Indonesia: BRG Urges Government to Empower Peatland Societies Through Social Forestry Scheme

Dames Alexander Sinaga Jakarta Globe 10 Jan 18;

Jakarta. Indonesia’s Peat Restoration Agency, or BRG, and several civil society organizations urged the government on Tuesday (09/01) to apply its social forestry programs to poor communities residing in degraded peatland areas.

President Joko "Jokowi" Widodo's administration has set a target of allocating 12.7 million hectares across the country under the social forestry scheme by 2019. The program will be implemented by the Ministry of Environment and Forestry and aims to increase the welfare of communities in and around forests.

Myrna Safitri, deputy head of BRG, said her agency has been trying to collaborate its peatland restoration programs with the ministry’s social forestry programs.

She said the government's social forestry programs have a binding power which is directly related to land suitability and land tenure.

According to Myrna, the program is already up and running at several locations across the country, though problems still persist.

"The coordination between us and the ministry as the licencor of the social forestry permit is going well. It is important to include peatland management as part of the social forestry programs as it should be beneficial to the community," Myrna said in a statement received by the Jakarta Globe on Tuesday.

Meanwhile, Rahmat Sulaiman, coordinator of the non-governmental organization Geodata Nasional (GDN), said his organization has conducted research that indicates that communities near peatlands have a basic knowledge of responsibly managing the land.

Rahmat explained that land suitability is not balanced with land tenure, as many land concessions in the area include industrial forest permits and palm oil plantation permits.

"The imbalance between land suitability and land tenure in peatlands causes a distortion in the community. Some want to restore the degraded peatlands, but there are no supportive factors. That’s why they ended up becoming reluctant to restore peatlands," Rahmat said.

According to Erna Rosdiana, social forestry director at the Ministry of Forestry, 1.087 million hectares had been distributed among 267,165 households of forest communities by November 2017.

Erna said that those who obtained permits for using the land must do it in accordance with the standards of sustainable forest management.

"Social forestry is not just about distributing land, it must be in line with the principles of sustainable forest management," she said.