Indonesia’s Social Forestry (SF) programme is promoted on the premise that it can provide people with rights to land. This can prove attractive to those who want to claim legal rights over land access and resource use where they have carried out work or wish to manage.
Uncertain land tenure can be clarified and social conflicts over land can thereby be eliminated or reduced. SF is also promoted on the premise that in return for such rights, the programme can induce people to manage the lands sustainably, thereby reducing deforestation and improving forest quality.
However, certain gaps prevent successful implementation of the programme. These gaps are barriers to participation (such as communities lacking legal citizenship and a lack of knowledge of SF); limited coordination between different levels of government that prevents a seamless implementation of SF; insufficient assistance and monitoring of activities that prevent SF implementers from achieving goals set out in their forest management plans and the lack of resources at the community level to implement SF.
Two elements are essential in overcoming these gaps. First, target communities must be able to access lands legally without fear of eviction. Second, activities on these lands must be sufficiently monitored by authorised government bodies and sustainably managed so
that SF livelihoods do not come at the expense of forest conservation.
Putting in place these two elements becomes even harder in remote forested areas, where a bulk of the population are unregistered migrants. There is little infrastructure and support for remote communities to learn about SF and there is less revenue potential for forest conservation than for clearing them. The governments should prioritize these areas for SF as they present the largest gains
for reducing social conflict through land rights’ acquisition. Helping such communities develop beneficial sustainable land management plans can also shift livelihoods away from those that exploit or deforest land.
KS has assisted three villages – Muara Medak, Lubuk Bintialo, and Karang Sari – in obtaining SF permits. KS found that obtaining the permits and ensuring success in implementing SF rest on these steps: 1) securing buy-in from stakeholders so that action taken is legitimate and aligned with the needs of all; 2) building capacity of local institutions to simultaneously improve livelihood opportunities and increase conservation efforts; 3) generating market access and/or multiple sector involvement to ensure continuity of SF activities.
This brief details how governments, communities, civil society organisations, and companies can implement the steps successfully. The steps identify which stakeholders to be targeted; what capacities to be improved; and types of SF activities are most likely to generate long-term support. These elements produce a conducive environment for SF that enables communities to legally manage forest areas and to do so in a sustainable manner that reduces conflict and strengthens conservation efforts.