he social forestry program launched by President Joko Widodo (Jokowi) is expected to help develop agroforestry, decrease the inequality of land tenure, and reduce social conflicts as a result of encroachment.
The program, launched in September this year, is also likely to increase the welfare of people and reduce their dependence on "middle-man" in economic activity.
It is aimed at preserving forests, and supporting people who live near the forest and rely on its natural resources, people with small or no land, and those who live below the poverty line.
An important benefit from the program will be reduction in CO2 emissions arising from deforestation, and peatland degradation.
Importantly, the new program is centered around the people, which is a paradigm shift from before. This means that the people are not only entitled to the programs benefits but are also obliged to help guarantee its success.
This principle is at the core of the UNDP REDD+ Indonesia Social Forestry program under the Ministry of Environment and Forestry.
The social forestry program also aims to help increase the productivity of people in remote villages and boost economic activity, Environment and Forestry Minister Siti Nurbaya stated in Jakarta on Thursday.
The ministry has set a target of 12.7 million hectares of forest area to be managed by the local people through many programs, such as Social Forestry Scheme, Forest Village, Peoples Forest Plant, Customary Forest, and Forest Partnership.
The 12.7-million-hectare target is a manifestation of President Joko Widodos (Jokowi) Nawacita program, an agenda to achieve greater economic self-reliance by focusing on strategic sectors.
The program, as conceived by the ministry, is meant to support the Nawacita program of President Jokowi and Vice President M. Jusuf Kalla (JK), Nurbaya noted.
People must be given an opportunity to manage the forests and the land through social forestry schemes, for this is in line with the constitutional mandate related to the Recognition and Protection of Indigenous People (MHA), she added.
A target area of 13.5 million hectares has been identified for the program and will be managed by the community, the minister revealed.
The minister said she had made working visits to many provinces in Indonesia, and met many people to obtain first-hand information about forest management for public welfare.
In the meantime, President Jokowi has also mandated that access to the market for outcomes of social forestry projects should increase, and the public should be given the knowledge and technical ability to strengthen their business and livelihood.
At present, a total of 1,737 social forestry business groups have been already formed, and their production results have been marketed regionally, nationally and even internationally, through online media.
President Jokowi has urged Siti Nurbaya to simplify social forestry regulations and procedures to make it easier for people to access the benefits of forests.
Many social forestry initiatives had missed their targets during implementation and people were still facing difficulties in getting the necessary permits, Jokowi said.
The president further highlighted the importance of paying attention to indigenous people, calling on the Ministry of Environment and Forestry to immediately settle issues related to customary forests.
Social forestry initiatives should not only relate to legal matters, such as giving people access to social forestry permits, but should be followed by advanced programs to enhance the welfare of people living in and around forests, Jokowi stated.
The advanced programs should start from preparation of production infrastructure, training and counseling, to expanding peoples access to market and technology information, financing, and post-harvest preparations.
During the commemoration event of National Tree Planting Day and National Planting Month on Monday in Tuban, East Java, President Jokowi said tree planting for social forests, managed by both private parties and cooperatives, needs to be explored more.
"Let us not give large concessions entirely to corporations, if it could be beneficial for the people, then by any means, go for it," President Jokowi said.
When corporations fail to pass on the benefits to the public, then social forest management concessions will be given to cooperatives or private entities, according to the president.
"I believe that this model can be followed and I will be sure to check it. We hope that it could be a good model to be explored in other provinces and regions," he stated.
The government will support programs that incorporate farmers, fishermen, and cooperatives in managing large economic schemes.
He also advised other ministries to support the program so that they receive tangible economic benefits and improve the economy.
"I have warned the cooperatives minister to involve the cooperatives, and I have also said to the maritime and fisheries minister to incorporate fishermen. The same goes for the agriculture minister whom I have advised to incorporate farmers," Jokowi reiterated.
The president assured the people that he would keep an eye on the program and evaluate it in the next 3 to 4 months to a year.
The social forestry program will also help Indonesia reduce gas emissions, as it is one of the keys to understanding how to effect a change in the way forests and land are managed as these have become the biggest gas-emitting sources in the country.