Minister explains the new Indonesian Government’s approach to forests and the people
The Minister of Environment and Forestry explains some of what the new Government is doing to protect forests and the communities that interact with them
‘The traditional view is that forests are unproductive and their value can only be realised by converting the land to other uses’, said Her Excellency Ms Siti Nurbaya, Minister of Environment and Forestry. ‘Consequently, forests have been converted because their real value has not been understood.’
The Minister was speaking at the Tropical Landscapes Summit 2015, 27 April, in Jakarta, Indonesia. The Summit was organized by the Investment Coordinating Board and the United Nations Office for REDD+ Coordination in Indonesia. She pointed out that forests covered around two-thirds of Indonesia but provided less than 1% of Gross Domestic Product, mainly because they were not valued properly for all of the things they provide to the nation.
‘Forests are sources of food and labour opportunities, energy, public infrastructure, water security, national security, research and education’, she said. ‘They are home to customary communities and they also sequester carbon. Mismanagement of the forests means danger: destroying forests destroys the welfare of the people. Forests must be managed wisely’.
Answering a question on what specific benefits for the people does the Government of President Joko Widowo (Jokowi) see in forests, she emphasized that it was Jokowi’s commitment to set aside forests for the people, particularly, smallholders.
‘We have committed 12.7 million hectares to be managed under social forestry, such as people’s production forests, community forests and, probably, hutan adat’ she noted. ‘In our calculations, most likely this land will come from the production forest areas. Another commitment of Jokowi is to reform 9 million hectares for marginalized, poor farmers. This will come from forest areas—about 4.1 million hectares—and the rest from common land. I am working with the Minister of Agraria dan Tata Ruang on the reform. All for empowering the marginalized farmers and forest people’.
Minister Nurbaya also acknowledged that concessions over large areas of forests that had been granted to companies weren’t benefiting the people as might have been intended.
‘In the permits it is written that 20% of concession areas is supposed to be managed in partnership with local communities. But in practice it’s not working at all’, she said, ‘and so we are reviewing permits to ensure compliance. While doing so, we are also investigating the issue of degraded land and how it can be addressed under licensing conditions’.
The Government has also extended the moratorium on issuance of new permits for forest clearance. The moratorium was first put in place under a presidential instruction of 13 May 2011, for two years, then extended in 2013 and now again to 2017. The ministry is preparing the new presidential instruction for the continuation of the moratorium and is considering widening its scope even though the new instruction refers in its title to ‘tropical landscape management and peat land’ but in the body of the text discusses only primary forests and peat land.
‘At the beginning,’ said Minister Nurbaya, ‘we decided we would include all tropical landscape management—and not for just two years—but it proved too difficult to define quickly. So now it’s just for two years while we collect all the material for proper definition of tropical landscape management. If it’s decided that the moratorium will include secondary forest then we will collect the necessary information and set those decisions next.
‘We also have a law on the prevention and ultimate eradication of forest destruction. Through enforcement of that law we have made connections to money laundering and corruption. However, implementation of the law is difficult because of the different levels of government’.
Nonetheless, some private companies that haven’t complied with the laws have already been taken to court for illegally converting forests to other uses.
‘Unfortunately, we lost because of weak arguments’, she said. ‘But we are now studying more about the practice of law in environmental implementation and we have accelerated law enforcement with accompanying analyses of how to implement and how to make good arguments for justice’.
The Minister also noted that among many laws aimed at protecting forests and biodiversity that there was also a regulation that now requires that strategic environmental assessments must be integrated into the mid-term development plans of ministries and local governments.
‘The inclusion of strategic environmental assessments in mid-term regional development plans is a key measure and we are now requiring enforcement at all levels of government’.
The CGIAR Research Program on Forests, Trees and Agroforestry provides research support to the Ministry of Environment and Forestry