Course:FRST270/Wiki Projects/Bewilderment in the Harapan Rainforest of Jambi Province, Indonesia: The Struggle For Land Amongst Stakeholders

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Bewilderment in the Harapan Rainforest of Jambi Province, Indonesia: The Struggle For Land Amongst Stakeholders


The Harapan rainforest lies in South Bungku between Jambi Province and the South Sumatran border. PT REKI was given the power to manage the rainforest for conservation, biodiversity, and “non-exploitative” economic values through NTFP harvesting, tourism, and ecosystem services from the concession (Silalahi et al. 2017; Widianingsih et al. 2016). Enduring a long history of exploitation and degradation, the Batin Sembilan (BS) people have never had ownership or decision-making power over their customary forestland (Beckert et al. 2014; Kunz et al. 2016; Obidisnki & Chaudhury 2009; Silalahi et al. 2017; Widianingsih et al. 2016). However, minor statutory agreements of access and use were made in 2012 between PT REKI and the BS peoples (Beckert et al. 2014; Silalahi et al. 2017; Widianingsih et al. 2016). Interested stakeholders are PT REKI, the Ministry of Forestry, PT Asiatic Persada (PT AP), and adjacent concession holders (Beckert et al. 2014; Kunz et al. 2016; Silalahi et al. 2017; Widianingsih et al. 2016). Stakeholders affected by this land-use change consist of Indonesian transmigrants, the Batin Sembalin (BS) peoples, plantation workers, district officials, and the TSM settlement in PT AP (Beckert et al. 2014; Harrison & Swinfield 2015; Hein & Faust 2014; Kunz et al. 2016; Obidisnki & Dermawan 2010; Silalahi et al. 2017; Widianingsih et al. 2016). Though seemingly progressive, the exclusion of Batin Sembilan people from statutory property rights and decision-making power does not allow for truly inclusive or accommodative land management practices that benefit or compensate the indigenous locals appropriately. This case study will discuss the history of conflicting land in Bungku village with a focus on the impacts and outcomes of the first Ecosystem Restoration Concession (ERC) in Indonesia, given in 2008 to PT Restorasi Ekosistem Indonesia (REKI) within the available land base and respective customary jurisdiction of the BS and other local groups in Bungku village (Beckert et al. 2014).


BS – Batin Sembilan
ERC – Ecosystem Restoration License
NTFP – Non-Timber Forest Product
PT AP – PT Asiatic Persada
PT REKI – PT Restorasi Ekosistem Indonesia


Indonesia is one of the most valued countries in the world for its biodiversity, resources, and its rapidly declining forests. Placing second to oil in annual revenues, forests have had a major influence in Indonesia’s consistent economic expansion over the last thirty years (Noor & Syumanda 2006). Current sustainable yield between natural and plantation lumber production is estimated to be a maximum of 13 million cubic meters annually, with global demand from these forests rising above 60 million cubic meters per year (J. Innes, Lecture, 2017). Forests are logged until they considered ‘degraded,’ by definition of the Indonesian government, at which point they may be cleared and converted to industrial plantations (J. Innes, Lecture, 2017). Industrial-scale degradation averages at almost 0.63% a year (J. Innes, Lecture, 2017). 1.2 million hectares of degraded forest was identified from old concessions in 2004 (Noor 2002; Noor & Syumanda 2006). Nonetheless, the greatest value given to these forests is not by its investors, but by its inhabitants.

Figure 1. Map of Bungku Village, including boundaries of the village, PT REKI conservation area, and adjacent concessions held by PT AP & PT Wanakasita. Reprinted from "Contested land: An analysis of multi-layered conflicts in Jambi Province, Sumatra, Indonesia," by Beckert, B., Dittrich, C., & Adiwibowo, S, 2014, Austrian Journal of South-East Asian Studies, 7(1), 75–92. doi: 10.14764/10.ASEAS-2014.1-6

Jambi province is situated on the East coast of central Sumatra and is home to approximately 3.2 million people (Beckert et al. 2014). It has a land area of nearly 5,100,000 ha with 43% estimated to be forestland (Governor’s Decree No. 108 1999; Noor & Syumanda 2006). The estimated average of forest-dependent residents in Indonesia was between 6 and 30 million people (Sunderlin et al. 2000). As a result of historical dependence, forest communities have extensive knowledge on sustainable forest management and resource use (Noor & Syumanda 2006).

Within Jambi province is the village of Bungku. Bungku was originally established as a transmigration program for the indigenous Batin Sembilan peoples (Beckert et al. 2014). The village consisted of 32 neighbourhoods, nearly 3000 households, and a population of 10, 215 people in 2011 (Beckert et al. 2014; BPS Kabutapaten Batanghari, 2012, p 18). Livelihoods are primarily maintained through the cultivation of small-scale plantations, followed by local businesses; however, farming is currently limited by plantation concessions and the PT REKI conservation area (Steinebach & Kunz 2017). Locals often plant rubber trees to deter exploitation of customary lands by non-local stakeholders (Steinebach & Kunz 2017). Bungku was described by a local farmer as “…Not the land of 1001 nights, it is the land of 1001 problems” (Beckert et al. 2014 p. 79).

