Sudewi2000’s Weblog

October 1, 2008

MORE THAN MERE ECONOMICS

Version: 18 December 2006

Translation by Ben Dowson
Final edit by Swary Utami Dewi

Sentarum National Park, West Kalimantan (by RIAK BUMI)

Sentarum National Park, West Kalimantan (by RIAK BUMI)

Despite sustaining extensive damage, Kalimantan’s forests are still considered a very important global resource, owing to their great biodiversity. Various kinds of animals and plants live and thrive within these forests. Certain fauna that are classified as endangered, such as the orangutan, hornbill and proboscis monkey, can still be found there. The same is true of flora such as the black orchid and ulin, a type of hardwood.
However, within the last decades, the forest’s wealth has been entirely obliterated. Non-timber forest products have been overlooked. Multistakeholder Forestry Program (MFP) stakeholders in Kalimantan have taken steps to develop the economies of the local communities based on the exploitation of non-timber forest products. Some have begun to prosper, while others are still fighting for survival. However, one important lesson has been learnt. The strengthening of local economies has opened the door to other issues such as gender, and community bargaining strength. This paper discusses what has happened in Kalimantan.

Forest-reliant communities
CIFOR uses the term “non-timber forest products” to refer to any product or service, other than timber, produced by the forest. This international research foundation gives a number of examples on its website, including fruit, nuts, vegetables, fish, medicinal plants and rattan. Other parties such as the Public Forest System Support Consortium (Konsorsium Pendukung Sistem Hutan Kerakyatan) offer more or less the same definition. The latter also cites ecotourism and forest services (such as carbon provision) as falling within the non-timber forest product category, provided that these are used for forest-dwelling communities and do not lead to inappropriate exploitation of the forest.

Harvesting Honey, Sentarum National Park (by RIAK BUMI)

Harvesting Honey, Sentarum National Park (by RIAK BUMI)

Many residents of Kalimantan rely on the forest as a place that supports many facets of their lives. An example of this is their centuries-old reliance on non-timber forest products. Many forest-reliant communities supplement their cropping and plantation activities with fishing, hunting and gathering products such as rattan, honey and rubber.

So long having managed by the community
Forest-dwelling communities generally manage and exploit non-timber forest produce in accordance with their own subsistence needs. An example of this is found in the communities dwelling in Lake Sentarum National Park in West Kalimantan, who use the fish in the lake as a source of daily protein. Another community, the Dayaks of the South Kalimantan’s Meratus range, grow vegetables in their fields. Furthermore, various kinds of forest produce have important cultural and ritual significance for the community. Rattan, for example, is customarily used as a wedding dowry (mas kawin) in the Katingan district of Central Kalimantan. Certain medicinal plants and honey are also used as for health purposes.

Some communities also trade these non-timber forest products to supplement their incomes. Rattan in Central Kalimantan, for example, is already enshrined as part of the local culture and has been traded since at least the 19th century. According to CIFOR, more than 50,000 farmers depend on it for their livelihoods. Honey and beeswax around Lake Sentarum has also been traded within the national park, which is located in the northern part of West Kalimantan, since the 1800s. Palm sugar in Kutai National Park, East Kalimantan, has been the mainstay in the lives of many families for generations. The same goes for damar resin, rubber and cinnamon in the Meratus range, and eaglewood in East Kalimantan.

Why non-timber forest products?
To raise awareness of the importance of non-timber products for forest-dwelling communities, the MFP in Kalimantan chose to focus on developing small-scale community-based businesses centred on these products, with the aim of alleviating poverty levels in the province, primarily within these communities themselves.Support from the joint program between the British government and the Ministry of Forestry was provided to stakeholders in four provinces. Most partners are private community foundations. A small proportion is drawn from groups or organisations that are active in non-timber resource production. The remainder are conservation organization, government institution and research institute. By the time the program ended in December 2006, at least 12 active partners were still working to encourage the development of businesses among forest-dwelling communities.

A Dayak Woman, Katingan, Central Kalimantan (by Yusuf of PENA INDONESIA)

A Dayak Woman, Katingan, Central Kalimantan (by Yusuf of PENA INDONESIA)

Various sources explain that, although possess outstanding riches, the island’s forests do not generate much revenue for the local people. In the case of East Kalimantan, for example, which contributes about one quarter of national income from timber, 12% of its citizens are classified as ‘poor’. CIFOR has written that forest-dwelling communities account for one of the largest groups of poor people in Indonesia. Through this community empowerment program, many people hope that their situation can improve.

