World Rainforest Movement

Indonesia: Sources of livelihood threatened by REDD+, mining and oil palm projects

The Dayak have inhabited the forest in Kalimantan for a long time before the current State of Indonesia was established. Their adat (custom) has ensured the integrity of the environment and the forest until imposed commercial exploitation started to devastate, damage and encroach on their customary land. Since then, they denounced that decades of destructive projects imposed either directly or indirectly by the Government have progressively disempowered and impoverished the Dayak through the uncontrolled and often illegally issuing of permits and/or concessions through corruption. As the YayasanPetakDanum (YPD) network has pointed out, of the 15.1 million hectares of the total area in central Kalimantan at least 83% (12.5 million hectares) will be converted or destroyed through either monoculture plantations of oil palm, industrial tree plantations for pulp production, or mining permits (1).

Last week, a group of 10 Dayak tribal elders from five villages in Central Kalimantan have presented their case to the Forestry Ministry, the House of Representatives and the National Land Agency in Jakarta. They have warned that expanding oil palm plantations, mining concessions and also REDD projects are threatening to wipe out the traditional way of life of the Dayak tribes of Kalimantan (2).

There is also the case of projects considered outside meddling. “There’s no need for any outside intervention to get the tribes to protect their forests,” said April Perlindungan, from the PetakDanum Foundation, which advocates forest conservation through indigenous methods and is supporting the Dayak in their cause. “They don’t need to be taught how to grow rubber trees or fish sustainably — that’s already their way of life. We just need to let them do as they’ve always done.” He cited the case of forest rehabilitation efforts in the wake of the Mega Rice Project, a scheme carried out in 1996 which clear-cut a million hectares of centuries-old peat forest in Kalimantan for rice paddies. “You had people coming in trying to block up the canals dug to drain the peat swamps, but they never succeeded because they never consulted with the locals,” he said. “On their own initiative, though, the locals reforested the land, dug ditches to re-divert the water back into the swamps, and built fish ponds that doubled as reservoirs. They’ve always known how to protect the forest.”

Also alleged forest conservation projects have been denounced by the Dayak leaders, like the Kalimantan Forests and Climate Partnership (KFCP) REDD+ scheme under the Indonesia-Australia Forest Carbon Partnership (IAFCP) founded in 2008. In February 2011, in a letter to the Australian Delegation visiting Central Kalimantan, the YPD network stressed some issues based on their monitoring of the KFCP activities in the districts of Mantangai and Timpah. YPD denounced the “bias reporting of the KFCP project progress” as long as “KFCP field staffs are paid on a performance-based basis and hence the incentive to engage in distorted positive reporting is high. We fear the effectiveness of the KFCP as a REDD+ pilot project will be compromised from the lack of accurate and reliable information to draw lessons from and to learn from, which should be the primary goal of a pilot project.”

They have also challenged the role of international NGOs engaged in theREDD+ project, like Borneo Orang Utan Survival (BOS), which YPD says “has had complete disrespect for the Dayak’s rights to the remaining forests which they have claimed as conservation area for orangutan rehabilitation, without consultation with local communities.” The Dayak community expressed their lack of confidence “that the NGOs have the skills or the relevant experience to carry out environmental restoration or any other project activities in the area, beyond being paid personnel of the project.”

So far the KFCP project has not provided any assurance that the basic rights including those of natural resource management of the Dayak for the 120,000 hectares within the project area will be guaranteed. That is why the Dayak motto is “No rights, No KFCP”.

In their letter to the Australian delegation, YPD highlights that the network has been “supporting communities in 12 villages in the subdistrict of Mantangai through our Community-based Peatland Use Program in accordance with our traditional wisdom. The Plan is designed to reduce poverty and to restore the peatland. We have collected a lot of information from our program and we have a lot of experience in peatland management in response to the destructive mega-rice project” of 1996, referred above.

And it concludes warning that public funds from Australia will not only be at risk of being wasted in an ineffective emission reduction project, but Australia will be at risk of being blamed for causing, among other evils, “the loss of livelihood of an estimated 15,000 people in the 14 villages included in the KFCP project – specifically our rights to access natural resources in the peatland and peat forests which have been our traditional sources of livelihood.”

Article based on information from: (1) Letter of the community leaders in the YayasanPetakDanum (YPD) network to the Australian Delegation to Central Kalimantan February 2011,; (2) “Indonesia: Plantations, Mining and REDD a Threat to Dayak Indigenous Peoples,” Fidelis E. Satriastanti, October 25, 2011,, sent by Tom Goldtooth, Indigenous Environmental Network (IEN) ,, e-mail