Helping Indigenous and local communities safeguard protected areas

Contract: September 2017 – March 2018

Funds: USD 9,900

Beneficiaries: Riau Province on Sumatra within the Bukit Betabuh Forest Reserve, Indonesia

Project Summary

This RRI-funded Strategic Response Mechanism (SRM) responded to an immediate and sustained threat to Adat and local communities’ traditional lands, forests, and rich biodiversity posed by the expansion of palm oil production in the Bukit Betabuh Forest Reserve in Riau Province, Sumatra. Through forest mapping, non-timber forest products (NTFP) harvesting, and community forest enterprises, the project succeeded in safeguarding the reserve which covers 550 hectares, and in preventing illegal logging and palm oil plantation expansion. The initiative  empowered other rural communities who live in the same village to replicate the strategy in preserving their natural resources.


Between 2000 and 2015, an estimated 6.7 million hectares of forest were lost within and just outside of concession areas, a loss of over 55%. Indonesia’s forests have been rapidly disappearing for decades, harming Adat and local residents’ livelihoods, traditional lands and forests, and wildlife and plant diversity. Riau Province is home to almost one quarter of Indonesia’s palm oil plantations and is also home to the Sumatran tiger,  a critically endangered species.

Bukit Betabuh Forest Reserve connects Rimbang Baling Wildlife Reserve and Bukit Tigapuluh National Park, an important tiger conservation habitat. ’ The government formally classified Bukit Betabuh Forest Reserve as a protected area in 1994, categorizing it as a ‘limited production forest’ and legally stipulating that no private development or plantation of any kind may be established within the reserve. But, the area’s change in status in 1994 also lacked any clear references and considerations of existing tenure systems and natural resource management regimes.

How did we help?

This SRM outlined four key activities to help the communities living within Bukit Betabuh Forest Reserve achieve better forestry management to preserve their land from encroachment: a) mapping of managed areas; b) management of sustainable crop commodities; c) empowerment of the community; and d) identification of other agroforestry (i.e., NTFP) potential.

The mapping program was used to support the communities’ application for a Social Forestry permit. There was a community debate to generate the sketch map, a site visit to mark the map, a community discussion to acknowledge it, and a final community discussion.

To sustain the crop commodity, there was an allocation of community manpower instilled to observe, treat, and conserve Jernang, a highly-valued NTFP in Indonesia.

To achieve legal status, the communities needed to become empowered and understand the broader implications of social forestry. Training and workshops led by local organizations like Scale-Up helped them understand the benefits and drawbacks of regulations and generate documentation that aligned with current policies. In the village debate, RRI arranged a discussion to find the optimal policy scheme for the community.

Finally, exploring alternative agroforestry opportunities benefited the community economically. After taking inventory of NTFPs, the community used other plants to generate non-timber potential beyond jernang instead of logging as the main forestry output.

The Impact

The Bukik Ijau (KTH) management area was mapped and the Forest Farmers Group (KTH) planted Jernang in the Bukit Betabuh Protection Forest. KTH patrols then controlled the area 3 to 4 days a week to care for the Jernang plant, reducing illicit logging and land encroachment. After nine community meetings, the group decided to request a permit for managing forest lands using Social Forestry, and the group chose a partnership as the scheme. The Bukik Ijau activities prompted the formation of a new KTH in Air Buluh. The new KTH, Sungai Manggis Sejahtera (SMS), has 27 members and aims to improve community welfare and conserve HLBB by using non-wood forest resources. Scale Up, FKKM National, and WRI facilitated an event when KTH Bukik Ijau and KTH SMS filed documentation for a Social Forestry permission to the Center for Social Forestry and Environmental Partnership (PSKL).

The community identified 11 NTFPs (including Jernang) through ordinary forest activities. Notably, two months after the procession in October 2017, Sialang bee honey was available to harvest.

In collaboration with local officials and the newly-appointed Village Head, this SRM enabled local communities to retain their forest rights while benefiting financially. The activities served as a model and example for sustainable community-based forest enterprise development countering illegal palm oil plantations in formally-protected areas in Riau Province, Sumatra specifically and Indonesia more broadly.