A partnership program focused on a village in South Sulawesi’s Bulukumba district has shown how village administrations could play a crucial role in the sustainable management of local People’s Forest by issuing an official village regulation to answer existing problems and challenges.
Researchers from the Makassar Environment and Forestry Research and Development Office (BP2LHK Makassar) speaking at an online webinar on Wednesday (26/8) spoke about how they had helped villagers in Malleleng in Bulukumba district ‘s Kajang sub-district, to work together and come out with a Village Regulation (Perdes) on the Sustainable Management of People’s Forests.
“The Perdes is to answer existing local problems,” that had hindered a sustainable management of local people’s forests, said Abdul Kadir a BP2LHK researcher focusing on socio-economy,
He said that the Perdes made data available to all, and dealt with problems such as roaming livestock that damaged trees, forest and ground fires, seeds and technical guidance, capacity building the empowerment of the local economy, financing and also people’s participation.
Achmad Rizal, an environmental sociology researcher at the same institution defined People’s Forest as a forest on private property with a surface of at the least 0.25 hectare, a tree cover of more than 50 percent or a minimum of 500 plants per hectare in the first year.
“This Perdes was drafted to act as a legal basis at the site level for the management of people’s forests. This Perdes is a reference for all sides in relations to the management of people’s forests,” Nur Hayati, a researcher on the economy of natural resources and the environment at BP2LHK, interjected during the discussion.
Rizal said that the Perdes followed some 15 years of partnership between BP2LHK and the Australian Centre for International Agricultural Research (ACIAR) and the Master Tree Grower (MTG) approach they championed.
“The partnership between ACIAR and Litbang Kehutanan for some 15 years has been able to change the habit of farmers, who used to just plant anything but now plant so that they can sell the yields for an additional income,” Rizal said.
He said that project in Malleleng had managed to build a collaboration between the local government, the local community and businesses, in this case sawmills and other buyers of wood and timber and also laid a legal base for the sustainable management of local people’s forest through the issuance of the Perdes.
It was this collaboration, an early version of a partnership between the three, that prompted the need for the Perdes, so as to lay down the obligations, rights and mechanism in the management of people’s forest in binding terms.
Hayati, said that the Perdes was the results of repeated consultation and meetings between villagers, village officials, her institution and the local forestry office.
It laid down, among others, the obligation, rights and prohibitions and other matters that everyone had agreed on, the organization of farmers and their capacity building to manage local people’s forests, ways to empower the local economy and how they would be financed.
“It was a bottom up process where we involved the entire community to discuss the draft for the Perdes,” said Hayati.
Rizal said that his institution hoped that Perdes, the first for South Sulawesi, would be able to prompt other regions in the province or even beyond it to follow suit.
He said that the MTG approach that led to the Perdes, is one that sought to ensure that the development of forestry and native vegetation management on farms is driven by the aspirations and opportunities of the farmers themselves and underpinned by the best available scientific, market and practical knowledge.
Kadir said that The MTG approach did not start with providing the participating farmers with technical knowledge on trees, crops and their maintenance, but rather with an introduction to the market for the products of their forest.
“We usually start with a market survey, participants are taken to the market so that they can learn firsthand what type and quality of wood the industry is interested in, direct from the sawmills….They also learn about how the wood is processed so that they can see for themselves that wood defects, size and other quality affect prices,” Hayati said.
Kadir added that the aim of such approach was not only to improve the management of people’s forests in the future so that they could be sustainable but also that they can be managed to a commercial scale, so that the community and farmers can improve their welfare.
A knowledge of the market would help by farmers pick the suitable tree and plants for their plots so they could reap fair revenues.
“Farmers have better knowledge and understanding on how to manage forests, there has been a change in the behavior in forest management and there have been transfer of knowledge between farmers,” Kadir said of the impact of the MTG approach Malleleng.
Rizal added that the approach has led to better networking among farmers and that farmers were now sitting around the same table with buyers, in this case sawmill operators and other log or timber buyers, as well as the local government, to discuss their challenges and seek possible ways to overcome them.
Nurhaedah Muin, a environmental sociology researcher at BP2LHK, said that Bulukumba was picked for the project because of its potentials. She said that 72 percent of the forests in Bulukumba was people’s forests and this 72 percent could produce some 24,000 cubic meters of timber.
“This is still far from what the industry needs, so there is a shortage that should be filled,” Nurhaedah said.
Besides of the sawmills, Bulukumba is also known for its traditional boat building industry, that produce the notorious Pinisi Buginese Schooner, and which relied on timber from the region and beyond.
She said that products from the people’s Forest contributed around 20 to 30 percent of farmers ’s revenues in Malleleng. Wood product itself contributed about 10 percent or lower, she added.
“It has been proven that Malleleng has become greener since after the Perdes,” added Rizal. He said that the Perdes among other, also formalized long-held traditions in the area of planting trees to mark private rituals or festive events.