The Harapan Rainforest, known as Hutan Harapan, or “Rainforest of Hope” consists of nearly 100,000 hectares in Southern Bungku, between the Jambi and South Sumatran provinces (Beckert et al. 2014). It is located approximately twenty kilometers Southeast of Betung, ten kilometers Northeast of the South Sumatran border, and sixty kilometers Southwest of the city of Jambi (Figure 1). Hosting twenty percent of low elevation forests in Sumatra, it is considered to be a biodiversity hot spot, as well as an Endemic Bird Area by BirdLife International (Silalahi et al. 2017). Of 1350 species inhabiting the region, 133 are currently threatened globally (Silalahi et al. 2017). Historically, Hutan Harapan was intensively logged for commercial prosperity and managed extensively by locals for subsistence (Beckert et al. 2014; Hein & Faust 2014; Silalahi et al. 2017). The forest area had been fragmented into an enclosed refuge for biodiversity as a result of plantation development communities (Silalahi et al. 2017). Unless rapid institutional change could be implemented, Harapan rainforest was likely to confront the same fate as its adjacent ecological communities (Beckert et al. 2014; Silalahi et al. 2017).

PT REKI Project

Following over forty years of exploitation, the entire Harapan Rainforest area was re-assigned in 2008 and 2010 to PT REKI as the first two Ecosystem Restoration Licenses (ERCs) on Sumatra (Beckert et al. 2014; Silalahi et al. 2017). PT REKI is comprised of three NGO’s: Burung Indonesia, the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds, and BirdLife International. With the objective, “…To conserve and restore one of the few remaining tracts of lowland rainforest in Indonesia while promoting REDD simultaneously” (Hein & Faust 2014, p. 21), PT REKI acts as one of Indonesia’s first restoration-based sustainable forest management initiatives (Beckert et al. 2014).

Timeline of Land Conflicts in Jambi Province

1848: Agrarian plantations introduced by Dutch colonists (Beckert et al. 2014)
- First interested stakeholders in Jambi Province (Beckert et al. 2014)

1870’s: Agrarian Act
- The commencement of private company ownership tailored to European investment (Kunz et al. 2016).

1911: Inception of industrial plantations/crop systems (Beckert et al. 2014)
- Initially rubber for vehicle industry; later transitioned to oil palms (Beckert et al. 2014).
- Planted by local smallholders (Beckert et al. 2014).

1945: Indonesian Independence
- Forest-dependent companies converted from private to state ownership (van Gelder 2004)
- Transition of land-use towards logging and development of road systems (Martini et al. 2010)
- Redistribution of tenure arrangements to combination of Dutch tenures and customary rights (Kunz et al. 2016)
- Implemented right of ownership (hak milik) and right of cultivation of land (hak guna usaha) (Kunz et al. 2016).
Certificate provided that validated title ownership (Beckert et al. 2014).

1960’s: Suharto’s New Order regime - Customary lands converted into plantation concessions (Beckert et al. 2014).
- Neglect of previous rights (Beckert et al. 2014).
- Introduction of transmigration programs, primarily Javanese and Sumatran (Beckert et al. 2014; Colchester et al. 2011).
- President Suharto used forest resource income to fund the maintenance of power during New Order regime (Noor & Syumanda 2006).
- New Order regime resulted in 90% of Indonesian forests being designated as “state-owned” (Noor & Syumanda 2006).

1970’s: The majority of forestland in Jambi province converted into wood harvesting concessions (Colchester et al. 2011).
- PT Asiatic Persada (known as PT BDU) holds large forest concession for harvesting timber (Beckert et al. 2014).
Establishment of the Transwakarsa Mandiri (TSM) settlement, where indigenous households refused to leave the PT Asialog’s & PT Inhutani’s concessions for many years to come (Kunz et al. 2016).

1980’s: Climax of logging boom (Kunz et al. 2016).
- Legislative and social transition towards rubber (and now oil palm) plantation development (Colchester et al. 2011).
- Growth of transmigration programs, with 438 000 ha of de jure land title given to re-locators so far (Kunz et al. 2016).
- More highway and road access leads to expansion of BS settlements, followed by increased planting and tapping of rubber in adjacent areas (Beckert et al. 2014).
- Political representatives dominate private sector (Beckert et al. 2014).
Burial sites used to validate traditional customary claims to land (Beckert et al. 2014).
Regardless, expansion of state forest and industrial plantations continued to restrict access to land for indigenous uses (Beckert et al. 2014).
Intentional lack of recognition of customary land claims (Beckert et al. 2014).
- Political collaboration amongst palm oil companies, state officials, and other corporations provoked the loss of indigenous rights to the state (Beckert et al. 2014).
World Bank, who now advocates against illegal logging and development for pulp and paper, was a part of investment companies in Indonesia’s pulp and paper industry in this time period (Noor & Syumanda 2006).

