PhD Defence Hunggul Nugroho

engaging with adat people in sustainable forest management

Hunggul Nugroho is a PhD student in the department of Natural Resources (NRS). His supervisor is prof.dr. A.K. Skidmore from the faculty of Geo-Information Science and Earth Observation.

Issues related to deforestation, land degradation, and disharmony between stakeholders, have formed an ongoing theme in many international forest-related workshops, scientific journals and publications for more than three decades. This interest is motivated by significant global deforestation and its effect on government revenue, environmental degradation, and the livelihood opportunities of forest-dependent people (Boafo, 2013; UNEP, 2011, 2012). Empirical data across countries show that a main cause of forest destruction and conflict among stakeholders is weak governance, which is characterized by limited transparency, accountability, and participation (Carothers & Brechenmacher, 2014; Drazkiewicz et al., 2015; Rodríguez Bolívar et al., 2015).

Although concerns related to weak forest governance did receive attention in various international forums, there is still limited knowledge about the effect on deforestation, degradation, and livelihoods at local levels, as well as how to address this issue to attain sustainable forest management (Blaser, 2010). The issues have been more problematic when they correlate with ownership issues, territory, and the basic right of indigenous community. For many indigenous peoples, the forest plays essential roles in ensuring their cultural, spiritual and economic well being (Kawharu, 2011).

The Indonesian term ADAT means ‘custom’ or ‘tradition’ (Henley & Davidson, 2007). It is used to describe complex customary systems, including rights to land and resources, a wide range of traditional rules, social rule, customs, conventions, principles, moral concept and beliefs (Affandi, 2016; Royer et al., 2015; Rye & Kurniawan, 2017; Tyson, 2010). The term ADAT carries connotations of serene order and consensus (Henley et al., 2007). Yet, interpretation of ADAT may vary within villages and between ethnic groups according to a wide variety of ADAT laws regulating access to land and resources (Royer et al., 2015; Tyson, 2010). The Indigenous Peoples Alliance of the Archipelago (AMAN) defines masyarakat ADAT as a group of people from the same ancestral lineages who inhabit a certain geographical area and have a distinctive set of ideological, economic, political, cultural and social systems and values, as well as a territory (AMAN, 2012).

Engaging with ADAT people in Sustainable Forest Management is not a simple process. The process of decentralization of forest management have failed to engage indigenous peoples and local communities in a meaningful way (Gooda, 2010; Nick, 2014). On the other side, there were numerous criticisms attacking overly exaggerated pictures of indigenous people (Grumblies, 2013; Muur, 2015). These critics related to a premise that indigenous peoples have changed in line with changes in economic and environmental conditions.  The increase population and culture diversity in the region, contact with external people with different values and attitudes, increasing the necessities of life, and the need for cash might change the behavior towards nature of the indigenous people (Anthias, 2017; Huntington et al., 2004; Kothari, 2007; Luz et al., 2015; Muur, 2015).

In fact, most of the ADAT community territories are located within forest areas. According to AMAN (Aliansi Masyarakat ADAT Nusantara/Indigenous Peoples’ Alliance of the Archipelago), 90 percent of at least 84 million ha of ADAT communities’ territories are forest (Zakaria, 2017), which is, without special measures, potentially lead to claim contestation, conflict among stakeholder and forest destruction.  Thus, practical approach are essential if sustainable forest management is to be achieved, considering the appropriate institution, mechanism and tools to design and implement the strategy.

Based on our study, there are two interrelated factors as a prerequisite of good quality forest-based spatial planning for achieving sustainable forest management considering ADAT rights : 1) Availability of an appropriate institution to formulate forest-based spatial planning law based on various resource, needs, and knowledge of multi stakeholders, and 2) Availability of appropriate mechanisms and tools to formulate sustainable forest management technologies based on comprehensive and accurate data and information.

By employing appropriate mechanism and tools in formulating SFM policy, the need to secure basic ADAT rights in balance with the need to attain sustainable forest management can be accommodated and tested transparently and scientifically. Our study proved that the use of mixed methods, a combination of image interpretation, spatial analysis, modeling, and thorough analysis of socio-economic and culture of how ADAT people manage their land, was able to develop better justification as a basis of policy development.

By using the area production model (APM), ILWIS-based Decision Support System, we were able to analyze the effect of improved farming systems, policy intervention and law enforcement on traditional land-use expansion and deforestation. Based on our examination of a 20-year period of traditional land-use activities in ADAT forests, the evidence indicated that the steeper the slope of the land and the farther the distance from the village, the lower the rate of deforestation. We reached the conclusion that ADAT people manage their forest sustainably. Since shifting cultivation has been part of ADAT culture for many generations, the solution is not to force them to convert to permanent agricultural systems. Rather, ensuring the security of land rights and assisting in the improvement of their shifting cultivation while moving toward more productive systems, with longer fallows, and providing better farming inputs and technology to maintain soil fertility.

Our study found that customary law, regulating traditional land-use, played an important role in controlling deforestation and land degradation. We conclude that the integration of land reallocation (tenure security), improved farming practices and enforcement of customary law are effective measures to improve traditional land productivity while avoiding deforestation and land degradation.