The choice to develop non-timber forest resources was made by MFP partners in Kalimantan not without reasons. It was influenced by at least three factors. Firstly, as mentioned above, forest-dwelling communities have relied on these resources for generations, as a means of survival and a means of income, as well as for other reasons. Rattan, honey, rubber and eaglewood are the most oft-quoted example, having been farmed since the 19th century. Managing and exploiting non-timber resources are nothing new to them.

Secondly, the non-timber forest resource businesses are, in the opinion of Ros-Tonen and Wiersum (2003), as well as many others, more environmentally friendly. The focus of Indonesian industry on timber for several decades has resulted in the annihilation of millions of hectares of tropical rainforest. When a forest is plundered, it is not only the wood that is removed; other resources are also destroyed. If this is allowed to continue, Kalimantan’s forests, like other Indonesian forests, will suffer the same fate, with their timber and non-timber resources both on the threshold of annihilation. Focusing on non-timber products simultaneously preserves these two resources.

Lastly, because it does not damage the trees and keeps the ecosystem intact, focusing on non-timber products represents a more sustainable approach. This is borne out by the fact that many of these products have been commercially exploited for decades.

A useful source of income
Non-timber resource exploitation in Kalimantan represents not only a viable income source for the local community, but if correctly managed, can actually lead to an increase in income. This is borne out by experiences in many places where MFP partners are active. Sanusi, 47, a palm sugar farmer from the Mamiri Palm Sugar Group (Kelompok Gula Aren Mamiri), based in Sangkima Lama village in Kutai National Park, explained that his family income from the sale of palm sugar has improved since support was provided by Binakelola Lingkungan (Bikal), a local NGO that works in East Kalimantan. According to Sanusi, before it received support from Bikal, one round 250g stick of palm sugar fetched only Rp 1,500. After Bikal began to support the activities in 2005, farmers began producing palm sugar in block form. The same weight then fetched Rp 2,000. Today, the price is Rp 2,500 – almost twice as much as in the pre-Bikal period. The farmers have also regular buyers in Beringin market, located inside the national park, and sales are holding steady. Sanusi enthusiastically listed all the benefits that this has brought him: he has paid off a Rp 25 million loan over two years, bought a motorbike on credit, put his children into school, and is saving with the village credit union, a financial institution providing saving and credit services.

Mangrove Seedlings in Teluk Lombok Hamlet (by BIKAL)

Mangrove Seedlings in Teluk Lombok Hamlet (by BIKAL)

Another example comes from the Pangkang Lestari mangrove farmers’ group in Teluk Lombok hamlet, Sangkima village, also in Kutai National Park. Bikal encouraged the formation of this group as a provider of mangrove seedlings for various rehabilitation projects in East Kalimantan. Up to the end of 2006, at least three districts in East Kalimantan – Bontang, Sangatta and Bulungan – have used mangrove seeds supplied by the group and the Teluk Lombok community. From the end of 2005 to October 2006, no less than 1.1 million seedlings had been sold, at a total price of around Rp 550 million. Whereas seedlings sold for Rp 450 a piece, they are now fetching up to Rp 600 each.

Ado Tadulako, from the Teluk Lombok mangrove rehabilitation project, said that thanks to the success of the mangrove seed project he has pocketed millions of rupiah. This money, which he hands over in full to his wife, is used to pay for his children’s schooling, saving and other needs. Ado, who is 60 years old, also mentioned that several Pangkang Lestari members have been able to marry, buy motor boats for fishing, and build houses as a result of the mangrove seed project.

Forest honey farmers in Lake Sentarum National Park are also reaping the benefits from non-timber development. “Nowadays the price of our honey is much higher than before. It’s almost five times the price of refined sugar, whereas it used to be the same price,” said Haryyanto, a honey farmer, who is also the headman of Nanga Leboyan village, located in the national park, which is known for its unique tidal properties.

