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Forestry and the rural community

Soekiman Atmosoedarjo


During the last decade people have become increasingly aware of the important role that forestry can play in improving the environment and in development of rural communities. Various systems of forest management and exploitation have been shown to be able to provide people living near the forests with their basic needs, such as firewood, valuable raw materials, and food, as well as water. The forest can also help to improve crop yields, income and utilization of available labour, in addition to maintaining the environment in good condition.

A number of countries are recognized for developing successful approaches to the problems of rural development. However, many other countries do not appear to know even how to begin to deal with these problems.

This paper deals with the question of the necessary and important relationships between the forest and forestry on the one hand, and the rural communities living around and alongside the forest on the other, based on experience obtained in Indonesia.

It is considered that this Indonesian experience may be of value to other countries, especially other humid tropical countries, which have more or less the same climate and other conditions.

Indonesia is a large and diverse country consisting of some 1,300 large and small islands, which extends for a distance of about 5,000 kilometres along the equator. Lying, as it does, astride the equator, it has mainly a tropical humid climate, but is also subject to seasonal monsoons which bring alternate wet and dry seasons to some areas. It has a tropical forest type of vegetation, with over 10,000 species.

With some 135 million inhabitants Indonesia is one of the most densely populated countries in the world, and is the fifth largest in population. However the population is not evenly distributed within the country. Java, the smallest of the seven major islands of Indonesia has an area of only 135,000 square kilometres and is inhabited by some 85 million people, with a density of about 630 people per square kilometre. Only about 20 per cent of the area is covered with forest. Irian Jaya, on the other hand, with an area of about 420,000 square kilometres has only 1.1 million people, so that the population density is only 2.6 per square kilometre. Ninety-eight per cent of the land of Irian Jaya is forest.

The difference in numbers of the people living in Java and those in other islands has resulted in differences in the way of life, especially of those people living in rural or remote areas. In Java, shortage of land causes the rural people to cultivate their land very intensively, while the people living in rural and remote areas of the other islands cultivate their land extensively, using traditional methods such as nomadic dry farming or shifting cultivation.

In both cases, where the population is dense and where it is light, a heavy burden is placed on the forest. Where there are dense populations people are hungry for land, and so clear the forest; where the population is light forest is subject to increasing destruction through traditional methods of farming.

Thus this paper will focus on the relationship between the forest and local communities, and the part that forest management can play in rural community development. In particular it will consider (a) the role of the forest in rural communities; and (b) the role of rural communities in the forest.

Forestry in Indonesia

The forests of Indonesia cover an area of some 120 million hectares. All are under the control of the government, and none are managed by individuals or private companies.

Forests and forestry are administered and managed by the Directorate General of Forestry, which comes under the Department of Agriculture. Under the Directorate General of Forestry are the Directorates of Planning, Marketing, Reforestation and Re-Greening, and Nature Protection and Conservation. In addition the Directorate General of Forestry co-ordinates the activities of the government-owned forestry companies, namely Perhutani and Inhutani, I, II and lilt Research and education do not come under the Directorate General of Forestry, but are controlled by other agencies.

At the provincial level, forest control and management on the ground is the responsibility of the head of the local forestry service. Smaller units are headed by forest rangers and forest guards.

Stations have also been established for the planning and development of nature protection and conservation.

In Java, the forest covers 2.9 million hectares, 900,000 of which are man-made forests. The largest part of the manmade forests consists of Jati (Tectona grandis), with an area of 600,000 hectares, followed by pines (Pinus merkusii) and Agathis (Agathis dammara). About 1 million hectares are conservation forests and national parks. The remainder is natural forest, which will later be converted into planted or man-made forest.

Outside Java the forests are mostly natural and, since 1970, have been opened to exploitation by interested parties for a period of twenty years, under the so-called Indonesian Selective Cutting System. The exploiting agencies are supposed either to replant the forest themselves, or to pay to the government the costs of replanting.

The objectives of the government in exploitation and management of the forests are:

1. To obtain revenue in the form of foreign exchange needed to support the national development programme.
2. To maintain and improve the hydrological functions of the forests, in order to control soil erosion and floods. and to preserve the water regime. Forests will also help to benefit health by improving atmospheric conditions and controlling pollution.
3. To guide the people to an improvement of their standard of living, especially those living in the areas around the forests.

In view of the development of forest technology and the capability of the experts in forestry - the foresters - it is certain that, from the technical point of view, sound methods of forest exploitation will not be very difficult to develop. The most outstanding general problem in forest management is how to protect the forest from destruction by the peoples living near it, often without thought, to meet their simple daily needs.

Repressive methods, such as proclaiming certain acts to be forest offences and arrest of offenders are ineffective because they do not go to the root of the problem.

