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| Friday, 19 October 2018 |
Indonesia Version

Community Welfare for the Forest
Wednesday, 25 April, 2018 | 17:54 WIB
Community Welfare for the Forest

TEMPO.CO, Jakarta - Indonesia is known for its vast forest areas-an important element for the continuity of life on our planet. Based on data from the environment and forestry ministry, Indonesia's forests covered an area of 125.92 million hectares in 2017, down an alarming over two million hectares in just two years.

The country's shrinking forests are the result of mismanagement, encroachment, and a number of other violations. Several attempts have been made to salvage what is left, including the Community Forest initiative launched in 1995. Since then, the program has been in continuous development. Communities living in and around state forests have been granted management rights, which come with the obligation to protect their woods, allowing local communities-including those living around the Sesaot Forest, West Lombok-to enjoy economic benefits while preserving their forests. In celebration of Earth Day, April 22, Tempo English reports. 

Living from the Sesaot Forest

The community forest program has allowed people living around the Sesaot Forest in West Lombok to enjoy greater earnings. Meanwhile, the forests remain conserved.

RAHMAN still remembers how underdeveloped his village of Sedau was back in the day. "The majority of people living in my village were very poor," said the 44-year-old, adding that most villagers only completed primary or middle school. 

Today, many of his village youths have earned bachelor degrees, and cars are no longer a luxury item. "The village economy changed after the community forest program," said Rahman, chair of the Forest Conservation Community Group (KMPH). 

The village of Sedau lies on the edge of the Sesaot Forest on the western slope of Mount Rinjani in West Nusa Tenggara. Apart from Sedau, three other villages-the villages of Sesaot, Sepaga and Pakuan-are situated on the fringes of the forest. All four villages have benefited from the community forest program that has been developed since 1993. Village communities around Sesaot were given permits by the government to manage and collect non-timber products from the forest.

Almost a quarter century of hard work later, locals can now enjoy fair incomes. "In the durian season, for instance, our harvests get us Rp5-15 million," said Rahman. Locals have planted not only durian in the forest, but also rambutan (Nephelium lappaceum), jackfruit and coffee. Earnings from these harvests go to daily necessities and to purchasing cattle and paddy fields, which explains why incomes have risen over the past 25 years.

Many villagers in Sedau have even gone on the haj pilgrimage because of their earnings from the forest. "In our village, we call it 'HKM', or haj from the community forest," he added jokingly. 

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