Friday, 22 August 2008

Forests suffer from lack of support

Friday, August 22, 2008

Forests suffer from lack of support

Panca Nugraha , The Jakarta Post , Fri, 08/22/2008

Due to inadequate support from local administrations, community forest programs in three provinces -- West Nusa Tenggara, Yogyakarta and Lampung -- are unlikely to meet their targeted goal of 400,000 hectares by 2009, an official said.

Togu Manurung, an expert from the Forestry Ministry, said Wednesday that West Nusa Tenggara had set aside only 1,600 hectares, while Yogyakarta and Lampung have designated 1,000 hectares and 6,000 hectares, respectively.

"Since the launch of the program in Dec. 2007, only 8,600 hectares have been dedicated to the community forest program." Togu told The Jakarta Post after a meeting was held in Mataram on Aug. 19 to Aug. 21 to discuss the program.

The program's objective, which was inaugurated by Vice President Jusuf Kalla in Gunung Kidul regency, Yogyakarta, is to empower communities who live around the forests by allowing them to manage and benefit economically from the woodlands as well as to help conserve them.

About 10 million people live on the edges of the forests across the country and most of them are poor people, according to data from the Forestry Ministry.

Communities are unable to secure forest management permits, thus ensuring the target will not be met, Togu said.

According to Forestry Ministry Regulation No. 37/2007, a community must obtain a permit from the Forestry Ministry to manage forests.
Meanwhile, the Forestry Ministry's Director General for Land Rehabilitation and Social Forestry Erna Rosdiana said the local administrations are impeding the communities from obtaining the permits so they are unable to join the program.

"This is evident from the support given to the communities from the administrations. For example, do the local legislative councils even allocate budgets for the program?"

Erna asked after the meeting in Mataram.
The meeting was also attended by officials from West Nusa Tenggara and East Nusa Tenggara as well as activists from several NGOs.

Erna suggested local administrations should cooperate with NGOs in assisting the communities to process the permits while the ministry would allocate the plots of lands.

She urged the public to monitor the program, fearing it could be misused.
"It is possible that local administration heads will give the permits to other parties instead of to the communities. Therefore, the public should demand accountability and transparency," she said.

However, Erna said some regencies, such as West Lampung in Lampung province and Kulon Progo and Gunung Kidul in Yogyakarta, have successfully assisted their residents in joining the program.
The central government has set a national target of 2.1 million hectares for community forest development by 2015.