Last updated April 2010 
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CIFOR annual report 2001

Understanding the forest: A long-term partnership

Achieving a secure forest estate is a complex challenge because of the range and diversity of the stakeholders involved and their overlapping interests. The people living near forests need access to forest products and services. Private companies must be convinced they can benefit from adopting less damaging forestry practices.

Government agencies require new rules and regulations based on solid economic and ecological data that reduce private companies. administrative burdens and operating costs while minimizing the environmental impact of production activities. The groups rarely agree about how to manage the forest. Even small groups will differ on whether they need the forest or are willing to cut it down. When there is competition for increasingly valuable resources then the groups disagree about their claims and entitlements. Somehow the conflicts must be resolved, which, in turn, requires a better understanding of the needs and expectations of all the stakeholders involved. In 1996, the Indonesian government demarcated a 320 000-ha area of forest in Bulungan District for CIFOR to use as a long-term research area.

The International Tropical Timber Organisation (ITTO) funded a 3-year project on forest management and sustainability in a large forest landscape that attracted a number of other partners (see box opposite). Over the years a unique partnership has evolved in the district of Malinau in East Kalimantan. Researchers and local groups are collaborating to identify and address the needs of the stakeholders by finding the best ways to manage a large forest.

The lessons we have learned are providing us with baseline information that will support longerterm research.. said CIFOR.s Kuswata Kartawinata, who has led the project. .These results are laying the basis for finding negotiated solutions that will last into the future.. The Bulungan work progressed along several different lines that highlighted the need to understand in detail the effect that forest management techniques have on species and sites important to local people.

Biodiversity across the landscape

CIFOR.s biodiversity research in Bulungan helped define the priorities of the local people and assist in a wide range of processes, from developing reduced-impact logging guidelines to setting forest conservation policy.

We have developed a suite of methods to assess biodiversity and landscape information and what matters to local communities,. said Doug Sheil, CIFOR.s biodiversity specialist.

The characteristics of forested landscapes are usually critical to their inhabitants, but the significance of these relationships is largely hidden from outsiders, including policy makers.

Biodiversity across the landscape:
A concatenation of collaborators

The initial initiative for this partnership came from the Ministry of Forestry of Indonesia and the ITTO. The strong political support from the Ministry and the generous financial support and technical advice from ITTO provided a framework in which it was possible to attract additional contributions from the MacArthur and Ford Foundations, the Australian Centre for International Agricultural Research, the UN.s International fund for Agricultural development, Département Forestier du Centre de Coopération Internationale en Recherche Agronomique pour le Développement (CIRAD-Forêt), PT Inhutani II, PT Trakindo Utama, Caterpillar Co., Lembaga Ilmu Pengetahuan Indonesia (the Indonesian Institute of Sciences or LIPI) and others.

Within the partnership, Indonesia.s Forestry Research and Development Agency (FORDA) and CIFOR have played the leading role in the research. LIPI, CIRAD-Forêt, Institut de Recherche pour le Développement and several universities have also participated. PT Inhutani II, PT Trakindo Utama, Caterpillar Co., the District Government of Malinau, several nongovernmental organizations and dozens of local communities were also involved in the research.

The landscape local people care about, why they matter and how much. These methods can be used to guide future research and to make recommendations on options about land use and policy. The methods we have found also provide a foundation for deeper dialogue with the forest communities.. By using a new technique called .multidisciplinary landscape assessment. project researchers could work out which animals and plants the different groups of local people used or valued and how important these species were to them (see box left). These efforts gave special attention to previously marginalized groups such as the Punan, who have traditionally been hunters and gatherers and depend very heavily on the forests. The assessments are now serving the basis for discussions about land use planning. They are also contributing to new forestry practices and regulations that can help to protect those plant and animal species that communities value the most. For example, regulations that require concession holders to repeatedly slash all undergrowth and climbers after felling are intended to reduce aggressive .weeds. to encourage regeneration. In practice, it cuts many useful species, including rattan and timber seedlings. .This slashing may be more damaging to the forest than the harvesting itself and we are suggesting that this policy be reviewed,. said Doug.

Reducing the impact of logging on the forest

Using techniques that reduce the impact of logging on the forest allowed companies working in Bulungan to harvest 7-9 trees per hectare and still keep damage to the soil and water resources to a minimum. Controlling how trees fall and how they are taken out of the forest reduced damage to the remaining trees by up to half. This means that the logging companies probably do not need to pay for costly regeneration treatments. Lower operational costs actually outweighed the expense of training and supervision.

And the forest workers found that with the right planning they could meet the same daily volume in a shorter time than using conventional techniques. .Since several companies such as PT Inhutani II and PT Trakindo Utama were involved in the process from the start they feel completely confident about the reliability of the results,. said Machfudh, a scientist from Indonesia.s Forestry Research and Development Agency seconded to CIFOR, who was closely involved in the research.

 Forest people's dependency on forest products

Complementing the biodiversity work was sociological research among the Punan people on their attitudes to forest products. This approach has provided key insights into the way forest dwellers regard forest resources and challenged some long-held assumptions. .Most of the people do not collect forest products on their own initiative,. said Patrice Levang, a French scientist seconded to CIFOR from the Institut de Recherche pour le Développement. .Economic dependency on forest products is seldom the result of free choice; it is often the only option available to forest people to generate cash income..

There are also variations in the degree of dependence on forest products among ethnic groups and individual households. Forest products abound in isolated areas and provide much of the livelihood needs of the Punan hunter-gatherers, while downstream areas have other options available to the local Dayak swidden cultivators like agricultural and offfarm activities.

This greater understanding will allow development initiatives to match more closely the attitudes of the forest dwelling communities, and hence greatly increase the likelihood of benefiting them. Coordination and agreement in boundary negotiations Boundary negotiations in Malinau highlighted the deeply political aspects of managing the forest landscape by local communities, government and the private sector in. .

Three years of study showed that the more intense the underlying struggle, the more fluid the interests, agreements and coordination are likely to be,. said CIFOR researcher Eva Wollenberg. Any change in the status quo, such as an increase in the value of local resources or a new regional leader, immediately intensified competition for resources. Meetings among the different groups concerned, coupled with participatory mapping of community land claims, were important tools in reducing conflict. Workshops at the District level and mapping exercises in some 22 villages provided valuable lessons on the most effective approaches for the future. Mechanisms for constructive conflict management initially concentrated on using agreements to settle disputes.

However, the agreement-building processes were not necessarily fair or acceptable to all the people concerned. The researchers realized that reaching agreement alone was not as useful for coordinating boundaries as focussing on building stronger relationships, creating opportunities for fairer negotiation and identifying institutional structures for helping to manage conflict.