Community-based program ‘needs to be re-evaluated’

Community-based program ‘needs to be re-evaluated’

22 July 2011

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Indonesia — A government forest management and economic development program has been criticized for failing to involve local residents.

The residents, especially farmers, are supposed to be empowered in the government’s program to revitalize damaged forests.

In fact, according to an NGO worker, they have been pushed to the sidelines in favor of outside companies and cooperatives that are hired to manage the forest.

“The program is to provide access to residents living around the forest to manage the forest legally, but the fact is that farmers have not been given the right to manage the forest,” Ichwanto M. Nuh, spokesman of the Lampung Independent Farmers’ Movement, said in Lampung on Thursday.

“Many businesspeople have infringed on their rights just for the sake of business,” he said during a farmers’ forum at Gedung Cahaya Kuningan village, Ngambur district, West Lampung regency.

With the Forestry Ministry implementing its revitalization program nationwide, many large-scale financiers have formed cooperatives to obtain concession permits.

Ichwanto said the program, which also aims to improve local residents’ economic prospects, could not be effective if outside influences managed the forests.

Farmers are becoming nothing more than spectators in the program in West Lampung, he said, adding that those who benefit are middlemen and large-scale financiers.

“That’s why we urge the minister and the West Lampung regent to re-evaluate and verify the forest management permits issued to cooperatives and companies,” he said.

The Forestry Ministry stipulates that forest management permits granted for the program should be issued through cooperatives and companies.

The area reserved for the program in West Lampung covers 24,835 hectares, of which 11,115 hectares have been granted to two cooperatives — Lambar Subur Cooperatives and Sinar Selatan Cooperatives.

The permit issuance has caused anxiety among the residents because they fear they will no longer be able to live in the forest.

The director of the Lampung chapter of the Indonesian Forum for the Environment (Walhi), Hendrawan, said irregularities in the program threatened the forest’s existence.

According to Hendrawan, both the cooperatives managing the forest in West Lampung have breached Forestry Ministerial Ordinance No. 23/2007.

Separately, a local forestry agency in North Sumatra has blamed forest fires on reckless land clearing and illegal logging.

The fire has destroyed hundreds of hectares of protected forest in the Sipiso-Piso, Karo regency.

“Fires are a chronic problem every year. People cause the fires, given the knowledge that the fires usually come from their plantations,” Forestry Agency head James Budiman Siringo-Ringo said on Thursday.

He said it was difficult to trace the culprits “because they leave right after they start the fires”.

He was upset that the forest around Lake Toba had been destroyed by the fires.

Dry season is considered a factor in the chronic fires.

Entering the dry season, the Meteorology and Geophysics Agency (BMG) said people should be ready for forest fires. “The weather can reach up to 35 degrees Celsius,” BMG official Mega Sirait said.

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