Through the Eyes of the People – How Rimba Collective Helps Communities Preserve Their Forests

05 Jun 2024 - News

During the first decade of the 21st Century Indonesia has experienced some of the highest forest loss in the world, caused by a mixture of illegal logging and rapid expansion of oil palm and acacia plantations. The situation has improved recently however, and the loss of Indonesia’s primary forest is now at record lows. Part of the credit for this turnaround is due to the government’s proactive policy of granting licenses for community-based forestry.

As the name suggests, community-based forestry gives local communities the leading role in the planning, decision-making, and management of forest resources. By empowering local communities to care for their forests Indonesia moves closer to its target of dramatically reducing emissions caused by deforestation, which is a key element of the country’s Paris Agreement pledge.

Tanjung Dalam and three other villages – Lubuk Birah, Lubuk Beringin, and Birun – are located in the Merangin District in Jambi Province. Altogether, these four villages comprise 12,308 hectares of land, 82% of which is intact forest. They are managed day-to-day by project operator Perkumpulan Alam Hijau (AHI) and are recent additions to the Rimba Collective portfolio. Though the four villages are not adjacent, AHI runs joint training sessions in which learnings and best-practices are shared.

The Rimba Collective has a financial relationship with the projects that helps support their efforts at reforestation based on meeting key performance indicators such as climate and biodiversity targets.

A visit to Tanjung Dalam and neighboring villages shows how community-based forestry supports conservation and livelihoods and how the Rimba Collective gives a boost to such implementation, through funding and support.

Motivated by a Strong Connection to the Forest

Tanjung Dalam’s Headman, Pak Andika Chandra expressed that the local community has a strong sense of connection to the village forest as part of their heritage, identifying themselves as its protectors and caretakers.

The drivers of deforestation in Merangin District include illegal gold mining as well as encroachment by non-residents who cut down the forest.  Having seen neighboring villages suffer from mercury pollution from panning for gold and the flooding and erosion that mining, and deforestation brings, the village applied for and received a Hutan Desa (village forest) permit from the Indonesian government in 2012.

A village forest license grants the right to cultivate non-timber forest products such as ginger, coffee, pepper, and pineapple as livelihood crops, and to engage in honey harvesting, rattan harvesting, and collecting nuts, berries, resins, and ingredients for medicines from the forest. Without a license, people do not legally have access to the land. They cannot even plant and harvest pepper corn trees, something they have traditionally done for centuries.

A license does come with clear obligations. Timber harvesting is forbidden. The villagers must engage in forest-friendly livelihoods and plant overstory trees to replenish the forest.

Pak Andika Chandra says the local community believes the aid provided by the Rimba Collective has helped its efforts to support and manage the forest. The financial relationship incentivizes project communities to take their planting quotas and other targets seriously. Since the project is relatively new and is still in the Rimba Collective onboarding process, the funding has thus far been devoted to setting up a governance structure for forest management including training community members on data collection, and for supplies to create a more robust and tech enabled forest patrol.

Tanjung Dalam’s villagers currently rely on the cultivation of pineapples, cinnamon, and coffee as their key livelihood crops which they cultivate outside the forest area. They also create products from rattan, including furniture, and they tap the resin, known as “dragon’s blood,” from rattan trees, for use in cosmetics and natural clothing dye. These agricultural commodities will be incorporated into the Rimba Collective’s future plan for sustainable livelihoods.

Rimba Collective’s program design and onboarding process includes not only setting up a forest governance structure but defining the scope of restoration and reforestation. As an example, in Tanjung Dalam, it was found that an area of 34 hectares had been cleared. Though this happened before the Hutan Desa license was granted, the LPHD --  the village organization responsible for its administration -- has identified this area as the focus of their restoration activities. Tanjung Dalam plans to employ agroforestry to reach their target of planting 1,500 seedlings per hectare of coffee plants, 25 seedlings per hectare of meranti (Shorea roxburghii), and 100 seedlings per hectare of avocados on the blighted area.

Adding funding and expert help to a government program

Though the Indonesian government’s social forestry program is ambitious, 12.7 million hectares of state forest estate has been made available to local communities, it is not adequately funded. With Rimba Collective, the financial relationship with the villages means funding and support are available, contingent on meeting targets for conservation, biodiversity, and livelihood improvement. Investing in a robust governance structure for the forest lands, outfitting a tech-enabled forest patrol, and providing analysis and support for forest-friendly livelihoods are some of the ways the Rimba Collective contributes. This not only supports the local community but helps Indonesia step closer to the global goals set out in the Paris Agreement.

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