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Research Report

‘Wild Logging’:: The Rise and Fall of Logging Networks and Biodiversity Conservation Projects on Sumatra’s Rainforest Frontier

John F. McCarthy
Copyright Date: Oct. 1, 2000
Pages: 29
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Table of Contents

  1. (pp. 1-2)

    In response to the rapid loss of Indonesia’s tropical rainforests, international NGOs and foreign donor agencies have embarked on ambitious projects to decrease the rate of environmental destruction and encourage more sustainable management of rainforest ecosystems. Despite the large sums of money invested so far, at best these projects have had very mixed results. One of the most significant problems has been the extensive illegal logging networks operating at the district level.

    During 1999–2000, the illegal and unregulated logging of Indonesia’s forests became the focus of critical attention (Keating 2000).¹ An Indonesia-UK Tropical Forest Management Programme report (ITFMP 1999)...

  2. (pp. 2-5)

    Drawing on studies in several developing nations, Migdal’s (1988) work on State and society helps outline the logic determining patterns of power and interest operating at the district level. On the one hand, according to Migdal, district officials attempting to implement State policy face considerable disincentives, for a thoroughgoing implementation of State policy would involve changing the rules of the game at the local level, thereby endangering entrenched local interests which receive disproportionate benefits from the existing order. For instance, a local official attempting to implement laws such as those prohibiting illegal logging in State forest would stir up vehement...

  3. (pp. 5-11)

    The origins of logging in Menggamat can be found in the interest of certain parties in the large rents to be extracted from the timber-rich tropical rainforest. During the 1990s, under Indonesian law, timber interests could legally extract timber from native forests through two principal channels, each connected to a different level of authority. First, logging companies could obtain 20 year logging concessions or HPH (Hak Pengusaha Hutan) to selectively log production forests. The central government allocated long-term logging leases over the production forest areas of South Aceh during the 1970s and 1980s, many of which remained in operation during...

  4. (pp. 11-17)

    Over the last decade several NGOs have experimented with using local customary institutions as a basis for conserving natural resources. Their interventions broadly reflected what is internationally known as community-based conservation (CBC) or community-based forest management, an approach that resonated with the emphasis on community participation and sustainable development within development literature (Barber 1996: 3; Chambers 1983; Wells et al. 1992). As distinct from protectionist strategies that advocate the segregation of people from nature on the one hand, and production-orientated resource utilisation on the other, the CBC philosophy has advocated the coexistence of people and nature. As such, CBC has...

  5. (pp. 17-18)

    In Indonesia, foreign donors have supported ambitious projects that aim to encourage more sustainable management of endangered tropical rainforest ecosystems. Despite the large sums of money invested so far, at best these projects have met with very mixed results (Wells et al. 1999).69 Yet it is perhaps of little surprise that they have experienced considerable difficulties. State policy-makers wishing to enforce laws or implement policy in distant provinces face complex situations that bedevil the straightforward implementation of neat project designs and strategic plans. One of the most significant problems these interventions has faced has been district-level networks of power and...

  6. (pp. 18-20)

    Finally, I wish to consider the important implications of this particular case for conservation interventions more generally. Through considering the obstacles that proved insurmountable to outside intervention in this case, I wish to make some tentative suggestions regarding the conditions that will support project interventions.

    The community-based conservation intervention discussed here attempted to accommodate community interests and concerns. In contrast with State-centred approaches, it recognised the need to work with the actors who ultimately define forest outcomes. Beginning with consultation and community dialogue at the village level, this approach attempted to build upon adat arrangements that mediated community interests. However,...