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Indonesia’s moratorium undermines community forestry in favor of industrial interests

Sign warning that a rainforest tree has been spiked to discourage illegal logging in Indonesian Borneo
Sign warning that a rainforest tree has been spiked to discourage illegal logging in Indonesian Borneo. Photo by: Rhett A. Butler.

Indonesia’s moratorium on new concessions in primary forest areas and peatlands “completely ignores” the existence of community forestry management licenses, jeopardizing efforts to improve the sustainability of Indonesia’s forest sector and ensure benefits from forest use reach local people, say environmental groups.

According to Greenomics-Indonesia, a Jakarta-based NGO, community and village forestry licenses are not among the many exemptions spelled under the presidential instruction that defines the moratorium. The instruction, issued last month, grants exemptions for industrial developers and allows business-as-usual in secondary forest areas by the pulp and paper, mining and palm oil industries.

“The only exceptions in the Presidential Instruction are for big business. In reality, the granting of licenses for community and village forestry development should have been prioritized for exclusion from the moratorium, especially as such activities are not environmentally destructive,” said Greenomics Executive Director Effendi Effendi. “This demonstrates beyond doubt that the Presidential Instruction is primarily concerned with promoting the interests of big business.”

Unlike industrial plantation development, mining, and logging, community forest management systems in Indonesia typically do not result in deforestation. For example “people’s forests” in Java are, for the first time in generations, regrowing. Given a stake in forest ownership, communities in Java have an interest in reforestation for timber production and other benefits afforded by forests.

Rainforest in West Kalimantan’s Gunung Palung National Park. Photo taken by Rhett Butler in March 2011.

Deforestation by small-holders in Indonesia is often driven by insecure land tenure — when communities lack clear ownership rights to land, they have little incentive to reject illegal logging or manage forests for the long-term. The model — which has contributed to the abandonment of traditional land stewardship in many areas — has driven large-scale devastation of Indonesia’s rich forest ecosystems.

Meanwhile the situation has been exacerbated by Indonesia’s system for granting forestry concessions. The bulk of Indonesia’s forest is owned by the state, which historically has doled out large concessions — often tens of thousands of hectares in extent — to logging companies. Local communities mostly lose out, leaving some to seek opportunities from illicit timber harvesting.

Now that it has been officially articulated, the moratorium seems to simply extend the status quo, according to Effendi.

“This proves once and for all that the Presidential Instruction fails to take into account the interests of those living in and around the forests.”

Beth Gingold and Fred Stolle of the World Resources Institute agree that “the omission of an exemption for community forestry permits… is a major weakness in the decree.”

“Community based forest management and monitoring has been recognized as an effective strategy for achieving sustainable forest management and balancing economic, social, and environmental development goals,” Gingold and Stolle wrote in an analysis of the moratorium.

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Indonesia’s forest moratorium

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Interview with Indonesian climate official on rainforest logging moratorium

(06/03/2011) In May, Indonesia President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono issued a presidential instruction laying out the specifications for a two-year moratorium on new concessions in primary forests and peatlands. The moratorium aims to create a window for Indonesia to enact reforms needed to slow deforestation and forest degradation under its Letter of Intent with Norway, which would pay the Southeast Asian nation up to a billion dollars for protecting forests.

Lack of clarity complicates Indonesia’s logging moratorium

(05/27/2011) Lack of clarity makes it difficult to assess whether Indonesia’s moratorium on new logging concessions in primary forest areas and peatlands will actually reduce greenhouse gas emissions from deforestation, according to a new comprehensive assessment of the instruction issued last week by Indonesian President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono. The analysis, conducted by Philip Wells and Gary Paoli of Indonesia-based Daemeter Consulting, concludes that while the moratorium is “potentially a powerful instrument” for achieving the Indonesian president’s goals of 7 percent annual growth and a 26 percent reduction in greenhouse gas emissions from a projected 2020 baseline, the language of the moratorium leaves significant areas open for interpretation, potentially offering loopholes for developers.

Indonesia’s moratorium disappoints environmentalists

(05/20/2011) The moratorium on permits for new concessions in primary rainforests and peatlands will have a limited impact in reducing deforestation in Indonesia, say environmentalists who have reviewed the instruction released today by Indonesian President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono. The moratorium, which took effect January 1, 2011, but had yet to be defined until today’s presidential decree, aims to slow Indonesia’s deforestation rate, which is among the highest in the world. Indonesia agreed to establish the moratorium as part of its reducing emissions from deforestation and degradation (REDD) agreement with Norway. Under the pact, Norway will provide up to a billion dollars in funds contingent on Indonesia’s success in curtailing destruction of carbon-dense forests and peatlands.

Fighting illegal logging in Indonesia by giving communities a stake in forest management

(03/10/2011) Over the past twenty years Indonesia lost more than 24 million hectares of forest, an area larger than the U.K. Much of the deforestation was driven by logging for overseas markets. According to the World Bank, a substantial proportion of this logging was illegal. Curtailing illegal logging may seem relatively simple, but at the root of the problem of illegal logging is something bigger: Indonesia’s land policy. Can the tide be turned? There are signs it can. Indonesia is beginning to see a shift back toward traditional models of forest management in some areas. Where it is happening, forests are recovering. Telapak understands the issue well. It is pushing community logging as the ‘new’ forest management regime in Indonesia. Telapak sees community forest management as a way to combat illegal logging while creating sustainable livelihoods.

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