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Indonesia Grants 9 Indigenous Communities Rights to Manage Forests

Indonesian President Joko Widodo recently granted the right to manage customary forests to nine indigenous communities.

According to the World of Agroforestry blog, the Indonesian leader’s move signaled the end of years of ambiguity and opened up a new era of secure land ownership.

The country’s native communities have been fighting for recognition since Indonesia gained independence in 1945. During this time, their customary rights were opposed by the new nationalist government despite being included in the founding constitution.

“The recognition of customary management of forests is not restricted to the acknowledgment of communities’ rights as stated in the 1945 Constitution. Recognition also means an appreciation of Indonesia’s original values and its identity as a nation,” Widodo shared in a speech given at the Declaration of Recognition of Indigenous Forests event on December 30, 2016, according to the blog.

This handover was seen as a positive development after Widodo's disappointing progress to fulfill promises of granting ethnic communities more control over forest zones, reports Mongabay. In 2014, Widodo pledged to bestow communities living in or near the country’s 12.7 million hectares of forest greater control over their land, however, progress on this front slowed significantly when the Ministry of Environment and Forestry's budget was reduced, according to the nonprofit organization Indonesian Budget Center. This was a result of a shift in government expenditure by the Widodo administration to focus on infrastructure.

Last year, authorities set out to completely hand over 2.5 million hectares, however, they only managed to allocate 300,000 hectares by the end of December.

[Photo via World of Agroforestry]

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