President Joko Widodo granted part of the customary forests lying within a Royal Golden Eagle (RGE) pulpwood concession to an indigenous group as a symbol of the state’s recognition of customary forests in Indonesia. The conflict between indigenous groups and the a pulpwood company PT TPL, a subsidiary of pulp giant RGE (also controlling APRIL)has been going on for years. Based on the Ministry of the Environment and Forestry’s data, there are eleven customary forest blocks spread throughout the TPL concession. The recognition given to the customary forests by the state, whereby they will be legally managed by the indigenous groups concerned, was a resolution made by the President. Indigenous groups have been struggling for and awaiting such a resolution for more than seven decades.
Of the nine Environment and Forestry Minister’s decrees granting the customary forests to indigenous groups located in various provinces, one of them pertains to the Tombak Haminjon customary forest, one of eleven customary forests located in PT TPL’s concession which spans an area in excess of five thousand soccer fields.
The decrees were handed over in person by the President at the State Palace (30 Dec), accompanied by the Environment and Forestry Minister Siti Nurbaya and witnessed by relevant ministers, ambassadors, and CSOs.
“We have got the ball rolling in terms of recognizing customary forests by starting with these nine customary forests which cover an area of over 13 thousand hectares. In my pocket, there are 12.7 million hectares which will continue to be distributed to indigenous and local community groups,” said the President in a speech at the event.
This Environment and Forestry Ministry’s map depicts the distribution of these 12.7 million hectares promised by the President through social forestry program (delineated in white).
Minister Siti Nurbaya in her introductory speech, which served as her report to the President, said that this move on the part of her ministry is a clear manifestation of the President’s commitment and directives in respect of forest protection and indigenous rights.
“The recognition of customary forests by the state, which is taking place for the first time, forms part of our efforts to uphold our constitution,” the minister explained.
The minister also expressed her utmost gratitude to all the stakeholders, in particular the indigenous groups and CSOs involved, for their mutual cooperation and support in bringing about the recognition of customary forests.
These photos show the dialogue held between the President and a representative of indigenous groups after the event at which the customary forest recognition decrees were handed over.