Community forest management is often championed as a way to benefit local livelihoods and forest conservation. Indonesia, amongst other countries, recognises this as part of its efforts to reduce poverty. For example, in recent social forestry pilot projects in Java villages poverty rates are reported to have fallen by up to 90%. Indonesia is now moving towards a decentralized policy of community based forest management across the archipelago, and local governments are in the process of reallocating 12.7 Mha of state forest to poor indigenous communities.
This is a lot of forest land to change management in a short period of time. It is unclear what safeguards will be in place to ensure forest values are maintained whilst supporting the people most in need. Our community forestry project aims to help deliver social and ecological justice in Kalimantan, Indonesia, by improving understanding of linkages between ecological systems and human wellbeing, and with a view towards improving governance of community forestry policies and projects.
This research project is funded by the UK’s Department for International Development via the Darwin Initiative and implemented in collaboration with Durrell Institute of Conservation, Fauna & Flora International, Centre of Excellence for Environmental Decisions, and the Indonesian Institute of Sciences. Over the course of 2016-2019, we will study the influence of community forestry projects on commonly stated goals of reducing deforestation and poverty, and ensuring social equity. Community forest management is a big topic in Indonesia following the 2012 Constitutional Court decision that the forest rights of indigenous people should be recognized. There are ongoing discussions between non-governmental and governmental groups about how to develop policies that respect the court’s decision, and which rights and responsibilities would lead to the government’s objective of reducing poverty and deforestation rates.
Our research project seek to inform the policy discussions on community forest management by investigating the social and environmental conditions that determine the success or failure of community forest management in achieving its stated goals. We assess the risk of elite capture once rights are granted and the associated risk of the most marginalized people being marginalized further.
We will inform the policy debate on community forestry through scientific and popular publications and by working directly with governmental and non-governmental groups to understand current mindsets about community forest management and to discuss what information partner institutions need to improve their own decision-making.