Last year, Prince Charles visited Indonesia and planted an ironwood sapling at the Harapan Rainforest project in Sumatra. A month later, Sarwadi Sukiman, a farmer from Sumatra went to the Polish city of Poznan for the UN climate negotiations. He was there with Via Campesina to protest about the project.
The Harapan Rainforest project is run by PT Restorasi Ekosistem Indonesia (PT REKI), which consists of a local group Burung Indonesia, the UK’s Royal Society for the Protection of Birds (RSPB), and BirdLife International. “The forest restoration project has angered landless farmers who say they were evicted from forest land now being managed by PT REKI,” Hilary Chew writes in a recent article for Panos about the Harapan Rainforest project.
Sarwadi said villagers were evicted after PT REKI took possession of the area in 2007, “We were forced to sign a letter promising to never come back again. Some peasants were jailed, though they were later released. One of them was detained for six months for defending his community’s land,” he said.
In December 2008, when REDD-Monitor posted an article by Via Campesina about the Harapan Rainforest Project, we said that we looked forward to a response from John Lanchbery, head of Climate Change Policy with the RSPB. In February 2009, I wrote to Lanchbery asking for a response to the Via Campesina article. I pointed out that the contrast between Via Campesina’s version and RSPB’s could hardly be more extreme. While Via Campesina talks about people being “kicked out of their land,” and sent to jail, RSPB says that it aims to “work in partnership with the families who live in and around the forest to build mutual trust and respect, and develop sustainable enterprise projects that can meet their livelihood needs, whilst at the same time protecting the forest – giving both them and wildlife a promising future.”
Lanchbery replied quickly to my email. “I attach our response to the what Via Campesia people said and which I hope is helpful in clarifying what the Harapan project is about,” he wrote. RSPB’s response talked about respecting the rights of local people and helping them to secure legal land tenure. It talked about a win-win-win situation.
Just under an hour later, I got another email from Lanchbery. “Can you hold putting our stamement on your website,” he wrote. “I need to clear this with the manager of the department responsible for Harapan and he has just whizzed off to Sumatra!” And after that Lanchbery appears to have lost interest. I wrote to him in April and again in May. REDD-Monitor is still waiting for his reply.
Panos had more luck than REDD-Monitor:
When asked about the evictions described by Mr Sarwadi, an RSPB spokesman said PT REKI had reported the presence of “illegal loggers” to the Indonesian police, “as required under Indonesian law. We are also discussing how Harapan rainforest can support the development of these communities,” he said, “It has already created employment opportunities for over 100 locals.” He added that PT REKI is helping around 500 indigenous Bathin Sembilan people to secure legal land tenure.
REDD-Monitor also asked Lanchbery whether the Harapan project was trading carbon stored as a result of the project and whether there are any plans for carbon trading from Harapan in the future. “We are certainly not trading carbon at present,” Lanchbery replied.
Dieter Hoffmann of BirdLife International told Panos that
To finance the project, it plans to raise money from the carbon offset market by trading in carbon credits generated from the restoration of the forest. The money will go towards buying seedlings and employing workers to plant them.
Panos reports that Hoffmann “expects the trees to absorb up to five million tonnes of carbon annually, equivalent to the annual emissions of the UK city of Manchester.”
In addition to looking forward to publishing a response from Lanchbery, REDD-Monitor looks forward to an honest answer to the question “Are there any plans for carbon trading from Harapan in the future?”