Cultivating Fish at Lake Sentarum National Park (by RIAK BUMI)

Cultivating Fish at Lake Sentarum National Park (by RIAK BUMI)

Mustafa, a resident of Kampung Semalah, Danau Sentarum, also offered an example. As explained by Valentinus Heri from the West Kalimantan-based NGO Riak Bumi, this honey farmer was able to buy a 15-horsepower motorboat from the proceeds of his honey harvest in 2005. The ethnic Malay people in the 132-hectare lake routinely harvest honey once a year. From this harvest they can at least meet their daily needs and keep their children in school.

The final example came from Arifin, from the Dayak Meratus community in Batu Kambar, Hinas Kiri village, South Kalimantan. Arifin, who is a member of the Dayak Alai Meratus Rubber Farmers’ Group (Kelompok Dayak Alai Meratus), as well as the Bintang Karantika Meratus Credit Union, has been able to school his three children up to college level thanks to his income from the sale of rubber and cinnamon. He has also been able to build a good-quality house and buy electronic goods from the proceeds of these forest products. He is currently implementing his business and supporting the rubber farmers’ group with the support of South Kalimantan Traditional Community Empowerment Institute (Lembaga Pemberdayaan Masyarakat Adat).

As business worsens, a community fights for survival
In addition to success stories such as those above, it cannot be denied that there are many stories that show that these forest products businesses are stuck for various reasons. The unpredictable market, the inability to manage the business competitively, unsupportive policies and other factors have meant that many community businesses now find themselves running on the spot. They are neither truly living nor dying. Some MFP partners have also experienced the same thing.

Ups and Downs (by Yusuf of PENA INDONESIA)

Rattan Business: Ups and Downs (by Yusuf of PENA INDONESIA)

A clear example of this can be seen in the case of rattan in Katingan, Central Kalimantan. Rattan has been a source of livelihood for communities in the regency for a long time, and it is the largest source of rattan cultivation in Indonesia. Since at least 1850, the Dayak people have cultivated rattan, planting seeds in the gaps between their fruit trees and then reaping the benefits from the subsequent harvest. Until now, many people are still reliant on rattan. Rattan cultivation from Central Kalimantan is a prime Indonesian export. It has been observed that 80-90 % of raw rattan supplied to the world comes from Indonesia. Where unprocessed rattan is concerned, Sulawesi reigns supreme, while in terms of rattan cultivation, Central Kalimantan and a small part of East Kalimantan are unsurpassed.

In the days when rattan reigned supreme, the people of Katingan lived moderately well. Duwel Rawing and Gatin Rangkay, the 2006 head of regent and district secretary of Katingan, enthusiastically explained that rattan was their passport to school and higher education. “Many persons who are now officials in Katingan can claim to have been educated on rattan“, says Duwel.

The golden period began to wane when the government banned the export of unprocessed and semi-processed rattan in 1986. Rattan prices fell drastically. The East Kalimantan People’s Forestry System (Sistem Hutan Kerakyatan Kalimantan Timur) cited a 30 – 40% drop in prices at the farmers’ level. Buyers reasoned that they could no longer pay a high price for the rattan, as they were no longer permitted to export it. The needs of national industry accounted for 40% (at most) of total rattan production from Katingan and elsewhere. As a consequence, the rattan lay unharvested in the farmers’ plantations: a sad sight to behold. “Forget about educating our kids,” said Kusen Tari U., a Katingan rattan farmer. “Sometimes we didn’t even have enough to eat.” He added, “Whereas one kilogramme of unprocessed rattan used to purchase 3-4 kg of rice, now it took 4 kg of rattan to obtain a single kilogramme of rice.”It wasn’t only the rattan farmers who experienced disruption.

A similar fate befell almost all small-scale gatherers at village level. Take, for example, Ardinan, a rattan farmer and gatherer in Jahanjang village in Kamipang sub-district, which has been harvesting rattan for years. According to him, rattan bought from farmers often failed to sell, and was kept for long periods in storage. “Sometimes it all went rotten,” he lamented to Ali Sadikin, from the Central Kalimantan-based NGO, Teropong, which came to rally for rattan farmers. “Eventually, I was forced to stop acting as the group’s trader.”

