Saturday, 14 December 2019

Forest for the Community

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  • Marena customary forest area in Enrekang, South Sulawesi. TEMPO/Iqbal Lubis

    Marena customary forest area in Enrekang, South Sulawesi. TEMPO/Iqbal Lubis

    TEMPO.CO, Jakarta - Pieter Kadang, 71, repeatedly inspected the forest to make sure that the white buckets filled with pine sap—owned by Adi Mitra Pinus Utama—found throughout the Marena Forest in the Enrekang Regency, South Sulawesi, were undisturbed. According to the Marena customary leader, his people would never upset the company’s pine sap harvesting. “If there is theft, customary law will be implemented,” said Pieter not long ago.

    Pieter believes that customary laws effectively encourage the community to preserve the Marena Forest. It is also thanks to the customary council and laws that the Marena community has been granted the right to manage their forest by the environment and forestry ministry on July 10, 2018. Because of the ministry’s recognition, the community now has access to the pine forest, which had previously been closed off by forest rangers for decades.

    The Marena customary forest lies on the border of Pekalobean and Singki villages in the Anggareja subdistrict, Enrekang—260 kilometers and 5 to 6 hours away from the city of Makassar on land. The forest lies on an elevation of 1,100 meters above sea level and is dominated by pine trees. Last year, the forestry ministry recognized the 155-hectare forest as the Marena community’s customary forest, with both protected and production forest areas.

    After the forestry minister’s decree, Pieter immediately discussed production forest management concepts with the customary council and Adi Mitra Pinus Utama. According to him, the customary council welcomes a partnership in managing the area of forest included in its territory.

    “Before the discussion, we did not want to trouble the company. But the ancestors’ land must be safeguarded to prevent landslides and deforestation,” said the customary leader.

    Darji, Singki village chief, was worried that the community forest status would be rejected because the area falls under production and protected forest areas. But, as it turned out, mapping the forest and processing documentation for the customary council—both of which are requirements for requesting a customary forest status— were proceeded quickly. The process only took one year to finish. At this time, said Darji, villagers are discussing various innovative practices, such as planting between pine trees and ecotourism. “What’s most important is that our children must understand how to preserve this customary forest,” said the 47-year-old man.

    Chairman of the South Sulawesi Alliance of Customary Communities, Sardi Rasak, added that the request for a customary forest status was initially meant to return customary rights over the Marena Forest to the community. With a customary forest status, said Sardi, the council has the authority to renegotiate with the company in managing the forest, including managing potential plants such as coffee, cacao, durian and secondary crops. “All of it has been planted among the pine trees,” he said.

    Hamsir, member of the Enrekang Regency Government Committee for Customary Law Communities, said the customary forest status helps the government preserve forests. He also hopes that the status will give the community economic benefits and added values to products, to complement the people’s earnings from cultivating shallots.

    “Whether later [the community] will function independently or collaborate with a company, what’s certain is that the forest may not be damaged and [it] can help improve the community’s economy,” said Hamsir. He added that the people’s earnings from planting shallots have reached Rp200 million per hectare, with only Rp20 million per hectare in costs. Adi Mitra Pinus Utama spokesperson Ivan Andrimulya Kusno said the company is planning to extend its contract for pine sap harvesting [with the regional government] after the Marena Forest’s customary forest status was granted. He also welcomes the idea of a collaborative management of the forest with the customary community. “A partnership is not a problem for us,” said Ivan.

    ARKHELAUS WISNU

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