A number of institutions working the the forestry sector or concerned with the sector, when questioned on what their references were regarding forest cover in Indonesia, showed that they were relying on disparate data sets and information.
“We are using data issued by the government, in this case the KLHK (the Environment and Forestry Ministry), as the institution that has the authority over forestry matters in Indonesia,” said Imanuddin, Program Manager Forest for Kehati, the Indonesian Biodiversity Conservation Trust Fund.
Isna Fatimah, a researcher with the Indonesian Center for Environmental Law (ICEL) said that in her work, the Center used data from the same ministry regarding forest cover even though these data were also not “entirely update.”
“But we never recheck them again, because that is beyond our capacity,” she added.
For Afdhal Mahyuddin who handles communications for Eye on the Forest (EoF), a coalition of environmental NGOs, the organization also uses government data, but not from the Environment and Forestry Ministry. “We tend to refer to data from the agriculture ministry,” he said.
Meanwhile, Muhammad Kosar, National Coordinator for the Network of Independent Forest Monitor (JPIK), said that for forest cover, his organization uses data from Forest Watch Indonesia (FWI) which is also a network of independent forest monitors, individuals or organizations.
In line with its vision to build forestry data and information management system that is open, FWI is building its own forest database.
“For us, of course it is FWI data,” FWI Director Soelthon Gussetya Nanggara, said when questioned about what forest cover data was used by his organization.
He said that the data collection by his organization was part of a public participation which should become inputs for the government in building its forestry data.
“If the government wants to listen, of course we can jointly, with all sides, make corrections on all data relates to forest cover,” he said.
FWI forest cover data are also being used as a comparative data by an international organization. The Forest Stewardship Council (FSG), an international accreditation and certification organization for products and services of forest management that are environmentally friendly, socially beneficial, and economically sustainable, uses data of local CSOs that are deemed as credible, including FWI. These data are used as comparative data for other local data, including those of the government.
“FSC itself, as a global organization, always uses data from international institutions as a reference. Usually from FAO (the Food and Agriculture Organization) sand also data from CSOs such as Global Forest Watch, WWF or WRI, “said Hartono Prabowo from the representative FSC office.
“But local data are also references that are being considered, including those from government. These are usually confronted with data from credible local CSOs,” he added, citing FWI and Friends of the Earth Indonesia (Walhi) as examples.
The use of different databases is clearly giving rise to problems when looking at forestry issues in Indonesia.
“It is true that that is always a topic of debates when we meet with the planology (directorate),” said Roni Usman Kusuma, Chairman of the Association of Managers of Social Forests of Indonesia (AP2SI). He was referring to the Directorate General of Forestry Planology at Environmental Zoning the Environment and Forestry Ministry which formulates and implement policies on the strengthening of forests and the environment.
He said that AP2SI uses as a base for its operation the government’s Indicative Map for Social Forest Areas, Regulation of the Environment and Forestry Minister number 83 of 2016 on social forests and ministry regulation numb3r 39 of 2013 on the empowerment of local communities. He added that even thought there were always debate about which data to use, the final words would rest in the hands of the directorate general of planology.
“The different data on forests are a form of concern and attention for the complexity of the definition of forests,” Soelthon said.
Hartono, meanwhile, also pointed out that besides the matter of the various data on forest cover data, the forestry sector was also suffering from the absence of a single accepted definition of forests or forest terminology.
“Even though there are data related to forest coverage, those data could also not be exactly representing what is defined as forests in the terminology of the FSC,” he said.