Unstable Price (by SHK KALTIM)

Rattan: Unstable Price (by Swary Utami Dewi)

After the government once again opened up rattan for export in mid-2004, the price did not immediately improve at the farmers’ level. The dominant rattan buyers used various excuses for not increasing the price. In addition, there was a long chain of middlemen to be negotiated before the rattan was eventually sold to craftsmen in Java or exported overseas. The farmers’ lives grew harder. It seemed they were powerless to change the situation, so they resigned themselves to reflecting on their fate and trying to find other means of staying afloat – like working as lumberjacks.

The commencement of operations by the Teropong in Marikit sub-district, on the upper stream of the Katingan river, finally encouraged the community to try to improve its lot. Residents began to hold informal discussions on rattan-related issue in their houses, and enthusiasm started to grow. These serious yet informal discussions became a part of the community’s daily topics of conversation.

At the beginning of 2005, eight villages in Marikit sub-district took the initiative to establish the Katingan Rattan Farmers’ Group (Perkumpulan Petani Rotan Katingan), a further show of the farmers’ enthusiasm and desire to breathe new life into their rattan business. Within a short time, more than thirty villages in Katingan had signed up.The Group focused on improving rattan quality, creating a protection and monitoring system, and increasing the capacity of the farmers. The association also drew attention to the importance of collaboration. Together with Teropong and a number of other stakeholders, the group, which covers five sub-districts in Katingan district, jointly carried out actions aimed at the implementation of policies that were more favourable to the welfare of the rattan farmers. Cutting the links in the market chain and developing alternative markets that could offer better value were also common objectives.

Although much has been achieved by Teropong and the Katingan Rattan Farmers’ Group over the past two years, the price of rattan today remains almost unchanged. The price has been subject to fluctuation. Within the past few months, the price has even suffered a decline. Kompas newspaper (28 October 2006) cites complaints of Katingan rattan farmers concerning the drop in rattan prices over the past four months. The price of taman-type rattan fell from Rp 120,000 to Rp 100,000 per quintal, while irit rattan fell by Rp 20,000 to Rp 80,000 per quintal.

Steps taken to date to increase the rattan price are still ongoing. Teropong and the Katingan Rattan Farmers’ Group are still committed to advancing the lives of the rattan farmers, despite the obstacles they are currently facing. This is confirmed by Irwanto, a member of the group, who is also the headman of Tumbang Liting village, in Katingan Hilir district. “Despite the uncertainty in the rattan prices, the residents are continuing with their rattan businesses, because that is what they have always done,” (Kompas, 28 October 2006).

Rattan Farmers of Kutai Barat (by Swary Utami Dewi)

Rattan Farmers of Kutai Barat (by Swary Utami Dewi)

The same fluctuations have been felt by rattan farmers in Kutai Barat, who are supported by Sistem Hutan Kerakyatan Kalimantan Timur, the East Kalimantan People’s Forestry System. Perkumpulan Petani dan Pengrajin Rotan, the Rattan Farmers and Handcrafters’ Group was established with the aim of securing greater prosperity for them. The farmers then formed a business institution called Samadil Eka Perkasa, with limited company (PT) status. Various efforts have been made on behalf of the farmers’ group and its business institution to ensure that their businesses pick up and the lives of the farmers are improved. However, developing the business is no easy task.

Between the end of 2005 and the middle of 2006, the rattan business instigated by PT Samadil Eka Perkasa reached a critical point. Rattan sales to Java had ceased, and the stream of buyers had dried up. Several farmers attending an informal meeting in May 2006 complained about the situation. These complaints were understandable given that there was a time when the company could buy rattan from the farmers at a more reasonable price than through the organised trading group or other middlemen. That same month, one farmer in Gemuhan Asa village admitted that when he sold rattan to the company, he could use the income to buy new clothes for his child and a television to entertain his family. In recent times, however, no one had been buying rattan, and he couldn’t understand the reason for it.

Fortunately, events since June 2006 have begun to reveal a light at the end of the tunnel. Adopting a more professional management approach, PT Samadil Eka Perkasa has once again been able to sell rattan to Java on a routine monthly basis. Several employees have also begun to receive their own salaries from their rattan businesses, free of donor supports. However, it will still take some time and efforts before the rattan industry in Kutai Barat can be considered sustainable.