The fact is that in densely populated areas the shortage of land for farming has forced people to cultivate the land so intensively that there is a steady depletion of soil nutrients, with the result that the land becomes infertile and yields drop appreciably. Thus a hunger for land develops, as people strive to obtain the products they need for their daily life; this causes them to encroach upon the forest by stealing wood and illegal clearance for cultivation of land.

On the other hand, in sparsely populated regions the forests continue to be destroyed by nomadic dry farming and shifting cultivation.

The real problem is that the people living around the forests have a low, and often submarginal, standard of living. It is this problem that has to be dealt with by the authorities, especially the government agency most closely related to it, namely the Forest Service.

Dense population causes land hunger because people need land to cultivate, and to solve this problem certain steps have been taken to give people living near the forest the opportunity of cultivating forest land, so that they can increase their production of food and other necessities. This is on condition that they adopt methods and agree to accept conditions which assure that their practices to not disturb the growth of existing planted forest trees. By doing so they have more land to farm, without decreasing the area under forest.

From another point of view, in humid tropical conditions if forest covers less than 30 per cent of the land area, it is inadequate to meet requirements in controlling erosion and floods, and in regulating water supplies. In the densely populated areas of Indonesia the proportion of forest is less than this, so a condition of "forest land hunger" has arisen.

Possibilities of increasing the area of forest land are limited by the pressure of the dense population. This has inspired the government to introduce the idea that village areas can be planted with trees of value to the people without reducing opportunities of growing food crops.

To overcome the social problems in villages around the forests a "symbiotic policy" has been developed, one which will provide reciprocal benefits to all parties involved. This policy is designed to give opportunities and guidance on making better use of forest and village land, by at the same time growing food crops, and covering the land with growing trees to improve hydrological conditions.

Making Better Use of Forest Land to Meet the Needs of the People

Forest that has been exploited and continuously managed has in fact given opportunities to local people to improve their standard of living. The conversion of natural forests to man-made forests will increase opportunities of employment in felling, replanting, and tending the young trees. When the trees are mature people will be needed to fell them, and to carry out other activities connected with forest exploitation.

Mass Intensification of Tumpangsari (Mixed Cultivation)

Tumpangsari (mixed cultivation), which is similar to taungya, has been practiced in Indonesia for 115 years. Two years after the tree seeds have been planted, farmers are allowed to grow food crops between them, provided that they do not interfere with the growth of the main species, or reduce soil fertility. Crops usually grown are dry rice, maize and other secondary crops. Cassava is not allowed to be planted because it causes a heavy drain on soil nutrients and thus impoverishes the soil.

The farmers cultivate the land between the rows of teak ( Tectona grandis) and Leucaena leucocephala. The trees are planted at 3 metres by 1 metre. Within two years two crops of dry rice can be harvested, the produce of the crop belonging entirely to the farmer.

To increase yields the forest company gives advice to farmers on the use of fertilizers, pesticides and selected and recommended seed of dry rice. By using these methods yields can be increased three- or fourfold, from 0.7 tonnes per hectare to 2.8 tonnes.

This guidance is given through extension and demonstration in co-operation with the Agricultural Extension Department, and by offering incentives such as credit to buy fertilizers and pesticides. This credit does not have to be repaid if the harvest fails. The system is called the "Mass Intensification of Tumpangsari."

This cultivation of forest land using forest tree species, legumes, and well-fertilized and tended food crops is a good example of how agro-forestry can be put into practice. It is expected that by these methods soil fertility will be maintained and improved, the standard of living of the villagers will be raised, and their participation in protecting the forest against destruction will be obtained.

In order to intensify the cultivation of the forest land, and to extend the period during which food crops can be grown, the planting distance between the tree species has been increased from 3 by 1 metres to 6 by 1 metres.

Cultivation of Fast-growing Species for Firewood

To prevent destruction of forests, especially of young plantations, certain regulations have been imposed but have been found to be ineffective. One such regulation states that local people may collect small branches (rencek), but only as much as they can carry, while they are forbidden to carry cutting tools; this has turned out to be useless, as people need much more firewood than they can collect under this rule. This firewood is needed not only for domestic consumption, but also for rural industries, such as roofing tile and brick-making, palm sugar refining, and tobacco curing, all of which use a great deal of firewood.

In addition to efforts to substitute oil for firewood, fastgrowing species have been introduced to supply firewood, such as Calliandra calothyrsa. Leucaena leucocephala, Glincidia septum (G. maculate).

Calliandra calothyrsa, a species originally from South America, yields 30 to 50 cubic metres per hectare when it is one-year old. Thereafter it can be cut every nine months, and five such harvests can be taken before replanting is necessary. It grows from five metres to some 1,500 metres above sea level, but grows particularly well at altitudes of more than 250 metres.

Fodder for Cattle

Since there are only limited areas available for free-range grazing of livestock, people are tempted to let them graze in the forest. This free grazing is usually in newly planted areas where there is young grass, but it damages the young trees. The open land where the trees have been damaged cannot prevent soil erosion during the rainy season.

