. Vietnam and Indonesia are at different sides of the spectrum in democratic ambitions and forest abundance, and present an intriguing comparison in the recent regional push towards SF in Southeast Asia. We discuss the different interpretations of SF in these two countries and how SF programs are implemented. Our results show that governments, influenced by global discourse, are attempting to regulate SF through formal definitions and regulations. Communities on the other hand, might resist by adopting, adapting or rejecting formal schemes. In this tension, SF, in general adopted to serve the interest of local people, in practice SF has not fulfilled its promise.

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  • Equity, REDD+ and Benefit Sharing in Social Forestry

Equity, REDD+ and Benefit Sharing in Social Forestry

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Authors: Wong, G.; Brockhaus, M.; Moeliono, M.; Padoch, C.; Pham, T.T.

Key messages for the ASEAN Social Forestry Network

  • REDD+ and social forestry programs have both benefits and costs. Understanding who is bearing the costs of these policies and programs, and ensuring fair compensation, will be important to achieving effective and equitable outcomes.
  • Equity depends on the context and perceptions of the affected stakeholders. Including considerations of equity in the design of REDD+ and social forestry policies can positively influence the policies’ outcomes and sustainability.
  • REDD+ and social forestry requires an inclusive process. Purposeful multistakeholder participation throughout the decision-making process can increase the credibility and legitimacy of a program and enhance its chances of successful outcomes.

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