Agustus 05, 2014

Exclusions as Consequences of REDD+ and Conservation? A Case Study from Jambi, Indonesia


INDONESIA HAS a long history of violent land conflicts caused by weak community rights and ever postponed land reforms (Peluso et al. 2008; Bakker & Moniaga 2010). The currently emerging REDD+ governance framework aims at formalizing land tenure and therefore solving land conflicts. Although formalization of land tenure facilitates REDD+ implementation it potentially also contributes to social conflicts through the exclusion of local communities that rely on informal and customary access mechanisms (Agrawal et al. 2008).

Based on expert interviews with governmental agencies and NGOs and semi-structured interviews with farmers and village elites this paper aims to investigate power struggles over access and control of Indonesia’s state forest in the REDD+ pilot province of Jambi. More specifically we focus on villages in the proximity of the Harapan Rainforest project, one of Indonesia’s first private conservation concessions. First, the paper analyses the ability of different stakeholders such as indigenous groups, migrants and conservation companies to access forest land. Second, we seek to identify land access and property relations and their underlying power structures within Harapan Rainforest. Finally, we discuss first impacts of recently implemented conservation-oriented benefit sharing schemes on local power structures. We argue that conflicts over land access and control within Harapan Rainforest are rather initiated by historical inequalities caused by the non-recognition of community rights within state forest than by the intervention of the Harapan Rainforest project itself.

Our findings show, that different stakeholders’ abilities to access forest land and to consolidate property depends largely on their capability to link with authorities on different political scales. Powerful actors, have the capability to engage with high-level authorities. The private conservation concession of the Harapan Rainforest project was issued by the Ministry of Forestry. This alliance provides enforcement power through the forest police which supports the conservation company implementing the project to prevent access of other stakeholders. In contrast, indigenous groups lack this capability and, with the support of transnational NGOs, seek to reestablish historical ethnic territories overlapping with the project area. Migrants searching for land have to engage with customary leaders of these groups to access land and property. The Harapan Rainforest project provides benefit sharing schemes almost exclusively for indigenous groups and therefore further marginalizes rural migrants.

The contested land claims of the Harapan Rainforest case show that REDD+ and conservation are embedded in existing formal and informal struggles for political power and resource access linking different political scales.[]


Jonas Hein, Heiko Faust, Soeryo Adiwibowo, & Endriatmo Soetarto, “Exclusions as Consequences of REDD+ and Conservation? A case Study from Jambi, Indonesia”, Paper presented at Carbon-Land-Property Conference, Copenhagen, July 1-4, 2014.

Program of the conference is available here.

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