Free-range grazing has become a common practice because there is not enough grass available in the villages to feed the livestock. However, by growing elephant grass (Pennisetum purpureum) - a good feed for livestock - under the forest trees people can collect the grass they need from the forest and do not need to allow their cattle to graze at will in the forest.

Medicinal Herbs

The forester in charge also advises the villagers on how to grow medicinal herbs in the forest areas, under conditions where they do not interfere with the growth of the forest trees. The increasing demand for traditional medicinal herbs will help people with insufficient land for farming to increase their income by collecting these herbs from the forest.


Apiculture has been known to the people for a very long time. However they still practice a very simple method of keeping bees by using gelodog hives. These are made of coconut logs about a metre long, which are split into two halves, and after each half has been hollowed out, joined together again. The use of this method of keeping the native bees (Apis indica) produces low yields of honey of inferior quality.

In co-operation with Pramuka (the Indonesian Boy Scouts Organization), the forestry company advises the people on how to improve their apiculture through the use of modern apiaries with standardized hives, which yield more honey of better quality.

MA-MA Project

Limited areas for farming and the desire of people to be able to farm on a permanent basis has caused them to commit a number of illegal acts directed against the government reafforestation programme. Hence the MA-MA system has been introduced as an approach to community development. It is a modification of the tumpangsari (mixed cultivation) system.

The MA-MA project applies the following principles in helping the people to obtain their basic needs: (a) the project must be designed in such a way that it provides the people with a continuous opportunity to grow food crops; (b) reafforestation, the objective of the forestry organization, will only be successful if it has the support of the people involved in the project; (c) the forest trees must be managed on a rotation which will guarantee that land is continuously available for farmers to grow food crops.

Pinus merkusii has been selected for planting in the MA-MA project, because it is grown on a twenty-five year rotation.

The area to be planted is divided into six strips, as follows: strip 1 - secondary crops; strip 2 - crops with a rotation of five years; strip 3 - transitional crops with a rotation of ten years; strip 4 - other forest crops with a rotation of fifteen years; strip 5 - other forest crops with a rotation of twenty years; strip 6 - Pinus merkusii with a rotation of twenty-five years.

The strips are 50 metres wide and vary in length according to the average working capacity of the farmers.

The first twenty-five year period is a transitional one, with forest crops differing in rotation by multiples of five years; eventually all strips will have been planted with forest trees having the same rotation. This transition period is needed because the agricultural cash crops should be moved to the next strip every five years, leaving the strip which has been vacated to grow trees on a twenty-five year rotation. By the end of the transition period the whole area will be covered with the same species of tree, differing in age by periods of five years. One strip will always be available for agricultural crops.

Base Camp

It has been the practice to house workers employed in forest exploitation in camps, in the interests of efficient work. This is because the workers usually come from long distances, and the camp is generally located deep in the forest.

The new type of Base Camp, called Magersaren in Indonesia, differs from the traditional forest base camp. Labour is only recruited from long distances if there are no villages near the exploitation centre. However it is still necessary for workers, together with their families, to stay in the Base Camp, to be close to forestry activities such as felling timber and planting and tending young forest trees. The Base Camp is thus a temporary village; it should move when the centre of activities is too far away (more than five kilometres).

Normally houses in the camps are built of locally available materials such as tree bark for walls and dry leaves for roofs. The wooden posts that support the houses can be removed and taken home by the labourers when the work is finished. However to improve the standard of life of the people, which will in turn improve their capability for work, semi-permanent houses have been introduced and built by the company. These houses, one for each family, can be moved when the time comes.

The Base Camp is completed by construction of a small mosque (mushola) and buildings with rooms for educational purposes for children and adults, and for art and cultural activities. It is expected that all the social activities of the village can be provided for in the Base Camp (Magersaren).

Housewives are also guided in current developments such as family planning, hygiene, special skills and craftsmanship. Thus all government programmes for public welfare are included, and taken good care of.

Forests for Recreation

The lack of areas for sport and education has stimulated the Forest Company to provide recreation centres, such as camping sites, for those who need them. These do not interfere with the planted trees.

Making Better Use of Village Land to Improve the Environmental Functions of the Forest

Village land around the forest can be managed to maintain and improve the environmental functions of the forest. If villagers can be persuaded to grow valuable trees on their own land, without disturbing their farming, this will be a help in protecting the land from erosion and other possible dangers.

Two important problems have to be given serious consideration, namely the needs of the villagers for water, firewood and food on the one hand, and on the other, how to give them the knowledge of how to grow valuable trees within or aound the village.

Close co-operation between the Mantri Hutan (Forest Guard) - the person who knows most about forestry and agriculture - and the Lurah, the Chief of the Village, the person who governs the village - will guarantee that development will both increase the welfare of the people and maintain the fertility of the soil. This close co-operation between Mantri Hutan and Lurah is called MA-LU cooperation.

