Academic journal article Journal of Sustainable Development

Local Struggle for Accessing State Forest Property in a Montane Forest Village in Java, Indonesia

Academic journal article Journal of Sustainable Development

Local Struggle for Accessing State Forest Property in a Montane Forest Village in Java, Indonesia

Article excerpt

Abstract

How local people can access state forests has become a central issue in forest resource management in Indonesia in recent years. This is because for most of the 'modern history' of forest management in the country, the forest resources have been at the monopoly of the state. In fact, there have been an increasing number of local people' struggles for obtaining meaningful and legal access to the state forest resources in the country. In response to these, the forest administration has implemented a community forestry program. This paper aims to observe the transformation the people's access to the forests, whether the community forestry program improve the access to the state forest resources. Employing the theory of access provided by Ribot and Peluso (2003), which defines access as the ability to benefit from a resource either legal or illegal, this paper finds that the community forestry program actually reduces the people's access to the forests.

Keywords: access, local people, state forest, community forestry

1. Introduction

How local people can access the state forests has become a central issue in forest resource management in Indonesia in recent years. This is because for most of the modern history of forest management in the country, the forest resources have been at the monopoly of the state, prohibiting local people to use and access the resources (Peluso, 1992; Barr et al., 2006). Nonetheless, access to the forests by local people is not uncommon, albeit the illegal label from the state agencies. In fact, there has been an increasing number of spontaneous and organized local people struggles for obtaining meaningful and legal access to the state forest resources over the past decade (see Adi et al., 2004; Wulan et al., 2004; Nomura, 2008; Peluso, 2011).

This paper analyzes how the local people of Benowo, a village at the top of Menoreh Hills in Central Java, Indonesia, pursued legal access to the state forestland administered by the state forest enterprise of Perhutani (Note 1). The state forest in the village is under the management of Kedu Selatan (Purworejo) Forest District. In response to the people's interests, the forest office offered a community forestry program of Pengelolaan Hutan Bersama Masyarakat (PHBM). The program was nationally launched in 2001 as a generic model for the whole state forests in Java. It aims to integrate socio-economic community development in forest management system from which they can obtain economics benefits for improving the welfare and quality of life. PHBM defines rights and responsibilities of each parties regarding how the state forests managed and used. More importantly, the program defines the degree to which the people and their group are allowed to access the forests. This paper particularly aims to observe the transformation of the people's access to the forests. What does the community forestry mean for the local people? Does it improve access to the state forest resources?

To answer the questions, this paper borrows Ribot and Peluso's theory of access (2003), which distinguishes access as "a bundle of power", from property as "a bundle of rights". Ribot and Peluso (2003) expand the theories of property rights (for instance of MacPherson, 1978) which only involve a bundle of decision rights involving a resource. Ribot and Peluso (2003) argue that the theory of property rights generally focus on the 'rights' - socially acknowledged by law, custom, or convention-, to use and to benefit from a resource, as well as to exclude others to do the same. They nonetheless note that the lack of control over the property often leads a situation where those do not possess the property rights can still enjoy the resource (a similar view held by Stebek, 2011).

Therefore, Ribot and Peluso (2003) see the importance to add the notion of power of access, which is they define as the ability to benefit from a resource, either legal or illegal. …

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