Jakarta. International environmental group Rainforest Action Network has praised President Joko "Jokowi" Widodo for recognizing customary land rights.
The president has returned more than 13,000 hectares to nine indigenous communities in Sumatra and Sulawesi.
This marks a win for the Tano Batak community in Pandumaan-Sipituhuta, North Sumatra, after decades of encroachment by Toba Pulp Lestari, an affiliate of the country's second largest pulp and paper producer Asia Pacific Resources International Holdings (APRIL) and Royal Golden Eagle Group (RGE).
"When customary rights are recognized, the communities can make the long-term decisions necessary for sustainable forest management," RAN's senior campaigner Brihannala Morgan said in a statement on Thursday (05/01).
Other forests returned to indigenous communities are: Ammatoa Kajang in Bulukumba, South Sulawesi; Wana Posangke in North Morowali, Central Sulawesi; Marga Serampas in Merangin, Jambi; Kasepuhan Karang in Lebak, Banten; and Bukit Sembahyang, Padun Gelanggang, Bukit Tinggai, Tigo Luhah Pementi Yang Berenam, Tigo Luhah Kemantan in Kerinci, Jambi.
The government is assessing 12.7 million hectares more of forest areas that will be given back to their customary owners, in a bid to enhance sustainable forest management and settle conflicts in the forestry sector.