Originally posted at CIFOR’s Forests News

When Indonesian President Joko Widodo took office in 2014, he made a commitment to strengthen the rights of local communities over land and forest resources. Indonesia’s Ministry of Environment and Forestry has since announced that 12.7 million hectares of forestland will be transferred to local communities by 2019.

This is an ambitious target that requires a coordinated approach to map lands managed and used by indigenous communities across the archipelago. So what needs to happen to make this vision a reality?

Two of the experts at the heart of this process are Wiratno, Director of Social Forestry and Environmental Partnerships, Ministry of Environment and Forestry, and Abdon Nababan, Secretary General, Indigenous Peoples Alliance of the Archipelago (AMAN), both speakers at this year’s Global Landscapes Forum. They shared their thoughts in a panel discussion at a Colloquium on Land and Forest Tenure Reform in Indonesia, convened by the Center for International Forestry Research (CIFOR).

Here are some of their quotes from the discussion. Watch the full discussion here

Indigenous Peoples’ rights and land tenure: Fostering partnerships to tackle climate change, Saturday, 5 December, 15.30 (Wiratno)

Pixel perfection for carbon detection: How technologies and communities can curb global emissions from land-use change, Sunday, 6 December, 11.30 (Nababan)

Closing Plenary: The way forward, Sunday, 6 December, 18.15 (watch live webcast) (Nababan)


12.7 million hectares is a huge allocation but it is a political decision. We’re preparing the proposed map, including areas under production forest, protection forest and adat (customary community) areas. Abdon Nababan: First, we (should) understand that indigenous rights is a constitutional human right in Indonesia. The challenge for us now is that for the past 50 years, we haven’t had the administration or the operational procedures to register that right. We have to start from zero in terms of the administration system and also the institutional arrangements. The indigenous peoples movement is committed to help the government achieve the transfer of 12.7 million ha of land.

Abdon Nababan:

Mapping is an integral part of Indonesia's policy to transfer land to local communities. Mokhammad Edliadi/CIFOR
Mapping is an integral part of Indonesia’s policy to transfer land to local communities. Mokhammad Edliadi/CIFOR

For us in AMAN, it is not difficult to produce a map clearly from the field. We have already mapped almost 10 million hectares of indigenous territory. We started mapping 15 years ago. We just need a place to put this map, and (authorities) who will verify the data. That’s all. And if there is a conflict over claims, let’s work together to find out the way. If the government asks help from the indigenous peoples, mapping 12.7 million hectares is not too heavy to achieve. We are optimistic we will get there by 2019. What we need now is not only political will from the President but Presidential leadership to reform the bureaucracy.


We are revising the social forestry regulation, involving a series of dialogues with civil society organizations, and also across Echelon One (Directorates General) in the Ministry of Environment and Forestry. This is a new culture and it’s very important that from the beginning, we are having open dialogues.

Bureaucratic reforms take time but it is not impossible. We will put in place a Presidential Decree that establishes proposed areas for social forestry. The decree will include several ministries, as well as governors and district heads, who will all be mandated to support the national agenda. One challenge is working with local governments to implement social forestry schemes and facilitate the transfer of land. But many provinces, such as West Sumatra, South Sulawesi and Nusa Tenggara are already showing their interest. They’re eager to work with the new policy and to implement this policy for their people.


AMAN’s new strategy is moving away from confrontation to engagement – to share power and to share a vision. We have that now with Nawa Cita and commitments from the President. But to make it work, we need to work together. That’s why we’re proposing to set up a Presidential Task Force as an instrument for the President to lead the process. Our strategy will be to work with the Presidential Office to put this rights issue into the core of the political process.

Ahead of Global Landscapes Forum: Experts discuss community rights to resources in Indonesia

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