1990’s: Asian financial crisis
- Privatization of oil palm plantations, and consequently deforestation, as means to an accelerating international demand for Indonesia’s natural resources (Obidzinski et al. 2014).
International Monetary Fund allowed plantation sector to expand through investment of international
Top-down implementation without recognition of local conflicts (Colchester et al. 2011).
- PT Asiatic Persada starts oil palm concession near Bungku village (Beckert et al. 2014).
No smallholdings within this concession allocated for local use (Colchester et al. 2011, p 11).
2000 families farming 4000 ha with alternating cultivation residing within the concession (Colchester et al. 2011, p 11).
No recognition of customary land rights to the area (Beckert et al. 2014).

- PT BDU named PT Asiatic Persada, followed by multiple transitions in company ownership (Beckert et al. 2014).

- Village head and local teacher prevent further harvesting in Transwakarsa Mandiri (TSM) settlement by ‘jumping scales’ (Kunz et al. 2016).
Used customary land rights and district official power to legitimize title through a haphazard system (Kunz et al. 2016).
Transmigration program title and support for school systems were utilized to affirm claims (Kunz et al. 2016).
Despite gaining temporary rights to access and use, ownership still remained in the hands of state officials because the land was still designated as state-owned (Kunz et al. 2016).

1999: Introduction of Indonesia’s Regional Autonomy Law
- Extensive decentralization (Beckert et al. 2014)
- Power given to district officials by Ministry of Forestry (National government) (Beckert et al. 2014)
- Change of institutional mandate from a national to a regional scale, providing more decision-making capabilities to district officials at the community level (Barr et al. 2006)
This had a significant impact on forest management.
Gave state officials the authority and incentive to manage far-reaching resources within new district boundaries (Barr et al. 2006)
New management plans and fees implemented (Barr et al. 2006)
Assigned large forest concessions that conflicted with protected areas and concessions at other authoritative scales (Barr et al. 2006)

2002: Recentralization
- National government reclaims jurisdiction from district government and readdresses the constitution (Beckert et al. 2014)
- New legislation acknowledges indigenous customary rights, but national authorities still supersede those rights in most cases by asserting “…the right to manage all natural resources to the benefit of the nation”. (Anderson 2013, p. 246)

- Settlement and highway development into TSM (Barr et al. 2006)

2007: End of historic logging concessions by PT Asialog & PT Inhutani (Beckert et al. 2014).
- New forest concession imposed in 2004 after pressure by NGO’s, such as BirdLife international, lobbied for a policy shift around concessions that weren’t on the extreme sides of either protection or exploitation. (Silalahi et al. 2017).

- Indonesia’s first Ecosystem Restoration License (Izin Isaha Permanfaatan Hasil Hutan Kaya, IUPHHK) granted to PT REKI (Beckert et al. 2014).

- PT REKI receives its second Ecosystem Restoration License, encompassing all of Hutan Harapan (Silalahi et al. 2017).

2013: Indonesian Constitution recognizes customary rights of local communities
- Separation of forests into customary (hutan adat) and state-owned (hutan negara) (Hein & Faust 2014)
- Indigenous land claims finally validated, providing the Batin Sembilan with a voice in the multi-faceted land debate of Jambi province (Hein & Faust 2014)
Greater resource and land access, but no decision-making power over land use (Hein & Faust 2014)
Private forestry companies, PT Asiatic Persada in particular, never acknowledged customary land rights (Beckert et al. 2014).
Ownership of PT Asiatic Persada shifted from national to international in 2013 in order to avoid liability and further restrictions imposed on the concession (Beckert et al. 2014).
December 2013: PT Asiatic Persada employs security forces that forcibly remove 150 households residing on their concession (Beckert et al. 2014).

- Conflict on PT Asiatic Persada’s concession between company security and BS peoples results in 1 dead, 5 injured (Beckert et al. 2014).
Intensification of conflicts within Bungku village

- 553 000 ha of land in Jambi managed under 14 ERC licenses (Silalahi et al. 2017).

Tenure & Administrative Arrangements

BS Peoples Vs. International Companies – The history

The Batin Sembalin group have been managing the forest near Bungku village prior to Dutch colonization around 1850 (Colchester et al. 2011; Kunz et al. 2016). Under wilayah adat, the semi-nomadic BS peoples strictly organized resource use among migratory households along major rivers in the area (Colchester et al. 2011). Land was seen as a communal good that required mutual cooperation to protect and conserve resources (Colchester et al. 2011). Drawing on customary rights and territorial tenure agreements, Wilayah adat, also known as ulayat adat, was considered the autonomous rules of the land amongst traditional land users. BS groups collectively controlled access, use, monitoring, and enforcement of their laws over the land.

