Framing up the community-centred future of peatland management

Experts share knowledge from long-term research in Indonesia and beyond
, Wednesday, 8 Feb 2023
Kubu Raya, West Kalimantan, Indonesia. Photo by Ricky Martin/CIFOR

Indonesia has the third-largest area of biodiversity-rich tropical forests in the world. The archipelago is considered one of the world’s 17 ‘megadiverse’ countries and houses two of the 25 global biodiversity ‘hotspots’. In 2015, however, the country experienced its worst forest fire disaster in almost two decades. In September and October that year, carbon emissions released by the fires reached 11.3 million tons per day – higher than the emissions of the entire European Union, which released 8.9 million tons daily over the same period.

In response to the disaster – and as part of wider efforts to restore 14 million hectares of degraded land, including two million hectares of peatlands – the Korean and Indonesian governments have developed a peatland restoration project which focuses on the ‘3Rs’: rewetting, revegetation, and revitalization. Activities include rewetting infrastructure, revegetating over 200 hectares with tree planting, and land revitalization in 10 villages surrounding the project site, as well as the creation of a small peatland education centre.

“We believe that this peatland restoration project will help create a sustainable ecosystem and have a productive impact on the community,” said Junkyu Cho, Korean Co-Director of the Korea-Indonesia Forest Cooperation Center (KIFC), during a symposium to share knowledge and experience gained from peatland restoration initiatives in several locations across Indonesia, on 7 December 2022 at CIFOR’s Bogor campus. The international symposium also aimed to enhance the network of researchers involved in peatland restoration and governance.

The research team, which hails from Korea’s National Institute of Forest Science (NIFoS) and the Center for International Forestry Research and World Agroforestry (CIFOR-ICRAF), will develop a model for restoring peatlands and other degraded lands in Indonesia in ways that make the most of science and technology and improve local livelihoods.

“We hope that various issues, such as climate change adaptation, nature-based solutions, and bioeconomy will be explored under the rubric of peatlands,” said Hyungsoon Choi, the director of NIFoS’ Global Forestry Research Division. The researchers are also helping to develop sustainable community-based reforestation and enterprises, said CIFOR-ICRAF Senior Scientist Himlal Baral.

During the symposium, Baral also shared information on CIFOR-ICRAF’s long-term Sustainable Community-based Reforestation and Enterprises (SCORE) project, which runs for the same period as the UN Decade on Ecosystem Restoration and provides valuable opportunities for research. The study involves identifying areas for restoration, and for planting sustainable timber and non-timber forest products. “We start with small demonstration trials, and we hope to scale up and achieve long-term impacts,” he said, adding that smart agroforestry is one of the options for restoration.

Nisa Novita, from local NGO Yayasan Konservasi Alam Nusantara (YKAN), shared some of her research into the mitigation potential of natural climate solutions for Indonesia. Her team found that the country offers a dramatic opportunity to contribute to tackling climate change by increasing carbon sequestration and storage through the protection, improved management, and restoration of drylands, peatlands, and mangrove ecosystems. “Protecting, managing, and restoring Indonesia’s wetlands is key to achieving the country’s emissions reduction target by 2030,” she said.

Several presenters shared models for cost-effective restoration. A-Ram Yang of NIFoS’ Global Forestry Division discussed a visit to the Perigi peatland landscape in South Sumatra in September 2022. Meanwhile, a team from Korea’s Kookmin University shared their experience assessing ecosystem services in North Korea’s forests with a view to adapting these for use in Indonesia.

Budi Leksono, a senior researcher at the Research Center for Plant Conservation and the Forestry, National Research, and Innovation Agency (BRIN), spoke of the potential of genetic improvement to serve restoration goals. “The use of improved seeds for plantation forests has been proven to increase the productivity and quality of forest products,” he said. “In accordance with the goal of restoration in Indonesia to restore trees and forests to degraded forest landscapes on a large scale, it should also be applied to the landscape restoration program to increase the added value of the land, and will have an impact on increasing ecological resilience and productivity.”

