Range of forest tenure: State, communal, private, traditional

What is the perception of land ownership?

In many cases, the perception of ownership is different depending on who you talk to.

In 1984, boundary markers were established for the Bukit Baka-Bukit Raya National Park in Kalimantan, Indonesia. There are varying accounts of how consultation with local villages was carried out, with the most likely scenario being that a meeting was held in 1985 in the district capital of Nanga Pinoh. Heads of villages were invited to this meeting and told that a nature reserve would protect the forest against logging concessions and illegal logging, which were expanding rapidly at the time. While the government has documentation showing the signatures of village heads, respondents from the villages report that they were not properly informed about the park and did not consent to it.

Today, villagers believe that the enforced park boundaries cut into their rubber plantation lands and compromise their access to natural resources. To respond to villagers’ complaints about the park, the government has offered monetary payments to compensate for lost economic opportunities. However, villagers are largely opposed to accepting them, believing that taking such monetary benefits would legitimize the park’s existence, which they reject in the first place. Instead, they want recognition of their customary land claims.

The decentralization process in Indonesia has largely left national parks centrally controlled by the Ministry of Environment and Forestry. As a result, district and subdistrict governments, which are more directly accountable to the local populations that elect them, are not sufficiently empowered to present such local customary claims to higher authorities. In the absence of formal government representation of these claims, including the rejection of the proposed benefit sharing arrangement, villagers have turned to indigenous rights NGOs to advance their claims and achieve their desired outcomes (Myers and Muhajir 2015[1]).

In Indonesia, a new law on village governance (Law No. 6/2014) gives villages autonomy to manage their assets, including village-owned forests. However, the Forestry Law sets state authority over all forests at national level, and it is unclear to what extent state forest within a village area is a village asset. In practice, the rights of a village to the exclusive use of major forest products from forests in its vicinity have usually been recognized as the de facto standard. The plethora and complexity of laws and contradictory regulations pertaining to local land use are issues, and the difficulty in following the process reduces forest administrators’ motivation to improve the governance of forests and empower local people (Moeliono et al. 2017[2]).

[1]Myers, R., Muhajir, M., 2015. Searching for Justice: Rights vs “Benefits” in Bukit Baka Bukit Raya National Park, Indonesia. Conservat Soc 13, 370.

[2]Moeliono, M., Pham, T.T., Bong, I.W., Wong, G.Y., Brockhaus, M., 2017. Social Forestry – why and for whom? A comparison of policies in Vietnam and Indonesia. FS 1, 1.