After Dutch colonization, private property rights were implemented in the 1870’s through the Agrarian Act, which maintained the recognition of customary land agreements and respected the peripatetic habits of the BS peoples (Kunz et al. 2016). President Suharto introduced the “New Order regime” in 1965, separating forests into hutan adat (customary land) and hutan negara (state-owned land). With 90% of Indonesian forests being designated under hutan negara, Suharto had successfully eradicated de jure rights for local communities and BS peoples near Bungku village (Noor & Syumanda 2006). Suharto also introduced transmigration programs in this time, where Javanese and Sumatran migrants were allocated smallholdings by the state near Bungku to promote relocation to the area (Beckert et al. 2014, Colchester et al. 2011). Two hectares of de jure land were given to transmigrants after five years of habitation on the land (Kunz et al. 2016). By the 1980’s, transmigrants had been allocated more smallholdings than locals in Bungku, totalling approximately 438 000 ha of transmigrant private ownership in the area (Kunz et al. 2016). Where migrants were historically taxed for the right to utilize resources, the BS group was now being excluded from their customary territories altogether (Kunz et al. 2016). Because Indonesia’s National Land Agency was the only entity able to grant private tenure, BS could not reach higher authoritative levels to apply, nor were they likely to be accepted due to active marginalization of BS groups into a discriminated minority under the New Order regime (Beckert et al. 2014).

The New Order regime enforced statutory power over the land until between 1966 and 1998, selling off vast swathes of forest to international companies as timber, cocoa, and oil palm plantations during this period. Forest concessions were controversially issued to PT Asialog (Previously PT BDU) & PT Inhutani for logging in the 1980’s (Beckert et al. 2014, Kunz et al. 2016). Boundaries of these concessions were poorly defined and most often overlapping or wholly encompassing traditional forests of the BS group. Under private ownership, concession companies not only had the rights to access, manage, and use the purchased land, but they also possessed rights of exclusion. This often led to controversies between local peoples and international companies who refused to recognize or accommodate traditional rights of access (Barr et al. 2006).

In 1992, PT Asialog developed their forest concession as an oil palm plantation on land that housed over four thousand BS households near Bungku village, resulting in the forceful eviction of the traditional residents, the destruction of their homes, and the burning of their planted crops (Barr et al. 2006; Beckert et al. 2014; Kunz et al. 2016). However, many indigenous families returned to the land, establishing the Transwakarsa Mandiri (TSM) settlement within the concession area (Beckert et al. 2014; Kunz et al. 2016). Though logging was halted by the government in 2007 (Beckert et al. 2014), the TSM was treated as open access by locals until the imposition of the PT REKI restoration project in 2010 (Galudra et al. 2013).

The illegitimate claiming of state property tenures became prominent throughout concession areas, as well as the Harapan Rainforest in the 1990’s. Traditional land claims were further legitimized by ‘scale-jumping’ of Bungku’s village leader and a schoolteacher in 1995, which successfully halted harvesting operations on a small portion of PT Asialog’s concession in 1997 (Kunz et al. 2016). Scale jumping is described by Kunz et al. (2016) as a stakeholder creating an illusion of authoritative power or state ownership, usually at a greater level than could previously be actualized, through disorderly land formalization processes. As a result of weak governance and poor communication across scales, the village leader convinced both PT Asialog and the Ministry of Forestry that they had received an official permit to convert an area of the concession to a plantation. This non-existent permit empowered the village head to redistribute smallholdings in the TSM settlement back to the BS peoples (Kunz et al. 2016). Unfortunately, illicit land claims returned to the people were often traded amongst the communities, becoming superimposed on one another and conflicting with state-owned forest or private concessions (Beckert et al. 2014). Relationships were further impacted when landowners discovered that their title was not recognized by the state and could not be officially alienated (Galudra et al. 2013; Kunz et al. 2016).

Between 1999 and 2002, statutory power was distributed from the Ministry of Forestry to district officials as means of enhancing decision-making capacity at the community level (Barr et al. 2006). In an attempt to regain power that was lost in the New Order regime, many district officials took advantage of their new authority by implementing new fees, concessions, and resource-extraction operations over previously allocated land, further exacerbating land conflicts (Barr et al. 2006; Beckert et al. 2014). Though decentralization intensified the struggle for tenure security, local authorities facilitated the recognition of indigenous peoples’ traditional right of title (Beckert et al. 2014). This opened a policy window for the BS to validate their customary rights over the land and forest resources that the New Order regime previously restricted them from (Barr et al. 2006). In 2002, the national government reclaimed jurisdiction from district government and readdressed the constitution (Beckert et al. 2014), allowing national authorities to overrule those rights in most cases by asserting “…the right to manage all natural resources to the benefit of the nation”. (Anderson 2013, p. 246). Though hutan adat rights were recognized once again during recentralization in 2002, institutional formalization did not occur until 2013 (Beckert et al. 2014).

The customary rights of the BS peoples over their traditional land were ignored and superseded by private ownership for nearly 50 years. Where BS peoples once retained de jure title, traditional rights to land went unrecognized until 2002 (Steinebach & Kunz 2017). BS peoples have not had statutory land tenure security since 1965, only customary land rights via hak ulayat and tanah adat (Beckert et al. 2014). Presently, the residual traditional land of the BS peoples are either surrounded by or fully overlapping with freehold tenure of migrant communities, industrial concessions, and PT REKI’s ERC (Beckert et al. 2014). Over 100 conflicting tenure arrangements issued or acquired illicitly at multiple institutional scales, resulting in multiple groups occupying one space (Kunz et al. 2016). Though transmigrants and BS peoples contest land as well, the primary controversies are between local groups and privatized companies with private ownership of previously traditional land (Steinebach & Kunz 2017).

