Regular visitors of this blog know we work closely with local communities and villages to implement sustainability practices and conserve forests. Why is this so? If Golden Agri-Resources (GAR) owns the land or is given a license by the district government to operate there, don’t we have the sole right to decide what to do with the land? Land ownership can be a grey area because often, even without official documentation, local communities can claim customary ownership to territories they live in.
Because our actions have an impact on communities, we ensure Free, Prior and Informed Consent (FPIC) from them through consultation and discussion, before commencing any development and conservation of land. In 2015, we introduced Participatory Conservation Planning (PCP), an intensive consultative approach with the local communities that takes into account their concerns, needs and aspirations including food security requirements and continued ability to earn a stable livelihood.
What does Participatory Conservation Planning involve?
PCP starts with scoping, where GAR visits the area in question for around a week, to understand more about the landscape and village(s) living in the area.
This is followed by Participatory Mapping (PM), where we help the villages map critical areas such as village and customary boundaries and land necessary for food security. This map is lodged with and formally recognised by the authorities, serving to clarify land tenure rights and often enabling villages gain access to government development funds for the first time.
Using the data from this PM, the High Carbon Stock (HCS) and High Carbon Value (HCV) maps GAR has made of the land, we then gather with the local community to identify the areas that need to be conserved according to our guidelines in the GAR Social & Environmental Policy (GSEP). This process can take a while because the areas being used for local farming may be encroaching areas that need to be conserved.
When issues like these arise, a core element of PCP involves designing Alternative Livelihood programmes that allow communities to earn an income without disturbing forests and sensitive ecosystems. Alternative Livelihood programmes currently being piloted by GAR include organic vegetable farming using spare communal land. These projects bring benefits that include improved food self-sufficiency and additional income. With help and guidance from GAR, local communities are exposed to new, sustainable ways of farming without use of chemical fertilisers and pesticides and more importantly, without the use of fire to clear land.
In cases where communities reject the idea of conservation altogether and still go ahead with clearing HCS land for their farming, GAR’s stand is not to buy from them.
Public consultation is the final stage of PCP where we present the final map that combines the areas for conservation, development and food security, and management plan to all stakeholders such as the community members, district government, universities and Non-Governmental Organisations (NGOs).
PCP: A tool to bridge differences in perception
At one of our concessions in West Kalimantan, we worked with four villages. They were initially apprehensive about conserving HCS areas and rejected our proposal because they were not aware of its importance and thought that they would not be able to further use the forest for their subsistence.
We educated the community on the significance of HCS forests and the long-term benefits of conservation. The team also showed them controlled ways to utilise the forest for their subsistence while still maintaining its integrity. This convinced the community to accept the proposal and issue village regulations to manage their forest.
This agreement was formalized at a public consultation event held from 8-10 August where community heads, representatives from the district government, universities, and local NGOs from Pontianak and Putusibau attended to understand the results.
“PCP provides valuable insight for my community to manage the environment, especially for better understanding about their rights and obligations in the village. This programme also helps to resurrect our local wisdom. To maintain sustainability in this village, we will arrange the spatial layout for the availability of land designated for the community in accordance with regulations and stakeholders agreements. It is also important to instill a cultural tradition of environmental preservation to the next generation to preserve High Carbon Stock area as the lungs of the world,” explained Village Head of Desa Baru Gusti Bulhari Djazuli.
The next steps for these villages is GAR to facilitate the launching of village regulation as a legal basis for communities to manage forests that are agreed upon by them to be protected sustainably. In the same time, these villages start to run an Alternative Livelihood programme with help from GAR, which will reduce the pressure toward their HCS forest area.
Results and achievements
To date, we have rolled out Participatory Mapping in 67 villages across 13 concessions and carried out PCP in 12 villages across West Kalimantan, securing agreement with local communities to set aside over 7,000 hectares of HCS forests for conservation.
We are using this model of community partnership to ensure the successful rehabilitation of 2,600 hectares of peat land in West Kalimantan, and halting future encroachment into peat areas through implementation of Alternative Livelihood programmes. Scaled up, this protection-production model could help ensure economic growth in tandem with forest conservation as we launch similar partnerships across our concessions.