As part of efforts to halt the shrinking of forests that continued to take place in Jambi, an environmental watchdog is proposing that the government provide incentives for communities near forests to enable them to develop their economy and thus help reduce forest destruction and the restoration of the local ecology.
“Communities are capable of managing forest well and also are capable of drawing their welfare from their forests,” said Ade Chandra, Program Coordinator of the Warsi Indonesian Conservation Community (KKI Warsi) in Jambi, adding that people living around forest needed to be involved in the management of the forest, including through the social forestry scheme.
Under the social forestry scheme, local communities living around forests are given a permit to manage forest for their benefit while assuring the protection of the forest and the afforestation of deforested land with the objective of improving the rural, environmental and social development.
KKI Warsi Jambi said in a press release dated September 30, 2020, that forest in Jambi continued to shrink, leaving the province with only some 900,000 hectares of forest or just 18 percent of the province’s total surface. KKI Warsi said that the figure was far below the minimal level of 30 percent needed for a balanced ecosystem.
Ade said in the press release that so far, the main threats to forests in Merangin district, where his organization and several other NGOs were actively assisting communities holding social forestry permits, came from illegal logging and illegal gold mining which have both encroached into forested areas.
“To halt and prevent this, what is most important to do is to develop the economy of communities based on their potentials, through activities that do not destroy forest but on the contrary, expand forest cover, including by development the enrichment of forest plants of economic values such as Cinnamon, coffee, candlenut, Pangium edule, rattan ae and rubber which have already been developed by communities managing indigenous forests and village forests,” Ade said,
But he also quickly added that to achieve this, there was a need for the local government to provide regulatory and financial support, including by developing ecology-based fiscal incentives, and or environmental or ecological restoration and protection schemes.
He said that the government’s budget system provided the opportunity to come up with affirmative funding in the form of special assistance for accelerating development that could be used for ecological restoration and community empowerment.
In relations to this, NGOS which have been active in assisting communities that have already obtained social forestry permits in the Merangin district of Jambi, such as Warsi, Walhi, LTB and Pundi Sumatra, are proposing the provision of fiscal incentive to save forests and boost the welfare of local communities in Merangin.
“We are proposing that 17 villages which already hold social forestry permits under indigenous or village forest schemes, to be given incentives by the Merangin district administration,” Ade said, adding that the proposed incentive should be funded from the 2021 affirmative fund for the allocation of village fund in Merangin district.
The funding will be aimed at the conservation and protection of the region, the utilization of forest areas, the utilization of environmental services and the development of institutions for the management of social forestry.
Merangin district has 48,089 hectares of social forestry composed of 29 permits, including 10 as indigenous forest permits, 17 for village forest permits and two for people’s forests estates. This was quite important when considering that the social forestry permits for the entire province of Jambi stood at 200,512 hectares.
“This budget will be used mostly for the development of community economies, so that with the development of the economy of these communities, activities that damage forests such as illegal logging and mining, will lessen,” said Ade.
He said that the threat on remaining forest in Jambi remained very high. “There are still a lot of parties that wish to replace forests with non-forests,” he said.