In 2014, administrative territory covered 77 000 ha, primarily consisting of natural resource concessions (Beckert et al. 2014). The four dominant tenures in the area are PT REKI concession, PT Wanakasita Nusantara/PT Agronusa Alam Sejahtera (PT WN/AAS) logging concession, PT Asiatic Persada (PT AP) oil palm concession, and nearly sixteen thousand hectares of forest reserve in Bungku Village, called Taman Hutan Raya (THR). PT WN/AAS will not be discussed in this study. International freeholders outside of Indonesia presently control 60% of the plantation industry (Beckert et al. 2014). Currently, PT AP’s freehold palm oil plantations reside on nearly 45 000 hectares of land in the Northeast side of Bungku Village, consisting of about thirty households living within the concession and hundreds more living nearby (Kunz et al. 2016). Where logging tenures were issued for thirty years, plantation concessions were intended to give private ownership to the companies for an indeterminate period of time (Colchester et al. 2011). PT AP, along with other adjacent concessions, retains the full bundle of rights as private owners of the land (rights to access, use, manage, exclude, bequeath, sell, and be compensated upon termination of their concessions) (Colchester et al. 2011; J. Bulkana, Lecture Notes, 2017). To enforce these rights, most concessions hire security to monitor the area and prevent access or use of forest resources (Beckert et al. 2014).

PT REKI was given the first ecosystem restoration license (ERC) in 2008 and a second in 2010 (Beckert et al. 2014). Licenses allocated freehold tenure for terms of sixty years, with the possibility to reapply after thirty-five years (Silalahi et al. 2017). One must be of Indonesian descent to apply for an ERC, though international NGO’s are actively involved as third parties despite the inability to hold a license independently (Silalahi et al. 2017). By 2016, 553 000 ha of land was being managed under fourteen ERC licenses (Silalahi et al. 2017). Together, the transmigration program and creation of the Harapan Rainforest appropriated a majority of the customary land held by the BS peoples (Beckert et al. 2014). Limited conservation agreements have been arranged between PT REKI and adjacent Batin Sembilan communities, allowing rights of access, management, and regulated use of non-timber forest products (NTFP’s) within the conservation area (Hein & Faust 2014).

Affected Stakeholders

“Any person, group of persons or entity that is or is likely to be subject to the effects of the activities in a locally important or customarily-claimed forest area” (J. Bulkanb, Lecture 4, September 13, 2017).

Stakeholder Primary Relevant Objectives Relative Power

- Ecological restoration
- Wildlife rehabilitation
- Protect and enhance biodiversity
- Positive community cohabitation

State Officials (Ex. Ministry of Forestry, National Land Agency) - Sustainable development

- Economic prosperity

PT Asiatic Persada - Economic prosperity & development

- Maintain rights to land
- Exclude illegal operations

Moderate - High
WN/AAS (& Adjacent Concession Holders) - Economic prosperity & development

- Maintain rights to land
- Exclude illegal operations

Moderate - High

Table 1. Outline of the affected stakeholders involved in the PT REKI project, including their power and objectives.

Batin Sembilan
- Originally translocated, but original settlers in the area (Beckert et al. 2014).
- Nomadic hunter-gatherer history (Barr et al. 2006)
- Land was considered communal except ownership over particular trees (Beckert et al. 2014).
- Vulnerable to land transformation due to heavy reliance on forest resources (Barr et al. 2006).
- Forest-dependent citizens (BS) played strong role in regional trade and barter systems (Beckert et al. 2014).
- Forest products have maintained an important role in indigenous livelihood (Beckert et al. 2014).
Trade for sandal wood, rattan, resins, natural dyes, and even gold (Beckert et al. 2014).
Traded as far as India, Arab World, and China (Locher-Scholten, 2003).

- Primarily Javanese and Sumatran (Beckert et al. 2014).
- Majority to BS peoples in regards to current population size (Beckert et al. 2014).
- Both transmigrants and BS have extensive history of forest management (Steinebach & Kunz 2017).

Interested Outside Stakeholders

“Any person, group of persons, or entity that has shown an interest, or is known to have an interest, in the activities in a forest area” (J. Bulkanb, Lecture 4, September 13, 2017).

Stakeholder Primary Relevant Objectives Relative Power
Batin Sembalin (BS) - Regain and legitimize customary land rights to access/use of livelihood resources on adjacent land Low
TSM Settlers - Regain and legitimize customary land rights to access/use of livelihood resources on adjacent land Low - Moderate
Transmigrants - Gain/maintain land rights to livelihood resources Low
Plantation Workers - Maintain income source and job security Low
District Officials - Sustainable development

- Economic prosperity

Moderate - High

Table 2. Outline of the interested stakeholders involved in the PT REKI project, including their power and objectives.


