Community or State-Based Social Forestry?


A few weeks ago, a video circulated on the YouTube channel in which two community groups argued and almost got into a fight over claims to forest management in Rembang, Central Java.

The first group thinks that they have used the area so far in collaboration with Perum Perhutani. While the second group claims that the area has become a forest area with special management (KHDPK) which was handed over to them by the president on March 10, 2023, in Blora, Central Java.

The President did hand over 19 letters of approval for social forestry management in KHDPK of around 21,000 hectares for community groups in seven districts in Central and East Java. The decrees are not only approvals for social forestry management, but also some decisions on social forestry indicative areas in the KHDPK that have not been validated.

The area that was contested by the community seems to be included in the indicative area, which due to lack of good socialization led to conflict. In the future, if this is not anticipated, incidents of mutual claims that lead to conflicts as in the video could reoccur.

KHDPK arrangements appear in Government Regulation Number 23/2021 concerning Forestry Administration, which is a derivative of the Job Creation Law. The substance of this regulation is that the central government takes over the authority to manage forests in Java for around 1.1 million hectares from Perum Perhutani. The forest area is for forest rehabilitation and social forestry. In more detail, area and location arrangements are determined by the Decree of the Minister of Environment and Forestry No. 287/2022.

There were pros and cons after this regulation was published. On the one hand, KHDPK is seen as a correction for damage to the Java forest managed by Perhutani. It is also an opportunity for the central government to better organize forests with the involvement of various parties.

On the other hand, there is a perception that KHDPK has the potential to further damage forest areas, especially protected forests if the community uses them. The KHDPK opponents even filed a lawsuit for the repeal of the regulation at the East Jakarta District Court.

On 15 February 2023, the Minister of Environment and Forestry issued Permenlhk Number 04/2023 concerning the Management of Social Forestry in KHDPK. The following month, several letters of approval were issued by the president in Blora.

The timing of the issuance of the fast social forestry approval at KHDPK should be appreciated, regardless of whether it was due to the momentum of the president’s working visit or not.

If examined further, there are differences in social forestry arrangements in the KHDPK and Permenlhk 09/2021 concerning Social Forestry Management.

In general, in Permenlhk 09/2021 approval for social forestry management is given based on proposals from community groups (village institutions, farmer groups, or a combination of farmer groups, cooperatives, and individuals who form groups).

Compilation of proposal documents can be facilitated by assistants from Forest Management Units (KPH), forestry extension officers, social forestry assistants appointed by the government, non-governmental organizations, and others.

Forestry verifies

Based on the submitted proposal documents, the Ministry of Environment and Forestry verifies the administration and technical verification of the proposed subjects and objects. If everything is clear & clean, then the director general on behalf of the minister issues approval for social forestry management for 35 years.

In Permenlhk 04/2023 there are different arrangements and procedures for its management. Article 3 of this regulation states that the minister determines and manages KHDPK, while Article 4 states that social forestry management in KHDPK is carried out by technical implementation units (UPT) representatives of ministries in the regions.

There is no specific explanation for the word “implemented” so it is stated explicitly that the UPT is carrying out social forestry management in the KHDPK.

The process of approving social forestry was also facilitated by the UPT. The process, as stipulated in Articles 14-18, started not from community group proposals but UPT coordination meetings inviting stakeholders in the regions to find out initial information on indicative areas of social forestry. The result will be a facilitation plan, including knowing how big the potential for conflict is.

If the location has a high potential for conflict, then the director general can supervise or provide technical assistance in the implementation of facilitation.

Furthermore, the UPT will assign a government counterpart to the KHDPK for facilitation. This process may involve provincial forestry local government organizations (OPD), UPTs of other ministries, forestry service branches, and social forestry acceleration working groups (Pokja PPS).

The social forestry proposal documents compiled are reported and submitted to the UPT. Then, the UPT will validate the proposal which can be assisted by the facilitating parties. If deemed feasible, the director general on behalf of the minister will issue a social forestry approval in the KHDPK.

Social Forestry in KHDPK

Social forestry in KHDPK is not based on suggestions from community groups but on results of identification from UPT. Facilitation and assistance are also provided by the UPT which assigns a government counterpart to the KHDPK, as well as its validation.

In the process of obtaining approval for social forestry, the role of civil society organizations is almost impossible. So far there have been quite several civil society organizations assisting and facilitating communities to obtain rights and access to forest management through social forestry programs. There are also quite several civil society groups that support the KHDPK and are in the ranks of the Ministry of Environment and Forestry in the lawsuit for revocation of the policy. The role of NGOs is mentioned after obtaining approval.

At least, three articles mention the role of NGOs, namely in the preparation of a social forestry management plan (RKPS) that can be facilitated by NGOs (Article 40). Then, facilitating business development activities (Article 42) and business development cooperation (Article 76).

Regarding assistance, Article 84 states that social forestry assistants in the KHDPK consist of government assistants, ASN forestry extension officers, and community self-help forestry extension officers.

The government assistant for KHDPK is a companion for employees of state-owned enterprises in the field of forestry who are assigned to assist social forestry management at KHDPK.

