Conservation values are not just about flora and fauna. They also encompass the value the forest has to local communities. As part of its Forest Conservation Policy, APP has adopted the principles of Free, Prior and Informed Consent (FPIC) for all new developments. FPIC is a form of best-practice, designed to ensure that companies developing in forests take full account of the views and needs of local people.
As is the case with any proposed large-scale development, there will often be local opposition as well as local support. As such, a process needs to be put in place to determine whether a development should go ahead.
For developments that have already taken place, there remains much divided opinion, which APP must navigate carefully.
Umar, the community chief we met in Bukit Batu was mostly concerned with finding ways to extract value from natural forest. He understood the value the forest has in preventing flooding and he also saw the value in preserving it for future generations.
The following day, we met the leader of a local agroforestry project, Kasimun, who was using community land to restore forest areas, while funding the project by using the land to raise animals and grow mushrooms for sale locally. It was clear that people like Kasimun are very dedicated to the forest and there is a real opportunity for companies like APP to provide skills and resource to help ensure that projects like this are sustainable in economic as well as conservation terms.
However, community relations are not as simple as this. We know that most communities in and around our concessions would rather clear forest and use the land to grow crops to support their livelihoods. This is at odds with the ‘No Deforestation’ policy which now forms the foundation of APP’s business model.
The lesson here is that the needs of communities are very diverse in Indonesia and as such, a large amount of expertise is required to monitor and protect them. There are many opportunities to work with local people, but a zero deforestation policy is not always compatible with community needs and any conflict that arises must be mapped and dealt with fairly.
Later in the day, we attended a HCV community meeting, which was held in a bright green room and led by Pak Eka of Ekologika. The attendees discussed the interaction they have with the forest and mapped out the issues they face, which include flash fires and economic barriers. It was interesting to hear that the majority of the farmers here become fishermen for part of the year – another element of the natural world on which these rural communities depend.
In summary, I’d say that the needs of a business like APP are often compatible with the needs of local communities, as we provide jobs, infrastructure and funding for local projects. However, the addition of a zero deforestation policy has actually created a conflict of interest in places and there are many social issues to be resolved. Much is at stake, but hopefully by working collaboratively, we’ll be able to find common ground between the many different views involved.
The third and final part of this blog, which is all about carbon, will be online early next week...