Using case study, we develop an approach in verification process of “de facto” recognition of ADAT rights over forest by assessing substantial evidences to support the existing legal formal evidence. Substantial evidence was analyzed to examine the capacity, capabilities and awareness of indigenous peoples to manage their territory sustainably using a combination of two methods: 1) analysis of map conformity as instrument of traditional knowledge assessment, and 2) analysis of historical land-use pattern as an instrument of ADAT law implementation assessment.

This approach was designed to ensure that the transfer of control rights over forest to certain group of people is not merely as a form of rights recognition, political persuasion, but also an attempt to ensure that the ADAT forest will remains sustainably for the benefit of ADAT community and the environment. 

We were able to depict the de facto condition of ADAT people.  Ancestral norms, beliefs and traditional wisdoms in general are owned and applied by ADAT people living around the GLPF. Nonetheless, increasing the necessities of life, better accessibility, and socio-culture assimilation changed the behavior towards nature of the ADAT people. Notwithstanding the social importance of customary land rights, our findings indicate that the critique of environmentalists regarding ADAT people might be justified.

Practical and systematic solutions to engage with ADAT people are essential if sustainable forest management is to be achieved, considering the appropriate institution, mechanism and tools to design and implement the strategy of sustainable forest management.  The use of a scientific approach to determine who to be engage and how the forest should be managed becomes a must to ensure accountability of the policies taken.   Long term engagement with ADAT people must be planned and implemented systematically to attain sustainable benefits of ADAT forest management. Formal law enforcement and revitalization of ADAT law are essential measures to be conducted in line with efforts to enhance the community welfare. Effective engagement underpins a commitment to re-arranging the relationships between government and ADAT people involving capacity and trust building and promoting dialogue.  In the early step, there must be substantial evidence, logic and reasonable evidences resulted from adequate and well-controlled investigation, instead of merely based on legal formal evidences as a basis of handover of rights over forest.  

Engagement in forest governance suggests interactions between a government and local communities (Holmes, 2011).  In the context of engaging with ADAT people, this interaction is intended to builds trust and relationship between government and ADAT people. The closing the gap clearinghouse,  a Councils of Australian Government  (COAG) initiative, summarized that  effective engagement requires a relationship built on trust and integrity: it is a sustained relationship between groups of people working towards shared goals; on the spectrum of engagement, a high level of participation works (Hunt, 2013).

Hence, the legitimation of the people to engage is the most essential factor.

Engaging with people who are not legitimate ADAT or are but have little interest or capacity to manage forests may well result in not achieving SFM goals and lead to long-term conflicts in the future.

Certain numbers of determinant factors must be overcome.  In this thesis, we emphasize on 2 determinant factors of the engagement process: (1) confirmation of the legitimate status of the ADAT people concerned, and (2) the financial and technical capacity of these people.

Legitimation refers to whether the “indigenous” people we concerned about are really the people who deserve the rights of control over forest as being regulated by formal regulation.  There are two issues to be considered.  The first issue is the genuineness of the “indigenous people” and the second issue concerns the loss of indigenous purity  (Anthias, 2017; Huntington et al., 2004; Kothari, 2007; Luz et al., 2015; Muur, 2015). 

At least, we noticed three constraints and challenges in developing long term and good engagement with ADAT people. The first, relates to potential conflict due to the strict use of indigenous people terms in the recognition of ADAT forests, the second is the existence of regulations requiring local regulations and customary forest maps to support the recognition process, and the third are factors related to the actual condition of the ADAT people: ADAT purity abrasion (Anthias, 2017; Huntington et al., 2004; Klenke, 2013; Kothari, 2007; Luz et al., 2015; Muur, 2015), the weak institutional capacity (Chino & DeBruyn, 2006; Escott et al., 2015; Tinus et al., 2014; Yunitasari, 2009), distrust and skepticism of ADAT people toward the state (Adji, 2016; Bond et al., 2012; Human Rights Council 2014; Mongabay, 2015), and economic pragmatism tendency (Fleming, 2015; Murniati et al., 2006; Nugroho et al., 2017; Wahyuni, 2011). 

Engaging with peopleis the basic condition to achieve the goals of SFM and avoid long-term conflicts in the future.    A partial or sectoral formality approach with limited participation of ADAT people as well as “non-indigenous” people, will not work to foster long terms engagement. There must be substantial evidences, logic and reasonable evidences resulted from the adequate and well-controlled investigation, instead of on formality evidences, before the rights of control over land is transferred to the targeted people. The big concern must be addressed on: 1) detail verification of two aspects of the representativeness prerequisite on indigenous people: status legitimation and the capacity of the indigenous people, 2) anticipation of potential conflict as excesses of the strict use of indigenous people terms and the unilaterally claim of territory, and 3) supervision, assistance, building of institutional, technical, and financial capacity of ADAT people to manage and utilize their ADAT forest sustainably, and promoting continuous dialogs to maintain the established commitments.

We suggest that various parties, especially the government and ADAT people, should take an active role in developing collective actions to ensure that the ADAT forest will be managed sustainably. The right of permanent sovereignty over natural resources should be an instrument of the alleviation of poverty, physical and cultural survival, and ADAT law-based social and economic development.  ADAT law must be revitalized and empowered in accordance with formal state regulation enforcement.