Wonosobo community forestry to be cancelled

Down to Earth No. 55, November 2002

Indonesian civil society groups and international observers are dismayed that forestry minister Prakosa has formally asked the Home Affairs ministry to cancel a pioneering local regulation on community forestry in Wonosobo (Perda 22/2001).

The Wonosobo regulation paved the way for a new approach to forest management in Central Java. Negotiations between NGOs, community representatives, district authorities, academic institutions and a forestry company resulted in an agreement which allowed local farmers to manage state forest themselves for an initial period of six years. (For background on community-based forest management and Perda 22/2001, see DTE Special Report Forests, People and Rights, June 2002). Perhutani, the state-owned forestry company which controlled all state forest on Java, had shown some reluctance to accept the new scheme from the beginning. However, its semi-naturalised teak and pine plantations had been heavily raided. In some parts of Central Java, thousands of hectares had been cleared by illegal loggers and by farmers claiming their land rights. And in neighbouring West Java, provincial authorities newly empowered under regional autonomy legislation attempted to take control of all forest resources. So Perhutani initially decided to go along with the Wonosobo community-based forest management plans. The head of Perhutani's Central Java Unit signed a 'Memorandum of Understanding' on this. Yet by April 2002, the newly privatised forestry company had asked the Indonesian Supreme Court for a judicial review. This has yet to give its verdict.

A judicial review or an instruction from the Minister of Home Affairs - within 3 months of issue - are the only legal ways of changing a local regulation. Forestry minister Prakosa had also reservations about Perda 22/2001. For all his talk about social forestry as the way forward for Indonesia's beleaguered forests, Prakosa is keen to maintain tight central control over forest management. Perda 22/2001 represents a threat because it presents an example which other districts may follow, even though it does not challenge the concept of state ownership. But all the forestry minister could do was ask Home Affairs to help. Hence his 24th September request to cancel this piece of legislation.

The latest move is a letter from the Department of Home Affairs (24th October) asking the Bupati (district head) to stop the implementation of the local regulation and suggesting that the district assembly cancels it. In other words, as central government can't legally force the local government to kill off Perda 22/2001, Jakarta is pushing Wonosobo to do it.

Wonosobo district assembly still supports the community-based forest management plan. C. Krustanto, head of the assembly's Komisi B, has been an enthusiastic advocate from the start. But Wonosobo's Bupati, Trimawan Nugrohadi, has been slow to issue the edicts needed before Perda 22/2001 can be implemented. Most importantly, he has not signed the permits which legally allow forest farmers groups to manage state lands.

Meanwhile, members of the local community are very disappointed that, after years of discussions and preparations, their plans have been dashed. There has been a series of local demonstrations, including a protest by 3,000 villagers on September 26th about the cancellation of the regulation. Local NGOs ARuPA, Koling and JKPM who have worked closely with forest farmers in the area fear that angry local people might take matters into their own hands unless Perhutani and the forestry minister listen to their demands for control over forest resources. They have established a coalition with Wonosobo students - the Action Committee for Peasant Farmers' Autonomy - to support the Wonosobo Forest Farmers' Alliance.

Over seventy NGOs and individuals gathered in Yoyga in early October to try to save the Wonosobo regulation. In the name of the Coalition to Protect the Devolution of Natural Resources (Kundera) they have written to the minister of Home Affairs urging him to maintain Perda 22/2001 in the name of regional autonomy and democracy. Down to Earth and a number of other international NGOs have also sent a letter of support*.

*Copies are available from dtecampaign@gn.apc.org

(Source: Kedaulatan Rakyat 3/Oct/02; Tempo 15/Oct/02; ARuPA emails and other sources.)