On a similar note, in a research collaboration with CIFOR-ICRAF, scientists at Sriwijaya University (UNSRI) developed a model for landscape restoration to be applied to wide range of species of  high economic value, including Jelutung (Dyera costulata), Belangeran (Shorea balangeran), Nyamplung (Calophyllum inophyllum) and Malapari (Pongamia pinnata). One of the scientists, Agus Suwignyo, said that “the use of improved seeds for landscape restoration will have an impact on people’s welfare if this is also followed by implementing a planting pattern that is in accordance with the conditions of the land and the needs of the local community.”

Participating farmers also chose their own preferred species, such as jackfruit (Artocarpus heterophyllus), avocado (Persea americana), mango (Mangifera indica), nangkadak (a hybrid of Artocarpus heterophillus and Artocarpus integer), sapodilla (Manilkara zapota), oranges (Citrus sp.), soursop (Annona muricata), rambutan (Nephelium lappaceum) and betel or areca palm (Areca catechu). From 2018 to 2020, UNSRI helped local farmers to develop smart agrosilvofishery, improved rice cultivation, introduce other economical rice crops, plant trees, and cultivate various local fish species.

The method showed positive results. “During the long dry season in 2018, the surrounding area was burned by other farmers, but our demo plot area was not burned,” said Suwignyo. “This year, we scaled up the area to 10 hectares.” The story echoed a common theme within the symposium: the importance of well-planned, multidisciplinary, evidence-based restoration that puts both people and nature first.

 

This research was supported by the National Institute of Forest Science, Republic of Korea; Centre for Forest Biotechnology and Tree Improvement of the Indonesian Ministry of Environment and Forestry; Tropical Rainforest Reforestation Center of Mulawarman University; University of Muhammadiyah Palangkaraya; Center of Excellence for Peatland Research at Sriwijaya University.

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For many Indigenous communities, land titles aren’t the same as tenure security | Center for International Forestry Research

For many Indigenous communities, land titles aren’t the same as tenure security

In communities’ visions of a secure future, good governance, transparency, and respect for customary rights matter more than a piece of paper
, Monday, 6 Feb 2023
Women resin transporters, walk as carry resin from the fields to the village, for one kilo they earn Rp. 600, – and usually they can carry fifty kilos one way in Penengahan village, Pesisir Barat regency, Lampung province, Indonesia. Photo by Ulet Ifansasti/CIFOR

With international climate negotiations putting Indigenous Peoples and other local communities in the spotlight for climate funding, more attention is being paid to protecting those groups’ rights to their land and forest.

That often takes the form of land titling programs, but titles alone don’t guarantee rights. And while tenure security can make communities more secure, exactly what that means varies from place to place, according to a new study by the Center for International Forestry Research and World Agroforestry (CIFOR-ICRAF).

“I think a lot of people still believe that land titles grant tenure security, and it’s hard to get away from this idea,” said CIFOR-ICRAF principal scientist Anne Larson. “Data show that people often consider a piece of paper reassuring — a sign of legitimacy meaning that others will respect their rights. But anyone who has worked in this field for very long knows how limited a title can be.”

Larson has seen cases in which a newly titled community’s leader has sold off forest rights to the highest bidder, or an Indigenous community has won title only to have government agencies fail to support its efforts to defend itself against settlers who invade its land.

“It’s frustrating to share in the victory of seeing a title granted to an Indigenous community that has been fighting for it for so long, only to see all the apparent advantages of having that title practically eroded by the time it is delivered,” she said.

So what do communities expect from land tenure?

“In a study that included communities in Indonesia, Uganda and Peru, we found that many things matter for the well-being of Indigenous Peoples and local communities, but secure tenure is the foundation,” Larsen said. “The study shows how multiple factors that influence well-being are interconnected.”

If a title does not ensure tenure security, however, what does?

Visions of the future

When Larson and her colleagues dug into what forest dwellers mean by tenure security, they found that it varies from place to place but with important common threads.

They used a method called participatory prospective analysis, in which people involved in tenure issues — community members, government representatives, members of non-governmental organizations and academics — created future scenarios involving land and forests.

The result, Larson said, was a more comprehensive understanding of how tenure relates to the livelihoods, identity, and the overall well-being of local communities.

The three countries were chosen because they reflected various tenure models, from ownership of forest resources by Indigenous or traditional communities to arrangements in which communities and state entities share forest management.