Aims and Intentions

Benefits of restoration include habitat quality, ecosystem services for communities, biodiversity, and economic return on investment over time. The intent of PT REKI and other ERC’s was to reverse degradation by restoring production forests to healthy state while also encouraging local socioeconomic benefits of resource use (Silalahi et al. 2017). PT REKI was the first chance for smallholders to achieve balanced goals of restoration, conservation, and livelihood. The concession enabled managers to achieve restorative goals while also generating income through low-impact resource extraction, eco-tourism, and ecosystem services (Silalahi et al. 2017; Widianingsih et al. 2016). Secondary goals of community development were achieved through conservation agreements between Bungku community and PT REKI, allowing access to land for regulated extraction of NTFP’s (Hein & Faust 2014).


By managing the land as an international NGO with a focus for the biodiversity in Jambi province, PT REKI is one of the first companies to manage Indonesian land without the intent to exploit it (Beckert et al. 2014). Restricting ERC issuance to Indonesians promotes affected stakeholders to take part in forest conservation, though this doesn’t mean that there is no international influence (Silalahi et al. 2017). NGOs are still engaged as third party beneficiaries that influence practices of ERCs despite the inability to hold independent ownership (Silalahi et al. 2017). Moreover, international NGOs offer greater accommodation of indigenous rights than private companies, exemplifying improvement to the historic tenure system. In fact, BS groups are currently receiving the highest level of recognition and accommodation of usufruct rights since Dutch colonialism. Unfortunately due to the lack of consistency in land-use, ever-evolving conflicts of ownership within the Harapan Rainforest and other concessions may cause alterations to current institutions as they emerge.

Critical Issues

The Debate of Indigeneity

Transmigration into Bungku village drastically changed its social structure throughout the 1900’s (Beckert et al. 2014). By the time state recognition of the BS group’s ancestral rights was reintroduced during decentralization in 1999, in-migrated culture had been fully integrated into BS society. The merging of migrant and BS culture through intercultural relationships confounded the definition of indigenous identity and reduced self-determination of BS peoples (Beckert et al. 2014; Steinebach & Kunz 2017). Difficulty proving historic land title is only increasing as time separates further from the origin of title given (Beckert et al. 2014; Steinebach & Kunz 2017). Moreover, as population increases occur, the land pressures and consequent conflicts intensify (Beckert et al. 2014). BS peoples have been given the right of self-determination without the means of systematically deciphering specified cultural groups and their rights to differentiated territories around Bungku village (Barr et al. 2006; Beckert et al. 2014). Exacerbated controversy has ensued as the state has attempted to segregate the peoples while failing to organize and record the segregated groups (Steinebach & Kunz 2017).

Local Forest Dependence in PT REKI's ERC

Degraded to a non-productive state, forestlands near Bungku require time to reach a healthy threshold once more. The extensive degradation in Hutan Harapan and lack of available resources for every community member creates a need for restorative measures before sustainable use can occur once more (Silalahi et al. 2017). The Indonesian government has taken the most direct means to this end by implementing conservation areas to restrict exploitation, hence allowing the forest to be restored naturally through succession (Hein & Faust 2014). However, local communities have a heavy reliance on proximal forest products for subsistence and economic prosperity (Beckert et al. 2014). Therefore, complete restriction from land access is insufficient for the survival of adjacent villages. PT REKI has acted to balance this conundrum by providing regulated access and use rights within Hutan Harapan; however, the efficacy of current arrangements for the livelihoods of locals is questionable. A study by Widianingsih et al. (2016) shows that less than 30% of a household’s total income could be acquired from the forest, resulting in a need for alternative income sources. The study reflects that current use agreements are not sufficient in the enhancement of local wellbeing (Widianingsih et al. 2016).

Arena of Land Conflicts

Forestland surrounding Bungku village is long contested (Beckert et al. 2014). As globalization progressed in the 1960’s, international demand for local resources in Jambi exacerbated conflicts regarding claims to land, human rights, and environmental degradation (Beckert et al. 2014). A history of alternating power scales and incentives resulted in overlapping property boundaries dictated by authoritative acts of volition for self-gain (Kunz et al. 2016). In history, Batin Sembalin people required consultation before practices occurred on their land, though Suharto’s New Order regime allowed private companies to jump scale to a higher authority and receive certification by state officials to gain private ownership over customary lands (Beckert et al. 2014). Logging could begin on a site when it was considered to have reached “ecosystem equilibrium”, though no definition of what characterizes this state and therefore there was no specified measure to rely upon, opening up a door for exploitation from multiple scales of authority (Silalahi et al. 2017). Overlapping land claims accelerated conflicts on the ground with an everlasting debate of who had original ownership against who owned the current legal title to the land (Silalahi et al. 2017). As a result, only 45% of de jure land certificates have been recognized as of 2016, the majority of which are not mapped (Kunz et al. 2016). Presently, some land is unclaimed due to outdated concessions that are being held for ERC allocation, which provides an opportunity for exploitation by outside actors (Silalahi et al. 2017).

