Last year, Sébastien de Royer spent six weeks in two Dayak communities in West Kalimantan researching his MSc thesis. Based on this research, he concludes that “secure tenure is a key underlying issue for REDD in order to limit risk for local communities”.
Royer’s thesis was carried out as part of the International Development Studies programme at Wageningen University in the Netherlands. It can be downloaded here (pdf file 2.0 MB) He worked in the villages of Pulau Menak and Menua Sadap in the district of Kapuas Hulu. The district is in the north part of West Kalimantan and borders the Malaysian province of Sarawak. The two villages are in the buffer zone of Betung Kerihun National Park, a “recognized hot-spot of biodiversity”, writes Royer.
The MSc covers a lot of ground – including a useful section on the status of community land rights in the various forest laws in Indonesia. There is also a fascinating section on benefit sharing and REDD. This post, however, focusses on Royer’s research at the village level and on villagers’ attitudes about REDD.
Royer describes the German government-funded GIZ-FORCLIME (Forest and Climate Change) Programme that aims to support “Indonesia’s efforts to reduce greenhouse gas emissions from the forestry sector, to conserve forest biodiversity within the regional Heart of Borneo Initiative and to implement sustainable forest management for the benefit of the people”[*]. Royer gained “sponsorship through FORCLIME”, for his research. He notes that because the FORCLIME project only recently started, “they only have little knowledge about field realities”.
Royer describes two types of REDD involvement. First, Flora and Fauna International is developing a REDD pilot project in Kapuas Hulu with the backing of Macquarie Bank in Australia. Second is the German-Indonesia government partnership. GIZ and FFI are “working close together”, holding workshops, for example and the German Development Service (Deutscher Entwicklungsdienst – now part of GIZ) has worked in the area since 2009 and has carried out participatory mapping exercises to delineate village borders and forest boundaries.
Royer’s description of FFI’s activities at the village level is interesting:
FFI have facilitators in villages and use them to spread information about the topic. So far they do not address sensitive topics such as benefit sharing mechanisms, but rather try to get people familiar with carbon and climate change issues using pictures and participative techniques.
One of the reasons for this is that discussion of carbon credit payments “could generate new hopes too fast and as a result exacerbate internal conflicts”, Royer explains. Meanwhile, the district forestry service is not yet playing a relevant role in passing information on to local communities, notes Royer.
Royer describes how villagers were confused about who he was when he arrived in the villages. He writes about “all kinds of interpretations from being a missionary, a tourist or even a trader. But the most problematic interpretation was to be perceived as somebody engaged by the National Park Betung Kerihun.”
He notes that some people (mainly women), “had never heard about carbon issues and are not aware about the topic and potential future actions”. This is despite the fact that ” local people at every socioeconomic level interact with organizations involved in future REDD plans”. Royer notes, however, that the information is not clear and is “misunderstood and reinterpreted according to current knowledge and experiences”. But many people do realise that “they could generate valuable profits from their standing forests”.
The issue of carbon rights is clearly crucial. While GIZ is not seeking carbon rights for itself, Royer explains, that does not mean that the carbon rights automatically go to the villagers. The village head of Pulau Manak told Royer that,
“We cannot dissociate carbon from trees. If our trees are not secured, carbon will be claimed by the State. We need to be recognized as legitimate carbon owners.”
The mechanism for achieving this in Indonesia is Hutan Desa (village forest). Royer writes that a representative of FFI in Putussibau told him that the first main concern is “to secure the resource use and rights of communities in order to legitimize them as future beneficiaries for REDD payments and empower their claims for future negotiations”. However, in the 12 years since the legislation was introduced, so far, only a small area of land has been formally designated as Hutan Desa.
In the district of Kapuas Hulu only one file for Hutan Desa has been submitted to the local authorities. This file, Royer reports, has sat on forest service officials’ desks for more than a year, without being sent for review and approval to the Ministry of Forestry in Jakarta.
A representative of the forestry service told Royer that at the district level,
“they need to gather most of the information about REDD themselves from internet, friends and other sources. So far they have only been involved in a passive manner in discussions and do not have a technical role yet… so far they feel that REDD is like a dead end story, after all the meetings no concrete actions were taken.”
Royer found that there was little understanding of climate change at the village level. A few people had heard about REDD or the selling of carbon credits, but with little understanding of the concept:
People are often wondering what C02 or carbon exactly is; they sometimes think it refers to the wind, animals, rocks, trees… Another frequent belief is that industrialized countries are planning to extract the oxygen from their villages and send it back to their own countries due to a lack of oxygen.
The people with the most knowledge about REDD are often village elites and those with connections to local government representatives or NGOs, Royer found. Villagers criticised the lack of information and “the infrequent presence of GTZ representatives in their villages.” GIZ staff responded that the project office is in Samarinda in East Kalimantan, a long way from Kapuas Hulu and GIZ staff also work in two other focus areas.
Royer reports that villagers support Hutan Desa and REDD “because it can provide them with the legal assurance that they will not be thrown off their lands.” At the same time, villagers fear that the REDD scheme may be an expansion plan for the National Park which could see future restrictions to use of the forest and loss of forest land.
[*] Full disclosure: My wife works at the GIZ-FORCLIME (Forest and Climate Change) programme.