The case of the Katingan and Kutai Barat rattan shows the bitter shake-up of events that eventually spurred the development of a community-based non-timber product business. It is a familiar story to other stakeholders working with similar issues throughout Kalimantan.

More than mere economics

Experience of pushing for the development of small-scale community businesses in Kalimantan, such as that outlined above, reveals varying levels of success. In all honesty there have been many more failures than successes. The number of incidences where farmers’ incomes have been raised can be counted on the fingers of one hand.If this is the case, are the efforts that have already been made to develop the economy within the framework of strengthening poor communities of no consequence? The answer is, yes – if we measure economic development purely in terms of increasing the incomes of poor farmers. But is it true to say that this is the only valid metric for measurement? Experience of MFP partners in the field shows that as a poor forest-dwelling community move towards economic prosperity, it opens the door to, or triggers, other aspects of community strengthening. The following examples illustrate this well.

Firstly, let us turn again to Teluk Lombok in East Kalimantan’s Kutai National Park, as described above. When the Pangkang Lestari fishermen’s and mangrove farmers’ groups successfully rehabilitated their mangroves and subsequently embarked on a seedling project to support other similar projects in the province, this resulted in a number of innovations and other social developments. While waiting for their mangrove forest to grow back to its former lushness, thereby heralding a return of the good fishing that they had been used to in the past, Pangkang Lestari carried out a pilot study on crab catching using crab pots as an alternative form of livelihood. The crabs were indeed large, but they could only be sold in perfect condition. The others were simply thrown away.

Starting Business (by BIKAL)

Women of Teluk Lombok: Starting Business (by BIKAL)

Unhappy with this situation, a group of women who had got to hear about this problem determined to do something about it. They told Bikal, a support NGO, that they would learn how to make crab crackers. Bikal, then, facilitated the training required. So the women of Teluk Lombok acquired the necessary skills to magically transform the ‘damaged’ crabs into delicious crab crackers.The crab cracker project was quite successful. Whereas the fresh crab sold for between Rp 8,000 and Rp 10,000 per kg, the crackers fetched Rp 40,000 per kg – a good example of added value.

Seeing the energy of the women and their reversal of fortune, the men of Teluk Lombok fully acknowledged their efforts. The mangrove farmers and the fishermen of the Pangkang Lestari group then involved the women officially in the group. The Crab Cracker Working Group (Pokja Krupuk Kepiting) was established at the end of 2004.

Establishing the women working group was a simple act, but its impact was considerable: the women of Teluk Lombok have gained new standing within the community. They are no longer mere observers of activities or considered only as providers of food for their menfolk when they hold their meetings. They are now part of the process, and they have a say in decision-making in Pangkang Lestari. Sumanti, the chairman of the working group, commented with pride, “Now we no longer only waste time for chatting or doing nothing in the house; now we do have business.”The crab crackers produced by the women of Teluk Lombok are sold in several towns such as Sangatta and Bontang.

The women working group has also performed impressively, winning the Appropriate Technology for Communities Competition at both regency and provincial levels. In September 2005, some of the members went to Palembang to compete at national level. As a result of this, says Romadhan, headman of Sangkima village, which incorporates Teluk Lombok sub-village, the prestige gained by the Crab Cracker Women Working Group has brought fame to the village even as high as the national level.

Learning of Crab Fattening Techniques (by BIKAL)

Learning of Crab Fattening Techniques (by BIKAL)

The women’s achievements have also had the effect of goading the men into action. The local community recognised the need for a ready supply of raw materials to support the crab cracker business. It is still difficult to obtain crabs naturally because the mangrove forest was not yet fully rehabilitated. The women often obtain fresh crabs from elsewhere, rather than Teluk Lombok. For this reason, efforts are continuing in the short term to locate crab. The farmers are studying more effective ways of doing this. In the near future, they are also studying how to do crab fattening in the cages. From this it can be seen that the success of a group in the community can energise others in that community to always learn.

Pangkang Lestari and the community of Teluk Lombok became aware of the need for greater involvement by the women. When Pangkang Lestari began to spread its business to encompass mangrove seedlings for the rehabilitation project in 2005, both women and children became actively involved. Pangkang Lestari involves around 50 families in Teluk Lombok sub-village. For seedling activities, roles and responsibilities are divided among men, women, and even children. Nursalim from BIKAL explained that the men who have the job of looking for seeds in the vicinity and neighbouring areas, and the women and children usually fill the polybags. After they have been procured, the seeds are planted in the polybags by either the men or the women. So far the men and women continue to work side by side in the mangrove seedling business.

