World Rainforest Movement

Indonesia: Changes and Challenges of the Community-Based Forest Management Movement

The Indonesian NGO movement has been supporting CBFM start since 1995. The main message of the start-up phase was that most of the CBFM models that developed in a sustainable way were based on community wisdom, culture and custom.

The culture and customs of forest communities in Indonesia are influenced by the outside environment, including technology, public regulations and trends in global culture. Globalisation and development speed up the influence of the global culture on customary communities, which are usually found in the remote areas. These new cultural influences are usually more materialistic and individualistic than existing community culture and customs. The CBFM model, which used to be managed with a spirit of communality (both in communal or private land), has been changing towards individualism, from eco-ritualism to the money-orientation. The social, cultural and customary values of land and forest are slowly but surely changing towards commercialisation.

The change towards individualism and materialism is seen in the increasing conflicts over land, forest and other resources among community members. The conflict happens because the rapid changes are affecting the culture of land allocation and management.

Not all communities have changed as described above, but I believe that sooner or later, all community groups (including indigenous and customary communities) will change in this direction.

What should NGOs supporting CBFM do?

When we are aware about this situation, then the question is what should we do? Should we stay promoting the old CBFM model, do we have to find the new model, or, should we go back to the conventional model (the state-based systems of land management)?

In my opinion, I would like to say that we have to promote the CBFM model with some improvements. There are three reasons for that opinion, which are: First, the governance system in Indonesia is not well-managed; and state-based forest management therefore cannot be implemented properly. If the government tries again to force the state-based model of forest management on communities, then there will be more and more conflict in natural resources management between communities, the government and the private sector. Also, we will have more and more corruption, collusion and nepotism in the forestry sector, which in the end will speed up the destruction of the forests. Second, local communities inside or adjacent to forests have a history binding them to that area, making them more responsible in sustaining the forests. Third, local communities have indigenous knowledge which can be a basis for achieving sustainable forest management.

Therefore, the CBFM movement in Indonesia must continue to face a lot of challenges. The supporters of the CBFM movement must be aware about the trends of cultural change in rural communities to avoid wrong assumptions and inappropriate actions.

In facing the challenges in CBFM development, we found some obstacles, which are:

1. The weakness of local institutions (especially lack of conflict resolution mechanisms and enforcement systems)

Based on our experiences, it is difficult for local community institutions to adapt to the new changes and opportunities. There are a lot of community groups who cannot deal with the new changes. That raises a lot of internal conflicts which remain unsolved. Also we found a lot of weakness in the enforcement system. Very often community groups ask the government to solve their conflicts, while the government also has little or no capacity in conflict resolution.

2. The limit of technology and methodology on CBFM

Most of the forest management practices in Indonesia are based on big-scale operations and investment. The CBFM model is based on small-scale and small-investment approaches. Most of the technology and methodology of forest management available in Indonesia only suits big scale operations which imply road building and heavy equipment, and produce big-volumes of wood, and so on.

Based on our experiences of a community sawmill, we had to order most of the equipment from overseas, at great expense. Also, in small-scale forest management it is often difficult to find technical solutions to problems such as how to define the annual allowable cut, rotation, enrichments, etc. Most available experts are familiar with the big-scale pattern but not with small-scale community forestry. We found similar experiences in rattan resources management and processing. In summary, we do not have appropriate technology and methodologies for supporting CBFM in Indonesia, where communities want to produce for a wider market.

3. Lack of Supporting Systems

A support system is needed to help communities with access to market information, capacity building, technical assistance services, credit facilities and development of supporting regulation. To enable the success of CBFM, we have to re-arrange the public services system in Indonesia to meet those needs, and develop the skills to support small scale, community-based forest management.

By Ade Cahyat , Director in East Kalimantan Foundation for Supporting CBFM (SHK Kaltim), e-mail: