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Speculators attempt to defraud people’s forest program in Indonesia

Note: On May 5, 2014, an official request for correction was submitted to The Jakarta Post to clarify that the Ministry of Forestry was referring to “Hutan Tanaman Rakyat” (HTR) rather than “Hutan Rakyat”. The distinction is HTR refers to “community industrial timber plantations” rather than agroforestry. While HTR can support community livelihoods, critics say the program is sometimes used for companies under the guise of community empowerment. Given this context, the story below has been edited. Line by line edits are noted at the bottom..

Jungle rubber and forest in Riau Province, Sumatra.

An initiative that aims to incentivize community management of forests in Indonesia has been plagued with attempts to “hijack” the program, reports the Jakarta Post.

According to Indonesia’s Ministry of Forestry, most of the applications received for the hutan tanaman rakyat or the community industrial timber plantation program came from brokers aiming to capture government incentives.

“Many of the proposals were written by individual brokers, the majority of which coming from the Lampung and Bengkulu provinces where forest regulations are rarely enforced,” reported the newspaper.

As a result, only about 10 percent of proposals have been approved for loans under the program. That amounts to $3.3 million for projects that encourage community plantation management.

Most of Indonesia’s land mass is managed by the Ministry of Forestry, a central government agency. Rights groups and environmentalists say that the Ministry has historically favored industrial actors over traditional land users and communities in granting forest concessions. As a consequence, Indonesia has one of the highest deforestation rates in the world.

However, pressure has been building to reform the system. Hutan rakyat, which broadly refers to “people’s forests” programs, represents one mechanism for the central government to recognize community forest management, but last year Indonesia’s Constitution Court ruled in a case with far broader implications, concluding that traditional users — not the Ministry of Forestry — have the right to manage customary forests. That ruling has yet to be implemented in practice.


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