Enforcement & Implementation

The apperception of land rights at different scales negates its ability of reaching a directed goal at the local level (Kunz et al. 2016). Simultaneous yet contradictory institutional regimes and power asymmetries created the “conflict arena” in Bungku village by providing multiple scales of authority with the power to distribute land title (Beckert et al. 2014). Soon after PT AP began to expand their concession area in 1997, local authorities gained greater control over permitting of lands (Beckert et al. 2014). Collaborating with the TSM settlement, district officials created their own tenure system by formalizing an informal settlement through production forest certification within another concession (Kunz et al. 2016). Scale jumping of district officials to higher levels in order to achieve local level community development objectives was temporarily effective at regaining lost land title to BS groups; however, when legal title owners wished to use the land, conflicts often ensued (Kunz et al. 2016). Despite how concessions were divided at the state level, local level conflicts were an inevitable result if overlap occurred. Private companies, such as PT AP, hired their own security to enforce their rights to title against local peoples in certain circumstances, enabling violent and forceful tactics of imposing these rights (Colchester et al. 2011). Tension amplified in 2014 when PT AP security forces shot and killed one man, injuring four others (Beckert et al. 2014).

The high tension built within longstanding conflicts for land predisposed BS groups, such as the TSM settlers, to resist further loss of their land by the creation of Hutan Harapan by PT REKI in 2008. Approximately two thousand hectares of land is claimed by the TSM settlers within the Harapan Rainforest, authorized by district officials (Hein & Faust 2014). The BS group jumped scales using historic laws, such as adat law that has returned rights of recognition of BS customary land (Hein & Faust 2014). Agreements were made in 2012 to allow TSM residence rather than evict them from the land, though PT REKI has created allegations against the settlers for breaking these agreements, reiterating that the conservation group owns legal title and ultimate decision-making power (Hein et al. 2016; Hein & Faust 2014). Poor monitoring of the area results in a lack of evidence to validate claims. Furthermore, each party blames the other for practices occurring that violate the agreements without justification or evidence to support the accusations (Hein et al. 2016). Despite a willingness to cooperate with TSM settlers, PT REKI is not investing in sufficient or appropriate measures of implementation to ensure that consultation and resultant accommodation is sufficient to meeting mutual goals of the two actors. Furthermore, enforcement has proven inadequate in effectively implementing these agreements with appropriate monitoring and conflict resolution strategies.

Assessment of Relative Power

The state owns de facto rights to change and enforce laws over the majority of the land in Jambi province (Beckert et al. 2014). Despite this, the establishment of contradictory property rights regimes at all scales of authority across overlapping boundaries, coupled with a lack of enforcement to ensure legislation was implemented on the ground, led to widespread violations of national law and abundant losses of customary land for traditional peoples (Hein & Faust 2014; Kunz et al. 2016; Steinebach & Kunz 2017). Land access was historically legitimized at the village scale, but was not recognized at the national scale, with no formal conflict resolution measures in place for contested land (Barr et al. 2006; Beckert et al. 2014; Hein et al. 2016; Kunz et al. 2016; Steinebach & Kunz 2017). Overlapping land claims were abundant due to repeated institutional changes over a century (Barr et al. 2006; Beckert et al. 2014; Kunz et al. 2016). New tenure arrangements liquidated traditional rights, resulting in over 100 conflicts recorded in the area. (Beckert et al. 2014). Until 2013, the state had not recognized customary adat land rights, instead favouring the international private stakeholders in land claims and conflicts (Hein & Faust 2014).

Local actors often took matters into their own hands; temporarily settling or using forests until the state, with state ownership and decision-making power, would assert power over the land the land under new designations (Colchester et al. 2011; Kunz et al. 2016). Moreover, district officials often undermined state authority in order to meet personal or local objectives, distributing conflicting concessions to private companies and smallholdings to the locals (Kunz et al. 2016). Though legally given minimal authoritative power, scale jumping enabled local government to make decisions on the ground where possible (Kunz et al. 2016). Though this often facilitated better livelihoods on a temporary basis, state officials would eventually overcome these rights to the detriment of all parties previously associated with the land (Kunz et al. 2016). Private companies could also jump scales, using monetary incentives to create favourable conditions in legislation while also hiring their own security to enforce established property rights at the local level (Beckert et al. 2014; Kunz et al. 2016). Despite the inability of international organizations to purchase ERC’s, PT REKI exemplifies how an international NGO, such as BirdLife International, can influence decision-making in ERC’s as indirect beneficiaries (Beckert et al. 2014; Hein et al. 2016). NGO’s can therefore acquire greater power through indirect influence than local groups in Jambi province (Hein et al. 2016). With the longest history of land use, the Batin Sembalin peoples have the least power to guide decision-making in their customary lands (Colchester et al. 2011; Beckert et al. 2014). Regardless, BS peoples have managed to gain rights to access and use through collaboration and scale jumping to portray greater power than legally allowed (Hein et al. 2016; Kunz et al. 2016). This was exemplified through… a) the TSM settlement, where BS peoples and migrants coalesced to demand claims to traditional land, and b) the schoolteacher and village leader who used the flaws of the concession system to temporarily acquire private land ownership of a section in the PT AP concession and in Hutan Harapan (Hein & Faust 2014; Kunz et al. 2016). Many transmigrants retained private ownership of smallholdings given to them upon relocation in the late 1900’s, though many who received controversial land parcels or did not receive land at all are still suffering from a lack of ancestral rights to land in any one place (Beckert et al. 2014).

