Locally perceived impacts of industrial timber plantations in Indonesia

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Industrial forest plantations tend to be controversial in many parts of the world from social and environmental perspectives. However research has been imbalanced with a large proportion of sites with conflicts, and this might have led to a partial reporting of community opinions and expectations. Indonesia represents an interesting case in this regard, with a history of conflicts but also ambitious plans for expansion in order to feed pulp mills capacities and export chips, producing latex or supplying the domestic furniture industry. Knowledge on perceived impacts represents a matter of concern for policies and investment decisions, and should help design new plantations in an optimal way for their integration in the rural landscape.

We conducted household surveys with a total of 606 respondents across three islands (Java, Borneo and Sumatra), four plantation sites and three plantation types (pulpwood plantations with Acacia and Eucalyptus, teak and pine). This extensive sample allows us to provide a representative view of villagers’ perceptions and expectations about these plantations.

Results show that pulpwood plantations tend to distinguish themselves from pine and teak plantations on several aspects, such as the lower number and limited variety of benefits and services, higher number of negative impacts, fewer opportunities to use the plantation land and products for rural livelihoods. Note that these general findings were not easy to link to a notion of intensive versus low-intensity management, even though teak and pine tend to follow longer rotations. These results can be combined with the heavy focus of villagers around Acacia plantations on economic development and infrastructures, both in terms of acknowledgment of past achievements and expectations for future progress and improvement.

This issue of migrants is important to study further as in-migrations in Indonesia are intense. This aspect was only investigated in Sumatra and Kalimantan for Acacia, and a general observation is that on many variables the views and experiences of migrants and indigenous people were similar. In terms of employment the moderately higher percentage of work experiences among indigenous respondents (55% versus 45%) is probably due to policies by companies to hire them in priority. The results on positive and negative impacts were extremely close for both groups of respondents. But differences exist also, as illustrated by a much larger proportion of indigenous respondents declaring to have suffered from restricted access to natural forests for their own needs.

The data collection disaggregated information by women and men in order to conduct a gender analysis. Variables where no significant differences were found include (i) whether the plantation dramatically changed the living environment and in what ways, and (ii) whether the company or the state should be in charge of providing services. More importantly, we find that women and men tend to give similar responses to positive and negative impacts, with slightly better opinions by women, which provides a general indication that plantation development has not carried more weight on women.


    . Paper presented in third International Conference of Indonesia Forestry Researchers III - 2015 “Forestry research for achieving self-sufficient in food, energy and water adequacy”, IPB International Convention Centre Bogor, Indonesia 21-22 October 2015

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    Pirard, R.; Petit, H.; Baral, H.




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