It should be noted that these activities, which are having a positive impact on the better prosperity of the Teluk Lombok community, have inspired other communities in Kutai National Park to do the same thing. The Crab Cracker Women Working Group has encouraged the establishment of a Shrimp Cracker Women Working Group in within the Sumber Rejeki group in Dusun Satu, a sub-village of Sangkima Lama village. The Sumber Rejeki Farmers’ Group, which initially comprised male fishermen, started to get interested in what was going on at Teluk Lombok. Eventually, the women of Dusun Satu also formed a Shrimp Cracker Women Group, which focuses on shrimp cracker production. A number of meetings have already been held between the shrimp cracker and the crab cracker women groups to exchange experiences on business management and women’s organisations.

Making Gula Semut (by BIKAL)

Making Gula Semut (by BIKAL)

Next, the Gula Angin Mamiri farmer’s group, also located in Dusun Satu, has vowed to empower the women of the village through palm sugar and gula semut(a form of reprocessed palm sugar) production, imitating the trend begun at Teluk Lombok. Whereas this group previously produced only palm sugar, for generations the preserve of the men, they have now diversified their products to include gula semut, which is produced by both men and women. The men collect the raw sugar, while the women boil it to produce the gula semut. In the future, the women will focus on gula semut production while the men continue to concentrate on palm sugar.

The women of Dusun Satu, in addition to acquiring new skills, have turned gula semut into an alternative product for their livelihoods, and have begun to demonstrate their independence. A member of the group, Hasnawati, a junior high school graduate, admits that she had a high belief in herself, and no longer felt like a second-class citizen. ”I even instruct community groups from other districts in gula semut production. Before, I never would have dreamed I was capable of doing such a thing”, adds the veil-wearing woman. Hasnawati and several other women of Sangkima village, including Rahmawati and Sumanti, most of whom have only an elementary school or, in a few cases, a junior high school education, have begun to cut their teeth as community facilitators in their respective hamlets.

In short, the work carried out by community groups together with Bikal in Kutai National Park has brought economic development, offered real hope for sustainable alternative income streams, and had other positive impacts on the communities, such as empowering women, raising community awareness of the role of women in the community, increasing their self-confidence, and spurring the group on to further study and inter-community shared learning.

Another example comes from the rattan farmers’ groups in Katingan and Kutai Barat. Although their effort to improve their welfare through rattan cultivation is a story fraught with ups and downs, these efforts also serve another function.When they realised that the government ban on rattan exports imposed in the mid-1980s was one of the main causes of the crash in rattan prices, the rattan farmers’ groups stood shoulder to shoulder in these two places and embarked on a program of advocacy activities.

In 2004, exports were once again permitted by the Ministry of Trade and Industry. However, this decision stirred up some controversy. Javanese rattan workers, concerned about the future of their own rattan industry, directed all their energy into calling for the reinstatement of the ban.When the ministry responsible for trade changed its name to the Ministry of Trade, demands by certain groups for the ban to be reinstated grew stronger.

Meeting with the Minister of Trade in February 2005 (by TEROPONG)

Meeting with the Minister of Trade in 2005 (by TEROPONG)

With the support of NGOs and other observer groups, a series of meetings and consolidation sessions was held to defend, and even insist upon, the right to export taman/sega and irit rattan (the mainstay of the Katingan and Kutai Barat rattan trade) both in their raw or semi-processed state. At least two meetings were held between the Katingan Farmers Rattan Group and the Kutai Barat Rattan Farmers and Handcrafters Group and the Ministry of Trade. At the first meeting in January 2005, the two groups were invited together with supporting NGOs Teropong and Sistem Hutan Kerakyatan Kalimantan Timur to meet with Minister of Trade, Marie Pangestu. They were asked to come and give their input to the ministerial review on the matter.

Efforts were also made to secure the support of related stakeholders such as the Ministry of Forestry. At a meeting of rattan farmers in Katingan in March 2005, Forestry Minister, M.S. Kaban, firmly stated that Katingan rattan was a cultivated product, and the reinstatement of an export quota should give a major effect on the farmers’ selling price.

