Arguing the case for community forestry

Guest blog by
7 April 2015

Community forestry in Indonesia needs to be more than a feel-good campaign for the government – the Forest Governance Learning Group is seeking to ensure it delivers real benefits for local people.

Villagers harvesting a cinnamon tree near the village of Lubuk Beringin, Jambi province Indonesia. Villagers are managing the forests sustainably using traditional values (Photo: Tri Saputro/ CIFOR, Creative Commons via Flickr)

Planting trees to be 'green', helping to address climate change and to increase incomes is becoming more and more popular in Indonesia, thanks to a government campaign, 'Indonesia Planting Tree'.

The Forest Governance Learning Group (FGLG) in Indonesia (Indonesian text) has been supporting these community forestry initiatives to make sure they are not just a feel-good campaign for the government. A new report, Arguing Forests, tells the story of the group, covering a decade of work, and here we are given an insight into their most recent projects.

For growing numbers, planting trees has become an investment. Families can send their children to school, or affirm their faith through pilgrimage, with the proceeds from selling timber.

Yet complications prevail when it comes to harvesting trees and selling timber. People are understandably perplexed by the complicated rules on timber transportation, and worry that they will be in trouble if their truck full of timber for sale is intercepted by the police.

The Directorate of Forestry Fees and Forest Products Distribution (BIKPHH) in the Ministry of Environment and Forestry is responsible for formulating and implementing policies. These regulations are not intended to complicate the process for communities selling their timber that has been planted on their privately-owned land. This community timber is covered by the "Forest Product Administration from Privately/Community Forests" policy, which is designed to make selling simple and convenient.

Training the certifiers

The policy states that all forest products from private or community forests should be identified by type, measured by volume/weight, counted and complemented by a certificate of origin (SKAU). This means that farmers, private forest owners or the public can harvest timber from their own forest or courtyard and easily buy and sell this timber.

An important role within this forest product administrative process is the issuance of certificates of origin, which is done by the head of the village or the sub-district office official. Therefore these individuals need to be well trained in the measurement and recognition of the different types of wood from private and community forests.

The FGLG in Indonesia is a well-connected network of government and civil society sustainable forestry enthusiasts who focus on improving decision-making about forests and trees with local benefit in mind.

The group saw the need to try to help facilitate the administration of community forests and so developed a memorandum of understanding with BIKPHH and engaged in a project supported by the International Tropical Timber Organization (ITTO), for "Strengthening the governance of community forest through improved capacity to adequately perform timber administration in Java and Nusa Tenggara region".

Poster highlighting the importance of good forest administration

Since the policy was issued, FGLG with BIKPHH have facilitated various activities to strengthen the capacity of the heads of villages in their role as the publishers of certificates of origin. FGLG has also taken a stance in key areas of policy resulting for example in, "Guidelines for the implementation of the socialization of forest product administration from private/community forests" and "Training of the measurement and recognition of the type of wood from private/community forests".  

A number of training tools have been produced, including an animated video explaining the regulations governing timber from community and privately-owned land, available in Bahasa Indonesia – the Indonesian language.

These resources have been used to give farmers and private forest owners the best possible opportunities to benefit from forest products, as well as to encourage the development of community-based forest enterprises and expand employment prospects, helping both to reduce poverty and encourage economic growth.

So far training materials have been disseminated to 106 participants from 35 districts within West Java and Central Java Province. These activities will continue to the eastern part of Nusa Tenggara and will be followed by training with heads of villages on how to process and issue documents for community timber.

Credit scheme and challenges

Following FGLG Indonesia's success supporting community forestry training and awareness programs, one of the group's next projects is to adopt a credit scheme for small-medium forest enterprises (SMFEs) in Indonesia.

FGLG Indonesia's Yani Septiani (Photo: Yani Septiani)Yani Septiani, of FGLG Indonesia, explains: "The development of community forests [has] a significant influence on the growth of small-medium wood processing industry". She gives the example of saw mills but adds: "To date many small industries face difficulties accessing bank credit.

"ITTO supported developing a credit scheme for small-medium forest enterprises and will act as guarantor institution. FGLG-NRDC, in cooperation with the Ciamis District Forestry and Plantation Office, will act as a facilitator providing technical input and advice."

Projects such as this suggest that FGLG Indonesia's brand of well-informed action-learning to improve governance is much needed. Hopefully it can continue to argue for forests and respond to many likely challenges ahead.

Lasmini Adi is a member of the Indonesian Forest Governance Learning Group

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