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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Tenure and governance research: Build on accomplishments under PIM to meet SDGs | Center for International Forestry Research

Tenure and governance research: Build on accomplishments under PIM to meet SDGs

Importance of partnerships cannot be underestimated
, Monday, 27 Dec 2021
Farmers in Indonesia. CIFOR/Aulia Erlangga

Secure tenure and effective governance are central to the future of natural resources and agriculture. Although important on their own, tenure and governance are also embedded in the solutions to key global challenges: climate change; environmental management; poverty; gender equity and women’s empowerment; and nutrition and health.

Since 2011, we have undertaken research and engagement to help address governance and tenure challenges through the CGIAR Research Program on Policies, Institutions and Markets (PIM), a program led by the International Food Policy Research Institute, and which marks its conclusion at the end of 2021.

The PIM Flagship on Governance of Natural Resources was designed to identify actions that can strengthen tenure rights of poor and marginalized people, particularly women, and communities; improve governance of natural resources; and enhance constructive interaction of resource users within shared landscapes.

We have had some important successes. In Tanzania for example, the International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI) worked with government and civil society partners to pilot a joint village land use planning process to protect shared grazing lands for livestock keepers in four clusters of villages covering 150,000 hectares. In addition to those results on the ground, the project helped develop a new form of land use certification, and the process has been adopted by the national government for other areas.

In another example, scientists with the Center for International Forestry Research (CIFOR) worked with 14 multi-stakeholder forums in Brazil, Ethiopia, Indonesia and Peru to understand how to make their processes and outcomes more equitable. The findings prompted collaboration with the participants and organizers of two forums in Peru and one in Indonesia to develop “How are we doing?” a tool designed to support adaptive and reflexive learning.

Pilots of the tool in protected areas in Peru led to a second version developed specifically with and for the state’s National Protected Area Service (SERNANP), for application with its 75 co-management committees, to support participatory and inclusive governance processes.

But these gains and others, including in various other countries, have been complex in the making. Much work is left to be done as the CGIAR research programs transition into initiatives under the One CGIAR system in 2022.

In PIM we focused on two broad overlapping areas – one on enhancing tenure security and one on governing shared landscapes. In addition to individual and household rights, we addressed women’s land rights and addressed tenure not only in agriculture, but also in forests and rangelands, and in relation to water and to common property.

Working with partners, we examined mechanisms and institutional arrangements that can address threats and strengthen tenure. Although a title is often seen as the solution to the problem of tenure security, our work shows that much more is required—and, indeed, titling programs can even increase tenure insecurity for women, pastoralists, or other groups if the complexity of existing tenure arrangements and governance are not addressed. We developed a body of work on the formalization of collective rights and outlined steps to foster change. Identifying and reconciling the interests of diverse communities has also been a central question in landscape governance.

A series of seven recently released briefs illustrate the importance of tenure and governance for the future development of research and action. The first two lay out each of the concepts and its relevance, whereas the other five explore their specific application to the CGIAR impact areas.

Krister Andersson, a professor at the University of Colorado in the United States, defined landscape governance as decision-making processes that seek to create and enforce socially binding agreements regarding people’s interactions with one another and their landscapes. More effective landscape governance can be built by diagnosing governance problems and searching for possible responses, he said.

Brent Swallow, a professor at Canada’s University of Alberta, defined tenure security as the certainty that a person’s rights to land will be recognized by others and protected in cases of specific challenges, and emphasized the importance of tenure security to meeting the U.N. Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).

Nancy McCarthy, of Lead Analytics in the United States, explored the relationship of land tenure to climate change at the household, community, and landscape level. The brief highlights the need for further investigation of which governance structures and mechanisms are most likely to increase the capacity of rural households to build resilience to climate change.

At the community level, continued work is needed to identify how climate shocks and stressors currently affect governance of communal resources under different tenure regime types.

At the landscape level, key evidence gaps include assessing governance structures and mechanisms required to build climate resilience in landscapes with complex, overlapping tenure regimes and property rights systems; distributional consequences of changes in related legal and regulatory frameworks; and potential trade-offs between increasing tenure security at the household and community levels and providing the flexibility needed by landscape governance actors to address future climate change.

Sustainable environmental management is the foundation for integrated landscape management, agriculture, development and conservation, said Edmund Barrow, a consultant in community conservation and governance in Nairobi.

Environmental issues should be integrated across the SDGs of ending poverty, improving nutrition, strengthening gender equality and social inclusion and addressing climate change, and not just considered as a stand-alone sector.

Secure tenure rights support proactive environmental management, create incentives for climate-smart agriculture, and help protect ecosystem services that support sustainable farming.

Strengthening community-based landscape governance and securing rights — through attention to gender, youth, and Indigenous Peoples and local communities as environmental stewards – will produce diverse benefits in terms of farm products, enhancing natural resource conservation, and for landscapes.

Research should fill important gaps in understanding and knowledge, fostering transformational change and innovation through better science–policy linkages and ongoing monitoring and assessment, said Phil René Oyono, a consultant based in Yaounde, Cameroon, in the brief on poverty.

Of almost 1 billion rural poor people in the Global South, a high proportion do not hold legally secure tenure rights, a condition that hinders the achievement of inclusive, socially equitable, economically viable, and ecologically sustainable governance of natural landscapes or to reduce multidimensional poverty.

Nayna Jhaveri, a consultant in gender and resource tenure based in India, writes that women’s tenure rights are often less formal and generally weaker than men’s in terms of the range of rights they can assert and the degree of authority they have over those rights. Strong evidence exists that tenure security plays a critical role in strategies for reducing poverty, improving livelihoods, empowering women, men, and their families and strengthening gender equality, she said. Yet there is insufficient understanding of what strengthens or weakens tenure security.

Nancy Johnson, a consultant on nutrition and health in the United States, summarizes evidence from nutrition-sensitive agriculture and explains how resource tenure and governance issues relate to the production of nutrient-rich foods. Secure land tenure can be important. In traditional food systems, for example, the ability to access nutrient-rich foods may depend on secure rights to specific resources such as forests, grazing lands, or bodies of water in or near the community.

As the One CGIAR begins its transformation, a renewed research agenda on tenure is essential for advancing its mission of “science and innovation that advance transformation of food, land and water systems in a climate crisis,” said Swallow.

Care should be taken to design policies so that they enhance tenure security, disrupt downward cycles of poverty, low productivity, degradation and growing inequality.

Moving forward, we recommend embracing an integrated landscape approach in research efforts.

Both governance and tenure are highly complex, multi-scalar and multi-stakeholder challenges. Rather than steering clear of complexity, we need to embrace it. Quick fixes are not going to take us very far. We need to invest in understanding the big problems.

In that regard, the importance of partnerships cannot be underestimated. The deep engagement and collaboration with those we work with — especially local people — not as beneficiaries or people we need to influence, but as real collaborators in our search for impact and change on the ground will continue to be a key part of this journey.

Adoption of woreda participatory land use planning in pastoral areas by the government of Ethiopia

This work was funded by the CGIAR Research Program on Policies, Institutions, and Markets (PIM) led by the International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI).

For more information on this topic, please contact Anne Larson at
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