In other words, this companion is an employee of Perum Perhutani who is affected by the KHDPK policy.

Referring to Permenlhk No. P.76/2016 concerning Private and Non-Governmental Forestry Extension states, ASN extension workers, or in the regulation called civil servant forestry extension officers are civil servants who are given full duties, responsibilities, authorities, and rights by authorized officials in forestry organizational units for forestry extension.

Meanwhile, self-help forestry extension workers are the main actors who are successful in their business, and other community members with their awareness want and can become extension agents. ASN extension workers and non-governmental extension workers apart from being companions are also referred to as government advisors at the KHDPK.

From there the question arises, can social forestry management in KHDPK still be called community-based or state-based forest management?

Several indicators that strengthen state-based social forestry are that the management of this program in KHDPK is carried out by UPT, accompanied by government assistants in KHDPK assigned by UPT who come from Perum Perhutani employees. The funding was also facilitated by Perhutani.

Social Forestry

ASN extension workers and non-governmental organizations, although they can become assistants, are more placed as advisors to the KHDPK government assistant. There is almost no role of a facilitator from NGOs in this process.

The full involvement of BUMN employees as companions is a challenge in itself. So far, there has been a lot of criticism against them in the field, such as the illegal fees paid to people who carry out forest utilization activities. In terms of governance, although the area has been taken over by the central government, it seems that it has not changed because the previous manager (Perhutani) still has a significant role in KHDPK management.

The involvement of government assistants from forestry SOEs must be selected, especially the background of previous work experience in dealing with the community. Do not let for reasons that have been committed not to terminate employment and then re-employ employees who have not performed well so far. It will potentially cause conflict with community groups.

The hope is that the granting of approval for social forestry management to the KHDPK can proceed with a fast, transparent process that fulfills a sense of justice. Neither party was left out.

The main subject and beneficiary should be the community that has depended on forest resources and previously used the forest area, not people from outside the area.

Individuals with a background in forestry education who may become social forestry management subjects in the KHDPK should work with the local community on an equal footing, not just make the community a subordinate.

The ultimate hope is that the restoration of Java’s forests can not only be carried out by the government but can involve the community and other parties with a clear facilitation scheme and process. Also, denying electoral interests and wider land tenure efforts from parties who are not entitled.

Some well-developed social forestry locations in Java, such as Kulon Progo and Gunungkidul, Yogyakarta, can be good learning models. They develop through quite a long and dynamic process.

Opportunity to Involve Farmers in the Biofuel Program

The biofuel program is touted for farmers it is still limited to the price stability of crude palm oil ( CPO), due to the creation of new markets that absorb the excess supply of palm oil.

How to include farmers in the supply chain of biofuel programs? Cellulosic ethanol could be the answer! What exactly is cellulosic ethanol? This is ethanol from raw materials containing cellulose (plant fiber), different from ethanol from molasses or cassava.

Raw materials that can be used to produce cellulosic ethanol include palm oil residues, such as tree trunks, empty fruit bunches, and palm fiber. With advanced technology, this raw material can be ethanol which can be mixed with gasoline.

It should be noted, Indonesia’s gasoline consumption continues to increase. Recently, the Ministry of Energy and Mineral Resources (KESDM) announced a bioethanol roadmap. The president intervened by inaugurating the bioethanol program, which may require 700,000 hectares of new land to supply raw materials.

Currently, the government is still discussing how to fulfill the 700,000 hectares. The International Council on Clean Transportation thinks that developing cellulosic ethanol can be an alternative for the government to continue the bioethanol program.

We issued a study on cellulosic ethanol and found that Indonesia has a high potential to develop the industry, able to produce up to 2 million KL per year from palm oil residue alone. Considering that Indonesia is the world’s largest palm oil producer, residues are automatically abundant.

Currently, Indonesia exports the residue to other countries, such as Japan. Japan is very interested in palm oil residue from Indonesia, as evidenced by the increasing export of palm shells to Japan. It was noted that from 2015-2019, exports of palm shells increased by 49% per year. Japan imports palm shells for biomass power generation to meet its renewable energy targets.

Involve Farmers

Seeing that foreign markets are interested in Indonesian palm oil residue, the government and business actors are tempted to export. Exports are not wrong if for the short term, and the long term with only export orientation, it can not develop the domestic industry in processing the exported materials. Downstreaming is very important for economic strength and for creating jobs for the people of Indonesia.

Other palm residues also have added value. With this residue as a raw material for cellulosic ethanol, it can be seen further the benefits of developing the cellulosic ethanol industry. First, it can increase the income of oil palm farmers. Empty fruit bunches and palm fiber can be sold to cellulosic ethanol producers under long-term contracts.

Meanwhile, palm stems can be included in one of the requirements of the government’s replanting program so that BUMNs such as Pertamina can get it for free and use it as a raw material for cellulosic ethanol production.  This method can help reduce production costs so that the final price of fuel does not need to receive a lot of government subsidies.

Third, the development of the cellulosic ethanol industry will assist the government’s program in down streaming the palm oil industry which will strengthen the domestic economy.

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