Celebrating one year after historic customary forest acknowledgment in Indonesia

Monday, December 18, 2017

This time last year, Indonesian President Joko “Jokowi” Widodo confirmed his support for Indigenous Peoples by acknowledging  their customary forests in several areas across the nation's archipelago. 

What are the primary benefits that have been retained through the acknowledgment? How have the Indigenous Peoples reflected their independence in managing their land and forests?

After years of struggle, the Kasepuhan Karang - the residing community - were finally stipulated as one of eight Indigenous Peoples communities to regain their customary forest status - no longer did they have to fight for their customary rights! 

This includes a total of 486 ha of forest spanning accross Jagaraksa village, Muncang District, Lebak Regency, Banten province, which in turn led to the formal acknowledgement by the President at the end of 2016. 

To commemorate the one-year anniversary, Indonesian ILC Asia member, Rimbawan Muda Indonesia (RMI)  organised a Customary Forest Festival in Leuweung Adat Kasepuhan Karang, Jagaraksa village, Lebak regency, Banten from 16-17 December 2017. This year’s theme was “Together for Land and Sustainability". Hosted by the Indigenous Peoples Kasepuhan Karang community, the festival was an opportunity to showcase their newfound independence by composing various plans and implementations in managing their customary forest, such as community based ecotourism in the area, fruit crops replantation, and women led cooperatives to support the economy's resilience.

Over the last year, indigenous youth were also given the opportunity to actively participate in managing their forest and land. They collected and recorded data of trees allowed to be logged, identified planting areas, and proposed forest management planning based on the “tatali paranti karuhun” indigenous law. In addition, they were able to preserve the area surrounding the springs forbiding the locals from planting less than 100m far from the springs.



RMI Executive Director, Mardha Tillah emphasised that it is important to disseminate this  acknowledgment in order to provide opportunities for the locals to govern their forest based on the existing law.

She further conveyed that post-acknowledgment, it's important to look at what economy empowerment models shouldbe adopted, while continuing to respect existing local wisdom. Funding support will be of course required in applying the unusual economy-empowerment modality. Last but not least, Mardha elaborated on the critical involvement of indigenous youth in order to create regeneration and sustainability of customary forest management.

Also in attendance during the opening ceremony of the festival; Lebak regent, Iti Octavia Jayabaya, who fully supports the locals in their self-governance over their forest.

This festival invited both locals and urban residents to participate in a seminar entitled “Post Acknowledgment of the Customary Forest”, also including an eco-tourism inauguration, numerous workshops, journalist trip, Kasepuhan cultural art and dance showcase, 1000 fruit trees plantation, local food and products exhibition, and a field trip to the Leuwung tribe area.


The gathering was not only in celebration of their victory but also in appreciation of the hard work championed by the various entities which encouraged the customary forest acknowledgment, while spreading motivation on the customary forest advocacy for those who have not yet attained the acknowledgment, including the state’s conservation areas.

It is envisaged that this celebratory moment will be commemorated annually.