Multiple workshops were held in the three countries in 2015 and 2016, leading the participants through a five-step process. In the first step, they defined their situation, answering questions such as: ‘What is the future of tenure security in this region 20 years from now?’

Once that was defined, they identified factors that could have a positive or negative impact on forest and land tenure. They then examined how those factors affected each other, to identify the most influential or ‘driving’ forces — the ones that could lead to a domino effect

After determining what those drivers would look like if they were positive or negative, the participants chose the most logical combinations of factors to create a variety of different potential future scenarios. They built narratives around those, and in Peru, an artist produced drawings of each. The groups then created action plans to work toward their desired futures.

Examples of the drawing of an optimistic and pessimistic scenario from the Peru sites. Illustrations by Lesky Zamora Rios (watercolor on paper and digitized).

Context and history matter

Communities in the regions chosen for the study have different types of tenure and face various pressures from outside their territories, and the scenarios the workshop participants developed show that local characteristics and history are important.

In Peru’s Loreto and Madre de Dios regions, the government has been granting titles to Indigenous communities, but many communities still lack titles, and overlapping claims abound. Communities do not have rights to subsoil resources, such as oil and minerals, and can use forest resources but cannot own them.

In positive future scenarios, workshop participants stressed coordination between national and local governments and between the government and communities, a central role for Indigenous Peoples, transparency, effective monitoring, and governments with sufficient capacities and resources. Negative scenarios, which represented backsliding in rights, included elements such as a lack of government coordination, lack of interest in Indigenous issues and corruption.

In Indonesia’s biodiversity-rich Maluku region, much of the forest is managed by communities under a customary system, while in the Lampung province of Sumatra, the expansion of commercial plantations led to a tenure reform under which communities manage state forest areas. As in Peru, overlapping claims are a source of conflict in both places.

Positive visions of the future included consistent and transparent policies, government support for communities and respect for customary rights, and a greater role for women in managing forest resources. Negative scenarios included unclear policies, forest degradation, inadequate budgets, poor coordination, and lack of collaborative forest management.

In Uganda, workshops were held in three regions: Lamwo, where forests are managed through customary, clan-based institutions; Masindi, with a mix of private, government-managed, and communal forests; and Kibaale, where most forests are on private land.

Positive scenarios stressed the importance of collaboration between government and communities, trained government staff, adequate funding, available information, and highly participatory policy development. Negative visions of the future were characterized by corruption, lack of government support and funding, unclear policies, political favouritism, and lack of community participation in forest management. The published study includes a model of factors that influence security.

The scenarios clearly show that for forest dwellers, legal rights are only one aspect of tenure security, Larson said. Government officials and others must also listen to communities’ needs and help them bring their visions of the future to fruition, taking into account the different factors that make that possible in each place.

“Our research findings suggest that communities’ visions of a positive future depend on factors besides titles, especially community governance, the role of the state and the relationship between communities and the state,” she added. “A title will only bring security if other conditions are in place, and although those conditions have some general characteristics, such as organized communities, they also are specific to a place’s context and history.”

What does this mean for scholars and practitioners of community and Indigenous land rights? “It means deeper engagement with Indigenous Peoples and local communities,” she said, “as well as the importance of listening to peoples’ needs and visions for the future, supporting their self-determination to act on these and fostering the enabling conditions in each specific context.”


The Global Comparative Study on Forest Tenure Reform, carried out by the Center for International Forestry (CIFOR), was funded by the European Commission and the Global Environmental Facility (GEF), with technical support from the International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD) and the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO).

This study was part of the CGIAR Research Program on Policies, Institutions and Markets (PIM), led by the International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI), and the CGIAR Research Program on Forest, Trees and Agroforestry (FTA), which was led by CIFOR.

 

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We want you to share Forests News content, which is licensed under Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International (CC BY-NC-SA 4.0). This means you are free to redistribute our material for non-commercial purposes. All we ask is that you give Forests News appropriate credit and link to the original Forests News content, indicate if changes were made, and distribute your contributions under the same Creative Commons license. You must notify Forests News if you repost, reprint or reuse our materials by contacting forestsnews@cgiar.org.




