For over five years Friends of the Earth Indonesia/WALHI has been developing a community-led model to protect the country’s forests. It is based on recognising the Land Rights of subsistence farmers, collective management of non-timber forest products and traditional knowledge.

Indonesia has one of the highest deforestation rates in the world. 15.8 million hectares of forest were lost between 2000 and 2012.Deforestation is primarily caused by big businesses, that clear land for palm oil and other plantations, log for timber unsustainably and carry out major mining projects.   This destroys the livelihoods of subsistence farmers who are forcibly removed from their lands.

FoE Indonesia is currently working with farmers and peasant unions in 13 regions across the country to defend lands rights and promote community control of natural resources. In the Province of Riau, smallholder Sagu farmers are fighting to protect their lands and forests from industrial plantations. FoE Indonesia supports their struggle by providing free legal services, training on community organising and connects local producers directly to consumers.  By developing land rights together with sustainable forest management FoE Indonesia aims to secure people’s livelihoods and the environment at the same time.

Their approach is working. Not only have individual communities won land rights in the courts but families have benefited from improved sales of vegetables. This model is already being massively scaled up due to it’s success. The government has promised 12.7 million hectares of forest area for Community based Forestry by 2019. This will secure the livelihoods of more than 10 million people and protect forest from destructive industrial practices.

Policy Suggestion:  FoE Indonesia recommends transparent and rigorous oversight of the implementation of Community Based Forestry programs to ensure good outcomes for people and the environment. FoE Indonesia recommends that 40 million hectares of forest should be allocated for Community Based Forest management by 2019.


Image: WALHI, 2015. Sago Festival in Sei Tohor, Riau.