Since the creation of the concession, PT REKI enforcement has been consistently inadequate in reducing access by outsider actors who have illicitly converted over 17 000 hectares of land into crop lands (Widianingsih et al. 2016). PT REKI seeks cooperation, but not collaboration, resulting in an inherent dominance in power authority over traditional peoples throughout negotiations (Colchester et al. 2011; Widianingsih et al. 2016). Because the primary objectives are directed towards restoration and biodiversity, PT REKI treats the households on its concession as a constraint rather than an opportunity to empower customary traditions (Hein & Faust 2014). With the private property rights to exclude others, PT REKI is within their authority to evict the squatting households, though refuse to use forceful measures to do so (Hein et al. 2016). Regardless, they do not express a positive or trusting attitude towards the occupants of their conservation area, which further inhibits their ability to resolve conflicts after breaches of the agreement have occurred (Hein & Faust 2014). The TSM settlers, who have never received compensation after losing their land, are also stubborn in reaching solutions, further amplifying controversy on the land (Hein et al. 2016). PT REKI is a necessary step to rehabilitating Jambi forests to a manageable state, but is being withheld by a long withstanding history of conflicts and land claims that have inhibited the acceptance of BS ancestral rights, further prolonging the ability of PT REKI to manage the land with local peoples rather than against them (Beckert et al. 2014).



Fostering healthy relationships with the community is essential to achieving management objectives in an area so heavily depended upon for livelihood (Silalahi et al. 2017). Instead of using authority, PT REKI should seek to collaborate rather than cooperate with the TSM settlement. Collaboration could take on many forms, but starts with genuine consultation and accommodation of livelihood needs. Options surrounding co-management initiatives between PT REKI and TSM settlement should be explored.

Despite what land title dictates, a lack of support in land decisions by local actors is likely to cause conflicts due to ancestral claims (Beckert et al. 2014). How this conflict is managed determines the relationship of the non-local land users. Sound enforcement and monitoring of the land is necessary to ensure property rights are successfully implemented and regulations are appropriately followed (Beckert et al. 2014). An additional presence of non-threatening collaborators residing on the same land as the TSM settlement could foster more trustworthy relationships, while also acting to enforce and monitor PT REKI’s agreement. This may require external auditing to certify appropriate practices and reduce corruption at all scales (J. Palmer, Lecture, 2017). In order to ensure management implementation is successful, all agreements should be standardized among a third, impartial party and agreed upon by all stakeholders. To further validate this, physical documentation, including maps of delineated boundaries, that is understandable and agreed upon by all parties should be incorporated to give agreements legal standing (Barr et al. 2006).

For State Officials

State officials should give greater recognition for the diversity of indigeneity in the area and generally accept all whom self-identify as indigenous to be indigenous. Excessive segregation and marginalization will only further exacerbate conflicts amongst other parties, such as PT AP (Steinebach & Kunz 2017). Cultures are intermixed such that any local community member relying upon the forest should be included as a whole rather than isolating and providing treatment, which proven to be overcomplicated. Furthermore, there is a dire need to resolve conflicting claims to land. Unraveling the locally historic rights to land, past uses, and current reliance for contested areas is a highly tedious but necessary solution to mitigating the excessive land conflicts existing around Bungku village.

It is recommended that the Indonesian government create a means of reducing the dichotomy between state law and local implementation. Enforcement and monitoring of institutions on the ground is suggested to mitigate illegal practices or the unlawful residence on state or privately owned land. Furthermore, impartial auditing of enforcement should be implemented to reassure that all scales of management are acting ethically.

Mutuality is the final and most important recommendation. The numerous actors involved in Bungku village should be given the opportunity to meet and discuss practices occurring on the ground. Without communication and mutual agreement on decisions occurring at the local level, state laws are meaningless. This includes the organization and agreement of physical tenure boundaries at all scales, mapped and signed by all stakeholders in the area once agreed (Barr et al. 2006). Open affiliations and discussions regarding respective power objectives can produce more democratic and inclusive decision-making among stakeholders (Beckert et al. 2014)

For The Local Community

Collaboration of all stakeholders is essential. Therefore, the local communities should also actively seek to participate in land use planning when given the opportunity. Given historic conflicts, removing bias in future agreements may be incredibly difficult; however, the presence, cooperation, and input of indigenous peoples is imperative to regaining customary rights to their traditional territory. In order to enhance the power of the BS group, it is suggested that collaboration amongst themselves and with higher levels of authority be fostered. Networking and organizing mutual interests into a collective effort to empower the voice of marginalized actors is one of the most effective means to regain ancestral rights. This can also increase the recognition of international NGO’s that may further enhance the resources and power of local peoples if interest is given (Beckert et al. 2014).


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This conservation resource was created by Course:FRST270.

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