RMI - The Indonesian Institute for Forest & Environment promotes communities’ authentic sovereignty over their lands and forests and empowers them to create their own community-based natural resources management protocols, biodiversity conservation strategies, and sustainable livelihood systems. For the past eighteen months, RMI has taken part in the ILC’s Community Land Protection Co-Learning Initiative (CLPI), working in the communities of Kasepuhan Cibedug and Kaspuhan Pasir Eurih, both located in Lebak Regency, Banten Province. In both communities, the village government is enthusiastically supporting RMI’s efforts.
At the inception of the project, Pasir Eurih had recently received its “Customary Forest Decree” (after a 2012 Constitutional Court decision that indigenous forests belong to the indigenous communities living within them, and excluding “Customary Forests” from being categorized as “State Forests,”). The community was eager to leverage their new rights over their forest and territory to create a sustainable natural resource management plan, as well as various ecotourism, coffee, and commercial vegetable farming enterprises, but needed support for making and implementing these plans.
Kasepuhan Cibedug, which is located entirely within Mount Halimun-Salak National Park, is still in the process of applying for formal recognition of its indigenous forest rights. Although the community has completed the participatory mapping element of the forest titling process, the community still struggles with conflicts of law between the national park management system and their own indigenous Adat management system: Cibedug has strong enforcement systems in place for those who break Adat laws by illegally harvesting timber, but leaders feel constrained to enforce these rules against illegal loggers coming into their community, as they do not yet have the jurisdiction to do so under law. Meanwhile, the national park’s management, while claiming this power, is unable to adequately police the vast forests within the park, leaving Cibedug’s forests unprotected. Because the park’s management has been pushing for the community to relocate (which they refuse to do, as there are multiple sacred natural sites located within their territory) they are afraid to enforce their rules, for fear of creating conflict with park managers. Kaspuhan Cibedug feels that these challenges will only be resolved once they have title to –and the authority to manage– their forest.
Cibedug has strong enforcement systems in place for those who break Adat laws by illegally harvesting timber, but leaders feel constrained to enforce these rules against illegal loggers coming into their community, as they do not yet have the jurisdiction to do so under law.
New strategies learned and adapted: VISIONING AND BY-LAWS DRAFTING
Through its participation in the CLPI, RMI learned a variety of new strategies that field staff have been using to support the communities of Pasir Eurih and Cibedug to achieve their goals. The first process that RMI took the communities through is called “Visioning.” To adapt the visioning process to the communities’ needs, RMI held visioning meetings in each of the five hamlets of Cibedug and the hamlet of Pasir Eurih, then combined each of the hamlets’ visions into one community-wide vision. To ensure women’s participation, they held separate visioning meetings for women and men.
In every hamlet, the visioning exercises inspired energetic discussions about the changes that had taken place within the communities that had been taken for granted, and sparked immediate community organizing: in Pasir Eurih, the visioning helped the youth see how their new eco-tourism efforts could be informed by the remembrance of their culture, their Adat system, and their elders’ wisdom and traditional knowledge. Pasir Eurih is now also using their vision to shape their natural resources management plan: the process helped community members to identify decreased water availability and increased prevalence of “pests” as current challenges, and convinced them of the urgent need to draft bylaws. In Cibedug, the community’s visioning process strengthened the relationships between the five hamlets, motivated them to strengthen their Adat rules to deal with present and future external challenges and turn them into formal, written bylaws that they can show to outsiders, and to immediately protect all springs within their territory as protected areas.
RMI staff have been delighted by the impacts of the visioning process, observing how it opened up community members’ eyes to major changes happened over long periods: by looking back to the past and comparing it with current conditions, they have been better able to predict the future and make plans based on that vision. Until the visioning, they had not realized how big the problems were until many community members voiced the same concerns about waste management, water pollution, and the opening of the forest for agroforestry. Elders prepared in advance for the visioning, and were excited to teach the younger generation about their traditional ways. The exercised helped the communities realize that they have to face the new challenges from outside together, with a unified vision and thoughtful, coordinated action.
RMI staff have been delighted by the impacts of the visioning process, observing how it opened up community members’ eyes to major changes happened over long periods: by looking back to the past and comparing it with current conditions, they have been better able to predict the future and make plans based on that vision.
The second new strategy that RMI learned from the CLPI has been the process of supporting communities to draft written bylaws for forest governance and natural resources management. To begin bylaws drafting, RMI staff interviewed community elders about their traditional Adat rules, inviting local youth (of whom few are left in the communities, most having left their villages to seek employment in urban areas) to listen in and learn how their elders and ancestors managed their forest and natural resources in the past.
RMI field staff are supporting the communities to slowly (as each hamlet within each community has very different livelihood practices, and thus very different rules) (re)write their Adat rules and values. Along the way, a few challenges have emerged: first, there are some rules concerning sacred sites that are secret and cannot be spoken about or written down. Second, due to the widely different practiced Adat within each hamlet in Cibedug, it is proving challenging to establish one set of bylaws for the entire community. Third, community elites and elders are driving the process, as community women and youth perceive they have no right to participate in the discussions.
While the process is still ongoing, in Cibedug, the community has already been galvanized to document their Adat rules so they will have greater authority to use them to address outsiders’ illegal logging within their territory once they receive their title.
Positive impacts: increased women’s participation in land governance
One immediate positive impact of RMI’s work has been community men’s realization that women not only have the right to be involved in forest management, but have important wisdom and expertise to contribute. Although the region is very patriarchal, men in the communities have started listening to women and giving them space to voice their ideas about forest and land management, often for the first time.
Overall, RMI’s participation in the CLPI has enriched its strategies, and shown field staff new ways to engage community members. To continue learning and to address the emerging land grab threats posted by Indonesia’s new “Omnibus Law on Job Creation,” RMI has been pioneering a series of activities to help young people weigh their employment options and comprehensively understand the economic benefits of staying in their villages, rather than seeking paid jobs in urban centres. RMI also plans to reach out to the Observatorio Comunitario, a Chilean NGO that has been pioneering the use of Human Rights Impact Assessments, to learn new strategies for addressing corporate- and government-driven environmental destruction and human rights abuses.
Overall, RMI’s participation in the CLPI has enriched its strategies, and shown field staff new ways to engage community members.
THE COMMUNITY LAND PROTECTION LEARNING INITIATIVE IS AN OPPORTUNITY FOR ILC MEMBERS TO LEARN FROM PEERS HOW TO PROTECT COMMUNITY LAND
ABOUT THE AUTHORS
Wahyubinatara Fernandez is Policy and Advocacy Coordinator at RMI, Indonesia.
Abdul Waris is Community Organizer at RMI, Indonesia.
Rachael Knight (firstname.lastname@example.org) is a senior associate in IIED's Natural Resources research group.
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