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Only seven districts have acknowledged customary forest

Jakarta, Ekuatorial – Despite supported by Constitutional Court, there were only seven districts have acknowledged customary forests through their regional regulation, said activists in Jakarta, on Thursday (2/10).

The 2012 Constitutional Court, popularly known as MK35, had granted judicial review by activists to scratch the word ‘state’ in the customary forest definition. Activists argued that customary forests cannot be categorized as state forests because they hold traditions for indigenous people living in the areas for many generations even before the country exists.

However, Ministry of Forestry issued a regulation stating that customary forests can only be inaugurated through Regional Regulation and District Head Letter identifying that indigenous people have lived in the areas for many years.

The seven districts, — Pidie, West Aceh, Tanah Datar, Pasaman, Morowali, Lebak, and North Luwu –, were already acknowledged before MK35 but activists have refer them as the basis for customary forests.

Zulfikar Arma of West Aceh said that Aceh government had issued several regulations on customary forests acknowledgment. “Qanun on customary institution in 2008, Qanun on Pidie indigenous people acknowledgment in 2011, Qanun on indigenous people acknowledgment in Aceh in 2010, and Qanun on custom performances,” said Arma.

“Indigenous people in Aceh have already its own complete structure for natural resources management, starting from monitoring, extracting, etc. Local government is trying to encourage for better forest management,” he said.

Another example, Banten government had issued regional regulation on Badui tribe back in 2001. In addition, the government also issued District Head Letter on Kasepuhan (traditional Sundanese community) in Lebak, in 2010. However, only 17 out of 41 Kasepuhan has been inventoried as they were still having problems with mapping the areas.

Jaro, an indigenous people of Lebak, said that they have yet to finalize mapping out borders of customary forests. “The government just wanted to see the results while we have no sufficient tools and knowledge to make the participative maps,” he said adding five out of 17 Kasepuhan managed to map out their borders and in the process to obtain recognition from local government.

Basri Ali, an official of the North Luwu District, said that customary forest acknowledgment needs to include maps so that it will be clear on the boundaries. “These mappings need to involve lots of stakeholders because I am worried that when indigenous people propose their maps, the government would not be able to recognize it as the maps are not in accordance with the method or standard measurement,” he said.

Meanwhile, Sandoro Purba of the Association for Community and Ecologically-based Law Reform (HuMa) said that the maps were not the main issue for the customary forest acknowledgment as there were no nomenclature for customary forest in the National map yet. “It is why, they should instead revise regional regulations or district head letters which stipulated maps,” said Purba. Januar Hakam.

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