Thanks for writing – I’ve reached out to Willie and his team to get some reflections and answers to your questions, which you can find in bold below.
On behalf of the DeforestAction Team
Dear DeforestAction team,
I have been following DeforestAction and your work in West Kalimantan with interest over the last weeks and months. I applaud the work that you are doing to bring international attention to forest conservation and saving the orangutan. As you may know, the Borneo Project works in the same region, working to ensure that community rights are at the forefront of conservation efforts. I also have a strong personal connected to the region; I lived in West Kalimantan for 6 years, mostly upriver from Sintang, in the Putussibau area.
While I am excited about your work engaging youth and spreading the word about deforestation, I wasn’t able to find the answers to my questions about community engagement and land rights on your website and in your materials. Could you please provide me with the answers to the following questions?
1) My understanding is that people are purchasing a long-term lease of the land in Borneo (initially for 44 years, but up to 99 years). Is this correct? Who is the legal land owner during this time?
We have almost finished setting up the legal Indonesian entity that will put in the formal application: Yayasan Penyelamatan Indonesia. Part of the land will be a special lease in the form of a legal HTR status. This means we work directly with the local people together for the management of that land. For this there already was a meeting between the Bupati, our representatives in Sintang and the local village heads and tradtional leaders in the Sintang Lestari area. The Dayak from Tempunak are offering us land as well to please also develop activities with them. We are considering this.
2) As I am sure you are aware, the Indonesian government has a legal land title program for traditional land owners (adat rights), but that these legal land rights are very hard for communities to access. While I understand that the land being used for DeforestAction is government owned, are you aware of any community-level conflicts over the land, and has there been any attempt to deal directly with the community over land rights issues? Have there been efforts to engage with local villagers beyond speaking to their village head and government representatives?
The land of the government is presently being pursued by a large business conglomerate. Their track record is not good. We want to show a real example. We have started the environmental impact assessment (AMDAL in Indonesian) and will do those consultations as legal part of this process. There is a lot of illegal stuff going on there. We intend to provide the local people with an ecovillage with sustainable and much better living. Details will follow in the coming weeks when our teams come back with more field data.
3) Many indigenous and local people in the Sintang area are traditionally swidden agriculturalists. While I understand that swidden agriculture can be unsustainable– especially with so much land gone for palm oil plantations or degraded past usability– this is their traditional way of making a livelihood. While I understand that Willie Smit’s reforestation plan include the planting of sugar palm for local livelihoods, has there been any consideration of people who would prefer not to take on a new form of livelihood?
So far everybody seems completely in support. If during the consultations as legal part of the AMDAL such questions arise we will seek local input for what way to move forward under such condition.
4) Finally, I was very interested in hearing the Willie Smit’s talk about the possibility of using carbon trading to help pay for land for DeforestAction. Could you tell me some more about plans to involve this area in the global carbon market?
Sugar palms especially are the most carbon positive option I have ever come across as land use system. I was part of the preparations for LEI and carbon issues for the Indonesian government. The Dutch government has just done an independent study on my sugar palm work and the carbon potential and we hope that this will be presented in August through Ecofys.
Thank you for your information. You can contact me over email or phone (contact information below).
Good luck with your work,
Director, The Borneo Project