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Villagers respond to REDD in West Kalimantan: “We need to be recognized as legitimate carbon owners”

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Villagers respond to REDD in West Kalimantan: We need to be recognized as legitimate carbon owners

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.

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  1. How is their benefit sharing mechanisms – is it appropriate or not? What about community MRV system when they want to be part of monitoring team?

  2. There is currently no benefit sharing for REDD at village level. Hutan Desa (village forest) concept, promoted by civil society organizations, could be a potential way to legitimate villagers collectively as future beneficiaries under REDD. Indeed secure rights may legitimate them as carbon service providers. However the main question is: whose adat(customay law) rules? Claims are different according to people’s assets and the more inclusive desa (village) is seen more as an administrative unit than as a representative of adat communities who are living in the subordinate dusun (longhouses) that have a stronger sense of land-related identity. Home for different ethnics desa boundaries are perpetually reclaimed by various ethnic groups living in the village, including newcomers. It is therefore naïve to assume that all villagers have equal rights or identical interests: in this sense they are not homogenous ‘community of interest’. Assuming that communities have a single set of interest runs the danger of encouraging the capture of REDD credits by a particular, strongly represented, and usually wealthier interest group in the name of the ‘the community’ as a whole. For instance, well established households who prefer individual REDD payment are those with assets and privilege access to resources recognized through adat from generations ago. It is therefore essential that decentralized government acknowledges a form of communal private ownership on the basis of co-residence, not of adat alone. Villagers eligible to carbon credits distribution should be married into the village community and have been living there for a longer period. The village chief, and elders together with the village government, also representing women and youth, adat right holders and newcomers, should draft by-laws to regulate the conditions and distribution of carbon credits. Their decisions needs to be acknowledged and formalized by a kabupaten-level Cabang Badan Pertanahan who carefully negotiates the boundaries and rights claims between villages.

    Concerning MRV, the project I am referring to in my work is at an early stage of implementation. Villagers are not fully involved yet and there has been no FPIC process engaged so far in order to ask their consent on whether or not to participate in a REDD project. Interestingly, is to observe that some villagers aware about REDD, actually believe that REDD is an institution which will implement a local office in the district capital or even in their own villages. These villagers are hoping to get direct employments from these “offices” such as forest patrolling and monitoring. The National Park Betung Kerihun has failed in that sense, people are seeing in REDD a new way to get involved in conservation efforts.

  3. Bastian,

    Hutan Desa/HD (village forest)concept in under Forestry Ministry regulation (PERMENHUT 49/2008). It’s depending on the are that they proposed to be recognized as Hutan Desa – the idea was the are been mapped is based on “customary land (wilayah adat)” or based on village administrative boundary. Village forest (HD) is only can be realized on administrative boundary (recognized by government). It might could be work when the village is divide based on customary land right (administration will follow it) so administrative boundary is also based on customary (Adat).

    Even though Indonesia government through ministry of forestry had realized the regulation about benefit sharing mechanism (PP 36/2009) but this not really clear enough to be the reference. The problems is project stakeholder are not really aware to seat together to think about how to develop the “trust fund” and ideal benefit sharing proportion for each parties.

    I think Customary boundary mapping, multistakeholder engagement, strengthen local institution, regulation and FPIC process is main activities to realize it.
    The last one is about arbitration mechanism (conflict management)

    Y

  4. I guess REED will deadlock, if the government continues to grant permission to the plantation companies and mining. His condition at this time, indigenous peoples do not know about their future REDD and REDD project. This problem, first: REDD has not been socialized to the community around the forest, indigenous peoples do not yet know the advantages and disadvantages mengeiai certainty they would have to go REDD schemes. indigenous peoples is still a land of exploitation outside parties, they simply become objects such as their experiences in the past. second, the project manager is also not massive in the running of this project, this time is merely the discourse in the media and the room, seminar room, not to touch the main issue that remains of indigenous peoples, poverty and energy crisis. indigenous peoples do not need to discourse, they need a program that is realistic and involving them in planning, implementation and monitoring and evaluating projects.