Efforts at advocacy have not been in vain. On 30 June 2005 the Ministry of Trade issued Ministry of Trade Regulation No. 12/2005, which still allows the continued export of unprocessed and semi-processed rattan for the two types of cultivated rattan in these two regencies. To quote Ricardo, an expert of legal advocacy in Indonesia, one thing that also needs to be noted from the regulation is the use of the word “farmers” in the Bagian Menimbang, the consideration part of the regulation. The full sentence reads: that rattan is a commodity that plays a critical role as the source of income and prosperity for the rattan farmers and gatherers as a raw material for rattan processing, and the furniture and handicrafts industries. Ricardo is of the view that, once the “farmers” are mentioned in the same breath as the word “gatherers” and “industries”, this is a very important development, as it symbolises the government’s recognition of the strategic role played by farmers within the rattan business.

Strengthening the Solidarity (by TEROPONG)

Rattan Farmers: Strengthening the Solidarity (by TEROPONG)

Although rattan prices still up and down, other positive developments have been felt by the rattan farmers’ groups. Firstly, there now exists a feeling of solidarity among them. Whereas they were previously resigned to their fate, reflecting wistfully on their fate, thanks to NGO support, they now fight together for their common welfare. Muntifer, chairman of the Katingan rattan farmers’ group, stressed the importance of solidarity, which has now infected not only the Katingan group itself, but also exists between the Katingan and Kutai Barat rattan farmer groups.

Secondly, whereas the fate of the farmers had previously only been discussed in hushed tones, nowadays discussions are going on up the hierarchy, and not purely at the farmers’ level alone. Decision makers at regency and even national level are becoming aware how important it is to address the concerns of the rattan farmers/producers. The Ministry of Trade and Ministry of Forestry, for example, have provided the hoped-for response. Efforts at advocacy aimed at increasing rattan prices have contributed to greater attention being given to the farmers’ plight in the decision-making process. In short, the voice of the farmers is now being heard more clearly, and the powers that be are listening.

Another impact that has been felt is the farmers’ increased self-confidence, especially for those who are actively involved in the organisation. A number of Katingan farmers, such as Wancino and Muntifer, clearly feel more self-confident.

Other examples in Kalimantan also reveal a similar tendency to touch on other issues in the wake of efforts to improve the economic welfare of a local community. The fishermen of Lake Sentarum National Park, for instance, have drawn up a more concrete set of traditional regulations for themselves aimed at clearly delineating the zones for their fishing and hatchery activities.

For the Dayak communities of the Meratus Range in Hulu Sungai Tengah regency, South Kalimantan, the effort to improve the welfare of the rubber farmers has also had the effect of turning the community, attracted by the prospect of immediate funding, away from logging. Their awareness has grown; they have learned the benefit of patience to develop a more lasting, sustainable business as opposed to a temporary business that puts the future of their children at risk. ”Any act that destroys the environment is a crime against our grandchildren,” said Makurban, a Meratus Dayak living in one of the traditional villages in a region about 5-6 hours’ drive from Banjarmasin.

Closing remarks
The effort to encourage the development of non-timber forest product businesses among poor forest-dwelling communities in Kalimantan is no easy task, and there have been more pitfalls than breakthroughs. However, there is a unique aspect to all this. Community economic strengthening based on sustainable forest exploitation can open the door to other community strengthening issues. Businesses should not be seen purely in terms of their economic value. They should also be assessed on the basis of the other benefits they bring, such as gender strengthening, improved bargaining position in policy making, and inter-community shared learning that occurs during these activities, or after they have been completed.

An Entry Point of Other Community Empowerment

NTFP Business: An Entry Point of Other Community Empowerment (by TEROPONG)

Just like a game of billiards, when economic strengthening becomes a door to economic development, other issues are touched by the ball. This is all too clearly evidenced by the experiences gained in Kalimantan from conducting programs to encourage and develop non-timber forest product-based businesses among poor forest-dwelling communities.

1 Comment »

  1. mantab mbak Dewi…! Agen perubahan memang selalu dibutuhkan.

    Comment by Halim — June 17, 2010 @ 6:45 am


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