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Research Report

OUR FOREST, OUR DECISION: A survey of principles for local decision-making in Malinau

Eva Wollenberg
Godwin Limberg
Ramses Iwan
Rita Rahmawati
Moira Moeliono
Copyright Date: Jan. 1, 2006
Pages: 84
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Table of Contents

  1. (pp. 1-5)

    How do the people of Malinau, Indonesia believe decisions should be made about their forests?

    This small book is designed to show how local governance can be developed to better reflect local needs and interests. Local people in Malinau share their ideas about the principles by which forests should be governed. The principles reflect the views of local communities, government officials and non-governmental organisations (NGOs) living and working in Malinau.

    The principles are not necessarily rules or laws. They are simply what people value. They show what people in Malinau think should be done.

    Not everyone agrees though. That is...

  2. What people said

    • (pp. 9-13)

      As the quotes above indicate, the remoteness and distance of many villages affects how well people from them are represented in meetings with other villages, companies or government. Villagers shared their frustration that often they could not participate in decisions or get as much information as they would like. Ideally they would like meetings to be held in their own village, where more people can participate, including women. Where this is not possible, a delegation (utusan) is assigned.

      Villagers said that they generally wanted their village head or customary head to represent them, but that these leaders should first consult...

    • (pp. 15-23)

      Villagers’ rights to land and natural resources are legally unclear in Malinau, as they are in most forest areas in Indonesia. Yet opportunities to receive significant income from natural resources have made it more important than ever before to have clear rights if conflict is to be avoided. Villagers in Malinau want to clarify and formalise their land and forest rights, especially those related to village boundaries. Since 1999, the need to demarcate village areas has increased as villagers started negotiating with companies for timber benefits and could receive compensation for mining or timber harvested on their land.

      Boundary agreements...

    • (pp. 25-27)

      Fifty-nine per cent of the villagers interviewed said that they had already designated, or were in the process of designating, areas to specific land uses in their village. These included areas for ladang, reserved forest (hutan simpanan or hutan cadangan to be used for swidden agriculture³ in the future), protected forest (hutan lindung), and perennial gardens or agroforestry plots (kebun). Some villages also designated production forest (hutan produksi) or conversion areas for plantation development.

      The village head, customary leader and entire community should be involved in the designation of land areas in the village, according to more than half of...

    • (pp. 29-35)

      Villagers and government officials were clear that forests need to be regulated.

      Villagers said that they wanted to regulate 11 aspects of forests (Figure 15). Their answers showed a concern for the resources in forests that were most valuable to them (water, timber, gaharu, fruit, game, forest products, and agricultural fields), protecting them from threats like theft or fire, and managing them for the future (boundaries, timber harvesting, protected forest, forest).

      The five aspects most frequently mentioned by villagers were:

      Forest boundaries


      Theft of timber or other forest products

      Timber harvesting


      According to villagers, until now, the most...

    • (pp. 37-42)

      Since reforms beginning in 1999, villages in Malinau have had increasing opportunities to negotiate agreements directly with companies interested in harvesting their timber. These opportunities have sometimes included significant benefits for both villages and officials.

      Yet the nature of the negotiations, agreements and their enforcement have varied tremendously among villages. Some villages earned thousands of dollars, while others sold rights to their forest for a pittance or watched companies flagrantly violate agreements about the area and location of harvesting.

      More recently and controversially, oil palm companies have approached communities in Malinau with an interest in converting village forest into plantations....

    • (pp. 43-46)

      Most people’s interest in agreements with companies has been in how the cash profits will be shared (Figure 22).

      Most villagers thought that profits should go directly to themselves, or secondarily to the village treasury. There were mixed opinions about the village treasury, however. One villager said that the community did not want the funds to go to the village treasury, even though that was what their village leader proposed. He implied a concern that the funds would then disappear from there and never reach the general public (Masyarakat tidak mau ada pembagian untuk kas desa. Pengurus desa usul ada...

    • (pp. 47-52)

      New types of income from forests and the resulting negotiations with companies and other villages have led to new types of conflict in Malinau. Most of these conflicts have been over:

      Violations by timber companies of their agreements with villages

      Location of village boundaries

      How forest should be used.

      As a result, people in Malinau are interested in finding acceptable and effective ways of handling conflict among different groups. As different contexts of conflict require different approaches and the participation of different groups, we report separately on the three types of conflict described above.

      Conflicts between villages and timber companies...

    • (pp. 53-57)

      Long distances, weak transportation and poor communication infrastructure make sharing information in Malinau costly and time consuming. More than one village leader noted that he heard about an invitation to a meeting, but either had not received the invitation yet or could not afford to travel to the meeting.

      There was also a perception that the government chose to share information about its programmes with only a few people, ‘Until now only certain people receive information’ (Sampai sekarang, hanya orang tertentu [mendapat informasi]), according to a Phemdal staff member. As government forest programmes can generate income for some and impose...

  3. (pp. 59-64)

    People in Malinau have many ideas about how decisions should be made about forests. The richness of ideas reported here provides a variety of options for further reflection. Many of the principles address areas of forest governance for which no clear regulations and precedents exist.

    The summaries in each section highlight officials’ and villagers’ specific views for particular contexts. We have tried to show where these two groups agree and disagree to better understand the perspectives of each group.

    Here we review the broader trends in the survey results. We examine where villagers and officials agreed and disagreed, where they...