The Strategy of Peatlands amid Economic Optimism 2018

Photo: UNDP


Indonesia’s Peat Restoration Agency or BRG and several civil society organizations are urging the government to apply social forestry programs to poor communities residing on degraded peatlands. The reason given by BRG is the integration of programs between government agencies will be able to produce a more powerful multiplication effect than expected.

Public knows that there are still many homework to be completed by the government agency. The most crucial is the settlement of peatland mapping problems, which later proved unreliable in determining which areas enter the peatland conservation areas. In the end, misunderstandings rise fatal impact on the business world. The millions of dollars that should be able to turn the country’s economy more smoothly, just lost.

BRG and several environmental NGOs continue to work on marriage between the Ministry’s social forestry program to synergize with the BRG peat program. The question of the wider community, why does BRG devote its concentration in that direction? As is known, social forestry programs are not only supported by Indonesia’s Ministry of Environment and Forestry (LHK), but also Ministry of Social Affairs, Ministry of SOEs, even the Coordinating Ministry for Economic Affairs.

BRG and its supporting NGOs argue that they have successfully conducted a study showing that communities around the peatland have a basic knowledge of responsible land management. So, they will be very helpful to the peat restoration program that is now raised BRG.

According to Ministry Environment and Forestry representatives, 1.087 million hectares have been distributed to 267,165 forest households by November 2017. Those who obtain land use permits are not indiscriminate, should do so as per the standards of sustainable forest management. It has been proven that they are capable of conducting productive economic activities without profoundly changing the local forest ecosystem. Interestingly, the government is using peatland in an attempt to set an example for social forestry programs. This seems to signal that communal peatland management is still very difficult to realize.

President Joko Widodo (Jokowi) had distributed a letter of decree (SK) for permit of Forest Utilization of Social Forest (IPHS). The target of social forest land distribution is done in Brani Wetan Village, Probolinggo District (with Subdistrict Gading Farmer, Maron, Krejengan, Lumbang, Wonomerto in Probolinggo District and LMDH Andongsari Ambulu District Jember Regency and LMDH Wonolestari Lumajang Regency).  Some of the most recorded areas are in Java, not less than 30 districts, and still growing. In addition there are some areas in Sumatra such as North Sumatra, Riau and South Sumatra, also in Jambi, Babel, and Central Sulawesi.

Heavy Challenge

The challenge of realizing 12.7 million hectares of social forest land is very heavy. The Minister of Environment and Forestry, Siti Nurbaya, admitted that the target is still to be proven although for three years lead, is still far from the grip.

“The realistic target, for the first period, is only 4.4 to 5 million hectares, it could open more, but it should be continued,” said Siti at the Presidential Palace on Monday, October 30, 2017. Siti said, there are various reasons why the pursuit of 12.7 million hectares target according Nawa Cita is not a light work. The most important reason is because there are also many forest land that must be set aside for other purposes.

As an illustration, the total amount of forest land in Indonesia is currently 146 million hectares. Of the 146 million hectares, 20 million hectares have been allocated to the people of the Dutch era.  Of the remaining 126 million hectares of land, 40 million hectares are licensed. The remaining 86 million hectares are still subdivided for other functions such as protection forests, conservation forests, peat forests, biodiversity forests, certain ecosystems, and more. Indirectly, the ministry is trying to show that the government’s social forest target must also be in line with the challenges that are being faced.

The question is, with such a tough challenge, why the government trying to changed that target to peatland? Moreover, there has been a lot of research showing that some of these peatlands can be of high economic value when used and managed with a sustainable level of sustainability. And for that standard, whoever knows, Indonesia has it.  Bank Indonesia (BI) predicted that palm oil and crude palm oil (CPO) business will be successful in 2018. The price of palm oil continues to rise in line with the increasing world demand.

However, the Indonesian public also knows that palm oil and palm oil business in Indonesia is currently facing major challenges, with negative campaign against oil palm plantations conducted by the European Union. Palm is considered destructive and reduces the forest area (deforestation) and many more negative news. In addition to the EU which continues to supply palm oil, Asian countries such as China will also use large amounts of palm oil. Moreover, the price of crude palm oil is predicted to jump from US$735 per ton this year to the position of US$800 per ton in January 2018 in line with the decline in stock despite increased production.

Why is such a good condition for the national oil industry, the moment comes with the proposed synergy of social forests on peat soil more intensely? If refuse, will the Indonesian government be deemed unprofessional to sustainable land management?


Author :  Gustav Perdana

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