They don\'t Want to be Separated from their Ancestors
The determination of customary forests has filled the thirst amidst the dryness of justice for indigenous people.
The determination of customary forests has filled the thirst amidst the dryness of justice for indigenous people. Threats and violence are faced so that they are closer to their ancestors and become increasingly attached to culture.
Iber Djamal, 77, a Dayak Ngaju figure from Pilang village, Pulang Pisau regency, Central Kalimantan, is now starting to breathe a sigh of relief. What he has been fighting for since 25 years ago began to materialize, even though slowly.
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Since clearing the land for a food megaproject in 1995, known as the peatland clearing project, he has repeatedly faced dangers, such as threats and forms of violence. At that time his land and that belonging to thousands of other farmers were taken over for the project.
"We have said many times, don\'t take our forests. These are peat forests and it will be dangerous if they are cleared, but no one has heard," said Iber at Pulang Pisau, Sunday (10/1/2021).
We have said many times, don\'t take our forests.
At that time, he and hundreds of farmers in Pulang Pisau repeatedly rejected the plan. We even went to Jakarta to attend various coordination meetings up to announcing the declaration of the indigenous people. However, this did not affect the government\'s desire to convert forests into rice fields.
"After that [peatland clearing] what happened was only fire, haze disaster. It was us who were also risking our lives to extinguish the peat fires that could take place for days or even months,” he said.
The struggle of Iber and his friends continues. They no longer reject the food barn project, but are fighting for the establishment of customary communities and customary forests in their villages.
After years of fighting for their living space, their struggle began to get encouraging results in 2019 with the issuance of a decree of the Regent of Pulang Pisau regarding the recognition of indigenous people.
Fortunately, it was quickly legalized because the area [customary forest] borders with oil palm plantations and orangutan release sites
That year, the Environment and Forestry Minister issued a decree determining their customary forests.
Yuliana Nona, a community facilitator who at that time joined USAID Lestari, said the customary forests were called Pulau Barasak, which is located in an area with the status for other uses.
This land status prompted the issuance of the decree. This is unlike areas with forest area status, which require prior recognition of regional regulations as required by the law. "Fortunately, it was quickly legalized because the area [customary forest] borders with oil palm plantations and orangutan release sites," she said.
Also read: Customary Forests Proven to be More Sustainable
Pulau Barasak Customary Forest, which is only 102 hectares with a protection function, is the only customary forest in Central Kalimantan through a social forestry scheme. Thus far, in the social forestry scheme, based on data from the Forestry Office of Central Kalimantan Province, there are 151 permits with a total area of 205,381.95 ha.
Nationally, according to data from the Environment and Forestry Ministry, 75 decrees for 75 customary people with 39,371 families have been determined for an area of 56,903 ha in 15 provinces. Moreover, 1.1 million ha of area in 19 provinces have been delineated as customary forests. This means that the area can no longer be allocated for other uses and requires the support of the governor for the settlement of local customary community regulations.
However, not all indigenous people in Central Kalimantan are "as lucky" as Iber. The chairman of the Laman Kinipan Indigenous Community in Lamandau, Effendi Buhing, was once arrested for fighting for customary forests.
He was accused of being the mastermind behind the theft of heavy equipment and threatening palm oil company employees. Currently, he is still a suspect in the Central Kalimantan Police. "Our goal is for the future, for our children and grandchildren, so that they know the forests that we enjoyed in the past, but all have now been replaced by plantations," he said.
Also read: Maintaining Forest “Dispensary”
What was feared by Effendi and the community who rejected forest clearing happened. The flood came. Those who were born and raised in the village answered uniformly, there was never a flood before the forest was cleared.
Since 2016, Effendi together with the Customary Territory Registration Agency (BRWA) has mapped their customary forest areas that have been guarded for generations. Of the 16,000 ha being mapped, now nearly 3,000 ha have disappeared, replaced by oil palm plantations. The local government also still denies by saying there are no customary forests in Lamandau.
In fact, the Central Kalimantan National Indigenous People Alliance (AMAN) through BRWA has made at least 12 participatory maps in Central Kalimantan for years, including in Lamandau, covering an area of 119,777.76 ha.
The acting chairman of the Central Kalimantan AMAN’s Daily Executive Agency, Ferdi Kurnianto, admitted the difficulty of his institution in helping the community to get government recognition. Even, for the mapping of the area, they had to share with the residents. "There are those who collect money voluntarily, even rice, salt, side dishes, and so on. This is a form of struggle that they want to be recognized," he said.
The head of the Forestry Division of the Social Service Office of the Central Kalimantan Province, Ihtisan, said that so far his party had been trying to encourage regency/city governments to work harder and seriously pay attention to the social forestry, including customary forests. However, the majority of them do not understand their rules and regulations.
There are those who collect money voluntarily, even rice, salt, side dishes, and so on. This is a form of struggle that they want to be recognized.
In Central Kalimantan, we see that although Iber Djamal comes from Dayak Ngaju and Effendi Buhing from Dayak Tomun who have different traditions and languages, they have one understanding of customary forests. Forests are an ancestral heritage that is the source of their identity and life.
Customary forests make them and their future generations closer to their ancestors and not forget about culture.
This article was translated by Hyginus Hardoyo.