Tuesday, 6 May 2008

Foster forest concept, community-based reforestation

Foster forest concept, community-based reforestation

Source: The Jakarta Post - April 29, 2008 By Wahyoe Boediwardhana,Pasuruan, East Java

Villager Muhammad Yassin may not be aware Indonesia has reached a new record, it's fastest deforestation rate ever, clearing an estimated 1.8million hectares of forest each year.

But the 59-year-old villager of Jatiarjo, East Java does care about the forests on the slopes of Mount Arjuno, near his home. Every morning, the grandfather of five leaves his home, walking to thef orest three kilometers away. In the afternoon he returns home, carrying bundles of grass for his three cows. Along the edge of a forest owned by state forestry company Perum PerhutaniUnit II, Pasuruan, Yassin cultivates a plot of land some 250-square-meters in area. The former game hunter gained a permit to farm in the company's vulnerable forest areas by growing various trees.

"I have no other ambitions. I just want to see this forest lush and green again, like it was before. I'll be planting whatever seedlings I can get from the village or this forest, on this plot," Yassin told The Jakarta Post. Yassin now grows jackfruit, coffee, avocado, banana, papaya, guava, kapok, candlenut and bay trees, which he planted in around 2004.

Yassin is one of 17 members of the Forest Village Community Institute (LMDH) in Ngudi Lestari, Jatiarjo. Its members joined the program by applying for the so-called "foster forest concept". The "foster forest concept" was first introduced as a pilot project in 2004 by the Yayasan Kaliandra Sejati (YKS), a non-governmental organization dealing with the environment (which also operates the Center for Nature and Culture Education on the slopes of Arjuno) in Pasuruan.

In the wake of the reform drive in 1998, thousands of hectares of forests on the slopes of Mt. Arjuno and nearby Mt. Welirang were targeted for deforestation by unscrupulous profiteers. Hundreds of thousands of logs from various trees including pine, casuarina, mahogany, bay and acacia were looted. Some forests were denuded completely and left without any coverage to retain rainwater, making areas vulnerable to landslides and erosion.

Mt. Arjuno is an important area because it also serves as the water catchment area for more than 20 percent of the population of East Java. Yassin and other villagers affiliated with the LMDH-Ngudi Lestari programwere determined to restore the forest to its previous state.The idea of village community based reforestation emerged in 2004, LMDH-Ngudi Lestari chairman Faturrohman said. Previously, the community around the forest used its wood for fires or to make charcoal, hunted its animals for meat and squatted there.

In 2005, the "foster forest concept" started; by raising awareness of the need to protect forest areas, and and with campaigns to encourage people to take pride in forest conservation."The forest community, who formerly relied on hunting, tree felling,charcoal making (and other activities causing forest depletion), were provided with training.

Now local villagers have quit their old ways and are proud of their forest," Faturrohman said. In 2006, farmers began to replant trees with funding from the regional and state budgets. In 2007, the replanting had covered some 1,050 hectares, andthis year alone some 350 hectares have been reforested.The farmers chosen to join 'foster' groups are responsible for looking after vulnerable regenerated land, including 369 hectares in Jatiarjo and420 hectares in Dayurejo.

The farmers are responsible for the management, monitoring, care and maintenance of trees, including mahogany, bay and acacia. In compensation,they would receive incentives from the Environment Service Compensation(KPJL) program, under the YKS. With fees collected from those using YKS facilities in the pilot project, Rp 1,000 is set aside from each ticket, YKS manager Agus Wiyono said. "The fund is then spent on incentives," he said. "The number of visitors to the Kaliandra project is increasing each year.

In 2007, they totaled around 20,000, so the total levy funds collected reached around Rp 20 million,"Wiyono said.Yassin and his 16 peers currently only receive around Rp 1.2 million ayear. The amount could increase, with more private companies involved or investing in the project. The LMDH has a current membership of some 300 forest farmers."Any increase in the number of firms (needing local water resources fortheir operations) that join this program, would be beneficial. Farmers will gain extra income, a lot more vulnerable land will be regenerated, and thepublic image of water and forest-resource-conscious firms improved,"Faturrohman said.A Memorandum of Understanding and a contract of cooperation have been made to strengthen ties between LMDH, Perhutani in Pasuruan and the YKS.

East Java Perhutani's move comes as part of the Community Participation in Forest Management (PHBM) program, Pasuruan Forest deputy administrator EkaMuhamad Ruskanda said."Basically, forest community members are invited to play an active role in restoring, managing and ... conserving forested areas in Java," Ruskandatold the Post. Bintoro W. Prabowo, a public outreach and communications specialist of the Environmental Services Program (ESP), USAID -East Java, mentioned the necessity of involving more private firms in foster forest programs like the Jatiarjo project."It is a form of reforestation involving forest village communities best suited to this area...."It is now time to shift from the previous single-player system to amulti-player concept," Bintoro said.