Partnership between communities and acacia pulp
plantation in South Sumatra
Musi Hutan Persada is an Acacia Mangium plantation company situated in South
Sumatra. MHP is a joint venture among a state owned company Inhutani II and
private companies. The total extent of the plantation is 296.400 hectare
positioned in three disjoint forest groups in six different districts. The
biggest area is located in district Muara Enim which covers up to 70% of the
total area. MHP supplies 2.5 million m3 pulp wood to Tanjung Enim Lestari (TEL)
pulp mill every year. The area of MHP is planted with fast growing trees as the
main product, i.e. Acacia mangium (95%).
Indonesia’s pulp & paper
Since early 1990’s, the Indonesian’s pulp & paper industry expanded very
rapidly. Expansion was temporarily held in 1997 due to the economic crisis.
However, by 2000, several projects were reinstated and completed. The capacity
of the TEL mill, which is specially made in 2000, has a pulp production capacity
of 450,000 Air Dry tons/year.
Disputes over lands between local and customary communities and forest
companies during Soeharto era were very much restricted. The local army and
government suppressed the disputes. Soeharto’s resignation in May 1998,
constituted the beginning of the customary community movement to demand the
re-run of their customary rights including communal land rights. The conflicts
between the local communities and the companies occurred over (1) the land
appropriation process; (2) environmental impacts; and (3) recruitment of
The forest plantations are located on state land. Some of these areas were
previously used by local communities to grow rubber trees as their primary
source of income. The villages surrounding the plantation asked for more
benefits from MHP, especially during the crisis years.
The communities surrounding MHP are mostly traditional farmers. The others
are MHP workers, traders and local government officials. The farmers grow rubber
plantation, field rice and Acacia mangium plantation in collaboration with MHP.
The local people are used to have ‘Marga’ concept to organize the resources
among themselves. ‘Marga’ is a traditional institution with land rules and is
led by a trusted leader coming from the bloodline of the previous leader. Since
1982, this system was replaced by the concept of ‘Desa’, which is a line
structure of local government that consists of several ‘Dusun’, and each ‘Dusun’
comprises of several ‘Talang’. Currently, ‘Desa’ is a formal system of village
organization, but ‘Marga’ still exists informally.
As a result of the conflicts, MHP developed two partnership schemes with the
local communities in 1998 to resolve land use issues and secure the MHP
concession. These partnerships are:
- MHBM; Mengelola Hutan Bersama Masyarakat; Managing Forest with Community
regarding the concession lands.
- MHR; Mengelola Hutan Rakyat; People Forest Management; regarding the
communities’ traditional lands.
MHBM area amounts to 80,000 hectare and MHR area to 5,000. MHBM was set up
when it was already planted to avoid conflicts. While, the MHR was set up when
there was no plantation yet. It is based on the proposal of an individual person
to MHP to plant trees in his/her land, regardless the land status. It can be
seen as an extension of MHP plantation, since MHR area located outside MHP’s
The problems that have been identified regarding MHBM and MHR are:
- How to maintain the MHBM and MHR in the long term giving the complexity
and dynamic of the cooperation?
- How to improve the welfare of the stakeholders, particularly the
- How to settle the land status to give more certainty for long term
The communities don’t think the partnership schemes are fair, because a power
imbalance between them and MHP. Conflicting interests among community members
also weaken local institutions and threaten to cause livelihood problems related
to employment and the fair sharing of benefits among community members. These
livelihood problems sometimes lead to local communities fighting MHP for the
right to grow rubber or oil palm on their traditional land.
MHP has been known up till now as an example of a well-planned Indonesian
forest plantation, so its failure or its success might influence the future
development of wood industries in Indonesia. TEL is the only pulp mill in
Indonesia which uses 100% plantation wood. MHP and TEL provide an example of
good management in timber production and processing, but they need to improve
their operation with regard to social and environmental issues.