Illegal logging: A Russian nesting doll | Center for International Forestry Research
Analysis

Illegal logging: A Russian nesting doll

A new report peels off the layers of complexity surrounding illegal logging, clarifying where and when interventions are needed
, Tuesday, 10 Jan 2017
A smallholder and his wife harvesting timber in Cameroon. Photo by: M.Edliadi/ CIFOR

Illegal logging might appear to be a simple story: A bad guy chopping down trees to make a big profit without obtaining any permission from local authorities or local communities, thus causing great harm to both people and the environment.

For most urban dwellers, particularly Westerners, cliché images come to mind of far-away scorched forests and scores of proud indigenous men, women and children, together with magnificent animals, left homeless by this brutal act.

And someone, somewhere, living la dolce vita on a hefty bank account hidden away in some fiscal paradise, along with content, corrupt public officials benefitting from bribes that have allowed the transport and trade of this illegal timber.

Illegal logging, however, is far more complex than this simple narrative! The tale above might be a popular one, but it is misinformed. Before measures can be taken to curb illegal logging, a lot of preliminary work is needed to further assess the activity’s causes, complex dynamics, impacts and trade-offs.

That was the mission behind a new report conducted by a team of more than 40 scientists led by Professor Daniela Kleinschmit. The report was launched at the UN Biodiversity Conference (COP13) in Cancun, Mexico, in December 2016. It was published as a Rapid Response Assessment under the auspices of the International Union of Forest Research Organisations (IUFRO) and the Collaborative Partnership on Forests (CPF).

The report sheds light on several layers of complexity surrounding illegal logging, helping us clarify where and when interventions are needed to combat it, as well as to identify cases where preventive cures can be applied.

Illegal logging is not a simple straightforward issue; rather it is like a Russian doll containing layers within layers. If we concentrate only on the exterior, we are unlikely to understand what is happening and to make a real difference.

Below, we share our insights as we peel back some of those layers (in no order of importance):

BIG FISH, SMALL FISH

Definitions are important. So, let’s peel off the first layer. Research has shown that under the banner of illegal logging exist two very different groups of people: those living in and near forests who harvest trees to maintain or improve their livelihoods, and those entering forests without proper permits and authorization to cut and sell valuable timber at a profit.

Many interactions exist between these two groups. Often, the latter group buys timber harvested by the former group. ‘Small fish’ vs. ‘big fish’, or need vs. greed, with the latter almost systematically exploiting the former.

We can equate the ‘small fish’ to the local populations (traditional farmers, local immigrants, indigenous people). They often have access to small-sized plots, and in some cases, they control collective lands and make use of artisanal tools to harvest trees and to process timber (i.e. axes, hand or chainsaws).

Some among these ‘small fish’ may evolve into specialized loggers, but they will be considered ‘informal’ players because their activities are generally invisible to national economies. No matter what we call them, in the vast majority of cases, it is almost impossible for these local forest users to harvest timber legally.

This is because the current laws only pertain to a particular model of forest harvesting: industrial, large-scale and resource-intensive logging destined for international timber markets. So, calling these forest users ‘illegal’ loggers would infer that they are willing to break laws when in fact, these laws rarely exist.

For this reason, let’s be clear about who should be the target of efforts to curb illegal logging. We must recognize that there are both ‘big fish’ and ‘small fish’ involved. The report urges more research to be done on the networks of illegal logging and the various diverse players involved.

If you are someone with decision-making power and you are in a rush, or under pressure to act on illegal logging, at least apply this precautionary principle: make sure you avoid harming the livelihoods of smallholders, artisanal loggers and their families. They aren’t the criminals. They either lack the means to comply with the current, convoluted regulations, or the laws do not apply to their particular form of timber harvesting.

GOOD NUMBERS, BAD NUMBERS

We require accurate numbers about the ratios and volumes of illegal logging. Estimates are needed per sector, product, species, region and country, as well as for the whole international timber market. And we need them to be as precise and as detailed as possible, in order to avoid mixing up the ‘big fish’ and ‘small fish’.

Many countries now collect primary data about timber harvesting, processing and exports, but this data is often incomplete, recorded in multiple units (a problem that gets more significant as the types of products increase), and by different ministries. Even when this data exists, it is often hard to access since a thick layer of secrecy generally surrounds it.

