Rimak Adat Tawang Panyai forest in Tapang Semadak subdistrict in Sanggau regency, West Kalimantan, has finally been declared a protected customary forest.
One of the key figures behind the success is activist Agustinus of Lembaga Bela Banua Talino (LBBT), an advocacy organization based in Pontianak, the capital of West Kalimantan. Since 2003, he has been routinely visiting the Dayak De’sa customary community in the subdistrict of 300 families comprising 700 people.
He provided capacity-building activities to increase people’s awareness and maintain their spirit to realize their dream of acquiring state recognition of their customary forest, which they had been pushing for since 1997.
“Their dream was strengthened by their seriousness about guarding the forest, which had been damaged as a result of encroachment,” Agustinus told The Jakarta Post on Tuesday.
Sunjang, a representative of the community, received an Environment and Forestry Ministry certificate on the customary forest status of Rimak Adat Tawang Panyai signed by Minister Siti Nurbaya Bakar in Jakarta on Aug. 16. Eight other indigenous communities received similar certificates from the government.
The status comes with various stipulations aimed at protecting the forest, as well as identifying its economic potential that could improve the welfare of locals.
During a ceremony at State Palace, President Joko “Jokowi” Widodo said the government had set a target of declaring 4.8 million hectares of customary forests by 2019. Currently, 707,000 ha of customary forests have been recognized and formally given the status, including the one in Tapang Semadak.
Agustinus said the forest had great ecotourism potential, provided its richness in tropical flora and fauna was maintained.
Thirteen NGOs grouped under the Customary Forest Coalition for the Wealth of West Kalimantan (HAK Kalbar) operating in 12 regencies in the province organized a workshop on Tuesday in Pontianak to help accelerate government recognition of customary forests.
The chairman of the coalition, Matheus Pilin, said the coalition had so far facilitated 1.6 million hectares of customary community area that included customary forests. Supervision was conducted in 411 villages in nine regencies.
“Customary communities’ constitutional rights include the right to live in, to have a good and healthy environment and the right to personal property,” Pilin said.
West Kalimantan Forestry Agency head Marius Marcellus Tj said recognition of customary forest required cooperation among different institutions.
Marcellus said one of the major problems was settlements inside forest areas. He said 698 residential areas had been detected in forest areas.
The head of the customary forest recognition and local wisdom protection sub-directorate at the ministry, Yuli Prasetyo Nugroho, said customary forests were crucial to relevant customary communities whose livelihood highly depended on the ecological capability of the area.