Indonesia’s Kajang indigenous community achieves land rights

The Kajang indigenous people of Bulukumba, South Sulawesi Province, Indonesia have finally overcome the long impasse over recognition of their customary land.


After several years of meetings, consultations and regulatory proceedings, the council plenary meeting of the Bulukumba District Legislature announced on 17 November 2015 that a District Regulation (the Indonesian acronym is P3MHA) will recognize and protect the land rights of the Kajang people.

Conflict between the Kajang and outside development interests (including the private sector and state-backed interests) began decades ago when the Kajang forests were gazetted as state property with a status of Limited Production Forest in accordance with Minister of Forestry decrees of the 1990s. Designating forests for production purposes means that they are constantly under threat of conversion to some other land use in the name of development. For the Kajang, their particular forest held profound significance. There were complex rituals, customary laws and penalties observed with regard to the forest, which were defined by the Ammatoa, the Kajang customary leader.

The first draft of the regulation was prepared by the Bulukumba Forestry Agency in 2008 but had suffered setbacks because of a lack of public participation and bureaucratic support. Five years later, the regulatory environment had changed. The Indonesian Constitutional Court’s decision No. 35/PUU-X/2012 stipulated that ‘adat’ or customary community forests no longer fell under the jurisdiction of the national forest estate. The Court’s decision implied that governments at multiple levels must formulate the necessary policies for recognition of adat peoples. This landmark decision created the necessary momentum to start the process again from the early drafts of the Kajang local regulation.

Kajang community members in front of one of the village's uniquely styled homes. Photo: World Agroforestry Centre/Amy Lumban Gaol

Kajang community members in front of one of the village’s uniquely styled homes. Photo: World Agroforestry Centre/Amy Lumban Gaol

For the Kajang people, the Court’s decision presented a significant opportunity for legitimation, specifically, for their deeply-rooted belief in the cultural value of natural resources, particularly, their forest. The Kajang are highly observant of their customary rules, often consulting more closely with local unwritten codes than any formal state laws or regulations. They strongly believe that the balance of nature is deeply connected to the forest, which is also tied closely to the health and survival of the community. Over the course of time, however, the Kajang have been excluded access to government programs owing to their distinct differentiation; and development decisions made on behalf of the public interest did not always fit with Kajang self-identification. Revisiting a formal regulation under a rights-based approach allowed for more pluralistic governance processes to emerge.

Various institutions contributed to the formulation of the draft regulation, including in the collection of data and preparation of supporting documents: the Indigenous Peoples Alliance of the Archipelago (Aliansi Masyarakat Adat Nusantara) in South Sulawesi, Balang NGO and the Agroforestry and Forestry in Sulawesi (AgFor) project’s Governance team (from the Center for International Forestry Research). The participation and roles of these institutions were formalized through Bulukumba District Decree (SK Bupati Bulukumba) no. 760/VII/2013 on Formation of the Formulating Team for the Draft District Regulation for Recognition of Customary People in Bulukumba.

As part of a multi-stakeholder and consultative team supporting the regulatory drafting process, AgFor partnered with Balang to contribute various studies, such as a stakeholder analysis, categorizations of tenure, classifications of formal and informal access rights, cataloguing of forest policies, and due consideration of the various cultural practices. These studies provided important information to the many people who needed to be included in a robust participative approach to drafting a complex regulation on adat rights.

One of the objectives of AgFor is to increase awareness, understanding and technical capacity among various stakeholders to conduct land management in a participative matter and to apply the principles of governance to these processes. In the drafting of the regulation, AgFor provided training in facilitation of collaborative processes in the face of complex problems, conflict-resolution techniques, designing questionnaires and interviews regarding best practices, participatory mapping, database development, data analysis, and how data can be linked to policy development. The various participants in these training sessions included representatives of the Kajang leadership and other community members, village and sub-district staff, members of the district’s Forestry Agency and Tourism and Culture Agency, the Legal Bureau of Bulukumba, and several NGOs. In providing technical support to the drafting process, AgFor and Balang also actively helped the comprehensive academic studies that contributed to the foundations of the regulation. Furthermore, AgFor provided support through documentation and analysis of the broader learning process, which has been detailed in a series of academic publications and AgFor policy briefs.

A Kajang weaver at work creating black cloth. Black is the dominant colour used for clothing and other objects in daily life. of Kajang people. Photo: World Agroforestry Centre/Amy Lumban Gaol

A Kajang weaver at work creating black cloth. Black is the dominant colour used for clothing and other objects in daily life. of Kajang people. Photo: World Agroforestry Centre/Amy Lumban Gaol

Many meetings, both formal and informal, took place throughout this process, which included dialogues, discussions, seminars and collaborative research initiatives at different levels: national, provincial and district. Since the beginning of the drafting process in 2008, the different stages involved numerous people in an intensive and dynamic process. Upon submission to the Bulukumba Legislature, verification and consultations took place. Finally, at the meeting on 17 November, Speaker of the House, Andi Hamzah Pangki, announced the passage of the regulation into law. The process provides important lessons for the Ministry of Environment and Forestry and for local governments throughout Indonesia.

Ikhsan Amier of the Bulukumba Legal Bureau stated that, ‘The drafting of future regulations needs to follow a process such as this because it was truly participative. Our greatest hopes are that all legal processes for creating regulatory instruments can follow this model and, although the process may take a long time, we can confidently take a deep responsibility and sense of pride for what we have created together’.

The Head of the Bulukumba Forestry Agency, Ms Andi Misbawati Wawo, expressed her deep appreciation and hope from the experience of leading the drafting process: ‘I hope that this regulation that we have now crafted into existence can further support and strengthen the rights of the Kajang community. We feel a great sense of pride over the fact that Bulukumba is now one of the first areas in Indonesia to design a local regulation of such significance and, furthermore, to set a precedent in the name of empowering customary communities. Thank you so much to all those who helped to support the realization of this regulation’.



More about the Kajang decision



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This work is supported by the CGIAR Research Program on Forests, Trees and Agroforestry'

Amy Lumban Gaol

Amy Lumban Gaol is the World Agroforestry Centre’s Communications Coordinator for the Agroforestry and Forestry in Sulawesi (AgFor) project based in Makassar, Indonesia. She coordinates an integrated communications strategy within the three provinces where AgFor is working (South and Southeast Sulawesi and Gorontalo), including video production, writing stories and promoting AgFor through various media. Her interests include photography, social media and humanitarian activity.

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