Because smallholders and artisanal loggers often do not officially exist in the national statistics or, worse, they are considered criminals in the eyes of the law, in most timber-producing countries their activities are simply not recorded. In this way, they remain invisible.

But considering local forest users as criminals is an excuse for thousands of public officials, including the police and armed forces, to continue (illegally, of course) to collect millions in bribes from smallholders and artisanal loggers.

So now let’s peel off a second layer. There is an uncontested need for better data on the timber that is being produced and exported. Luckily, a few efforts are already underway like the Independent Market Monitoring run by the International Tropical Timber Organization (ITTO).

There is also an urgent need for data on timber that is produced and consumed domestically. Limiting information to export markets would greatly hamper our capacity to understand and find solutions for the thousands of smallholders and artisanal loggers supplying timber to domestic markets, which research has shown tend to be even more dynamic than export-destined markets.

Many important problems like deforestation and forest degradation, distributional issues linked to timber markets, and associated social effects such as elite capture and corruption, are related to timber harvesting that supplies these two different markets. Both markets are strongly connected, and comprise a mix of both legally and illegally-sourced timber.

Although the illegal logging sector is hidden by its very nature, more comprehensive, transparent and interconnected knowledge about the legal logging sector would help shed light on the dark spots that will result from its assessment from production zones to end-markets.

After all, logs need to be transported by large trucks, boats and containers (accompanied by hefty financial transactions) before they can become complex consumer products like furniture. Often, the best way to hide illegal logs is in plain sight, among incomplete or altered data on legal timber transactions.

In most countries, notably timber-producing ones, forest crimes are not crimes at all. This means that illegal forest acts (of which illegal logging is just one) are not actually sanctioned under criminal law. This severely hampers national and international efforts to fight this behavior because it greatly limits the tools that law enforcers can use.

Paolo Cerutti, Pablo Pacheco & Robert Nasi

BAD GUYS, GOOD GUYS

This will likely constitute our most contentious reflection, and it is the most difficult one to write about. When we conduct research about artisanal loggers, it reveals different ways in which these people conduct their work- something that can be used against them, leading to further criminalisation and loss of jobs and livelihoods. Yet, if the previous layers have diligently been peeled off (including the clarity of objectives and better data), we can unravel one additional layer of the complex illegal logging Russian nesting doll.

In most countries, notably timber-producing ones, forest crimes are not crimes at all. This means that illegal forest acts (of which illegal logging is just one) are not actually sanctioned under criminal law. This severely hampers national and international efforts to fight this behavior because it greatly limits the tools that law enforcers can use.

Why is it so difficult to incorporate illegal logging into criminal law? Based on the findings of the report, two key points come to mind.

First, it is high time to break the silos that are usually applied to forest or environmental management in national politics. For unfathomable reasons, there seems to be an unspoken agreement that forests as a policy issue belongs to the ministry in charge of forest and/or environment. No one else has a say in it.

And so these ministries feel entitled to take final, and often obscure, decisions on everything including: who has the right to access the land and resources, what constitutes the best land-cover and land-use, technical specifications applied to activities on those lands, payments that can or cannot occur, the monitoring of activities (or, in most cases, lack thereof) and, ultimately, even the sanctioning of activities and the negotiation of sanctions.

Only rarely are the ministries best placed to take these decisions consulted or integrated into the decision-making process. Ministries of agriculture, territorial administration, mines, finance and, of course, justice, are rarely part of the “forest game”. This is unfortunate, as they have an important role to play that stretch beyond the current capacities and mandate of forest-related ministries.

Secondly, timber is not an edible product. This dramatically alters the behavioural consequences of consumers. Despite the shocking images that NGOs use in their campaigns against illegal logging, buyers along the timber value chain (processing companies, retailers, wholesalers, and final consumers) pay less attention to an illegal piece of wood than they would to food or medicine produced illegally that could have harmful effects on their health.

However, if we care about the long-term health of humanity on this planet, we should start asking more questions about origin and production processes when we purchase timber products. Request immediate, clear and transparent responses, or else move onto another shop that can provide them. This will help make life better for both smallholders and those fighting the war against illegal logging.

For more information on this topic, please contact Paolo Cerutti at p.cerutti@cgiar.org.
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