Pak Ongko, a 77-year-old farmer and fisherman, used to make a reliable living from the Butini fish (Glossogobius matanensis) and freshwater prawns that teemed in Lake Matano – a remote, ancient tectonic lake in the far eastern corner of the province of South Sulawesi in Indonesia.
But over the past 10 years, those species have disappeared. To blame are pollution from residential areas and a nearby nickel mine; overfishing; and incursions of invasive – and inedible – species like broom fish (Pterygoplichthys pardalis), which devour the lake’s algae and swallow up other fishes’ spawn.
Making a living from fishing is no longer possible for people like Ongko, and many have turned their sights instead to farming and collecting forest products, which currently abound in the tropical montane rainforests that line the lake’s edge. But without careful management, these ecosystems also face the threat of becoming degraded and unproductive.
In late 2020 – as part of wider efforts to support local livelihoods through forest tenure reform – the national Ministry of Environment and Forestry encouraged farmer-fisher people to join beekeeping groups as part of an agroforestry program. They provided 90 bee colony setups, and a local non-governmental organization offered training on business skills and honey production.
A year later, the number of bee colonies has increased to 120, and newly-minted beekeepers like Ongko are producing and selling sizable volumes of delicious local honey. Because the bees feed on local flowering plants and trees, the enterprise is a powerful motivator for community members to keep the forests intact. Meanwhile, fishing pressure on Lake Matano has been diverted, which officials hope will give the lake a better shot at natural regeneration.
This story, which was shared by a participant in a recent workshop, “Capacity building for government officers in forestry development,” in October 2021, speaks volumes to the potential of land rehabilitation, social forestry, and sound forest management more generally, to provide sustainable livelihoods while bolstering protection for natural resources.
“We hope that stories like this one will be shared more widely and frequently – and that staff at all levels have the capacity to help make them happen,” said Tuti Herawati, the director of the Forest Protection Management Unit (PFMU) at Indonesia’s Ministry of Environment and Forestry, and the workshop organizer.
Forest tenure reform in Indonesia
Since 2016, the Indonesian government has allocated 12.7 million hectares of forest for community management under a range of social forestry schemes. The reform is one of the country’s national priority programs for reducing poverty, which aims to provide local communities with legal access to forest resources to support their livelihoods.
The Center for International Forestry Research (CIFOR) has conducted research to understand more about what is hindering that implementation process. They’ve discovered a range of contributing factors, including regulatory frameworks, administrative challenges, market forces, budget constraints, coordination problems, and various community attributes.
Those findings resulted from the Global Comparative Study on Tenure during 2014-2019, which examined the development of tenure reform in Africa, Asia and Latin America. Indonesia is one of the research sites, along with five other countries – Peru, Uganda, Kenya, Nepal and Democratic Republic of Congo.
Bringing the dream to Earth
One of the focuses of GCS Tenure is to build the capacity of public servants implementing forest tenure reform programs in the six countries. With those concerns in mind, CIFOR developed an implementers’ survey to systematically document the conditions and challenges faced by government agencies in reform implementation. The tool has been applied in five of the study countries since 2017.
In the Indonesian context, the gaps and challenges revealed by that survey prompted the creation of the October workshop.
The event aimed to strengthen bureaucratic capacity for implementing forestry development programs in the field; introduce the implementers’ survey; and identify challenges and obstacles faced by participants in the implementation of forest management. It was attended by over a hundred participants, from the Forest Management Unit, the Directorate General Social Forestry and Forestry Partnership, and the Directorate General Watershed Management and Forest Rehabilitation, among other institutions.
The workshop was held online, and entailed three Zoom meetings, plus an assignment and mentoring process to complete between meetings two and three. It was designed using a participatory model that actively involved participants in plenary discussions and working groups; training materials were delivered through multiple methods, such as PowerPoint presentations, brainstorming, and video, while extensive time was dedicated to discussion.
Participants discussed several topics related to policy and forestry regulation, including current social forestry regulation, watershed management and planning, mangrove rehabilitation, seed source production, and water and soil conservation. All of the forestry development programs are carried out by taking into account community participation and tenure rights, which the government recently strengthened with several regulations after the issuance of the 2020 job creation law.
A large proportion of the workshop was devoted to the theory and practice of storytelling about the implementation of the forest development program.
“Often, people in these positions know exactly what has happened, but they don’t know how to express that information to the public,” said CIFOR researcher Nining Liswanti.
The participants were then set an assignment to develop their own stories about their experiences implementing their work, which they completed at home over the next two weeks, while receiving mentoring assistance as and when required.
Finally, on 29 October, the group reconvened for a third day to share their stories. A vast range of situations, challenges and successes were recounted – from durian competition winners in South Kalimantan to a eucalyptus oil enterprise in East Java.
“This part of the training helped them to write their stories better and it also helped us to learn about how they performed the forestry program – and how they faced constraints and challenges along the way,” said Liswanti.
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