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Indonesia - greater land rights for forest communities

The government has agreed to develop and implement a national strategy to grant significant land rights to forest communities (© FAO/R. Heinrich)
The government has agreed to develop and implement a national strategy to grant significant land rights to forest communities
© FAO/R. Heinrich

A new national strategy to grant greater land rights to forest communities has been agreed by the Indonesian government in response to increasing deforestation. The announcement came at the culmination of a week long forestry conference, which saw researchers and forestry community leaders come together to address the issue of local community control to stop forest degradation, alleviate poverty, and reduce carbon emissions.

In his closing remarks, Pak Hadi Pasaribu, a senior official with the Ministry of Forests said, "The policies we have now are not effective in solving the tenure problem, but at least we have committed to doing much better." The government's main commitments include strengthening a national working group to address tenure issues, empowering the national forestry commission to oversee tenure reforms and creation of a new mechanism to record tenure claims. The government has also agreed to map contested forest 'estates', which currently fall under the authority of the Ministry of Forests, and recognise and respect customary rights before forests are allocated for government use.

Within the next three to six months, the government will begin to negotiate a plan of action with forest communities. "Until now we have always been the outsiders; this is the first time we have been asked to participate at such a high level with the Ministry of Forests," said Abdon Nababan, head of AMAN, an alliance of Indonesia's indigenous and forest community groups. But despite optimism, many remain cautious: "We must remember that the problem of land rights in Indonesia is about corruption and the lack of tenure, and reforms must be about resolving those two things. If we do not, the forests of Indonesia will die," Nababan adds.

Indonesia's failure to implement satisfactory land rights has made it an under performer among Asia's forest nations in reducing deforestation, studies by the Rights and Resources Initiative have revealed. Between 2000 and 2010, 65 countries saw an increase in their forest area, yet Indonesia was one of 11 that lost forest, losing more land than the other ten combined. The granting of greater land rights has had a positive affect in countries such as China, South Korea, India and Vietnam - all of which have achieved great success in halting escalating deforestation.

Date published: July 2011


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