In this co-operation the Mantri Hutan will provide the people with the necessary plants, and advice on how to grow the trees, while the Lurah will recruit the people to participate in the project and ensure that the interests of the village and the people are not forgotten.

Water for Daily Needs and Irrigation

The principle must be to give the people what they most urgently need, and an absolute need of all villages is water for drinking and cooking.

Most villages around the forests are dry, and people usually have to walk a long distance - three to five kilometres every day, just to get water for drinking and cooking, as water sources are usually found deep in the forests.

To help the people with the problem of water, reservoirs are built to collect the water from its source, and pipes installed to bring the water to the centre of the village. The people, organized by the Lurah, are responsible for maintenance of the reservoir and pipes, and minor repairs to them. They are also responsible for the safety of the forest plantations round the water sources.

In addition, checkdams are constructed, if possible, on rivers near the villages to raise the level of water, so that irrigation of rice fields and house gardens is possible. At the same time erosion of fertile topsoil into the rivers is reduced. Fish can be raised in the dams, and people, especially the young, find them attractive for recreation.

Firewood Production

The fast-growing species used in forest plantations can also be planted in the villages. These species, such as Calliandra, Giant Ipil-lpil (Leucaena), and Acacias can be grown along village roads, around houses, around lakes, ponds and checkdams, and around the village, according to conditions of soil, climate, and elevation. Calliandra, Giant Ipil-lpil, and other legumes are multipurpose trees because: (a) they restore soil fertility; (b) the leaves are good fodder for livestock; (c) the flowers are good for bee forage, to support apiaries.

Fruit Trees and Other Horticultural Trees

In addition to his efforts to encourage people to plant trees for firewood, Mantri hutan also has the duty of providing seedlings of fruit trees, from his permanent nursery beds. The seedlings should be of plants well-liked by the people for growing on their unirrigated farmland and in house gardens.

It is not wise to introduce "new" plants too suddenly, even though they may be of high economic value, such as cloves, hybrid coconuts and others. People are naturally hesitant to accept anything "new." The introduction of "new" plants should, instead, be done carefully and gradually at the same time as guidance is given on growing more familiar plants.

The Mushroom Project

Continuous cultivation without the use of fertilizers will make the soil infertile and unproductive. In view of the shortage of land it is necessary to introduce crops which occupy as small an area as possible - or even better, without occupying any land at all. From this point of view mushrooms are a very suitable crop.

They are grown on jamur merang (literally "mushroom straw"), The rice straw and the mushroom spawn have to be brought in from elsewhere.

After practical training by an expert especially assigned for the purpose, villagers will be able to cultivate mushrooms which can be harvested only one month after establishment. These mushrooms can be sold to increase income, or eaten to enrich the diet. After growing the mushrooms the decaying rice straw can be used as fertilizer. It will improve the fertility of the soil for second crops, or can be used for vegetables in house gardens.

This promising project has already stimulated the villagers to improve mushroom production.

Making Terraces

Where villages are on mountain slopes terraces need to be built as part of the cultivation system. Erosion is controlled by inward sloping teras bangku (bench terraces), and by planting grass on waterways, and the risers of the terraces.

Other Activities

The extension activities needed to improve the welfare of the villagers will vary with the location, the climate, and other conditions within the village. Such extension activities planting elephant grass, introducing apiculture, silk-worm rearing and so on - should take place gradually and carefully.


1. Forests, and the people living near them, are parts of the same ecosystem; thus rural community development quite logically falls under forest management.

2. Preservation of the forest is closely linked with the welfare of the people, especially those living near the forest.

3. Better use must be made of both forest land and village land, and fertile topsoil must be preserved; these are the two main factors in increasing prosperity in the villages.

4. Activities needed to further rural community development cannot be standardized, but must be adjusted according to the habits and beliefs of the people.

5. In rural development close co-operation is needed between the different government agencies, such as the agricultural services, services under the Ministry of Home Affairs, forestry, etc., and these together should form a development board. Co-operation is essential between this board and the Mantri Hutan (Forest Guard) and Lurah (Village Leader), who are responsible for the day-to-day execution of projects.

6. Guidance to villagers is given through extension and demonstration, and by the giving of certain incentives. It may be necessary for certain regulations to be drawn up to support project activities.

7. In order to find out the most important needs and desires of the villagers research in rural sociology needs to be undertaken.

8. A long-term programme of basic agricultural research is needed, especially applied and practical research. This will help to obtain the acceptance of the villagers to the project.


AGRO-forestry activities in a multiple-use forest management project in the Philippines

W.L. Heymann

Shifting cultivation is a serious problem in the Philippines, resulting in forest destruction, soil deterioration, soil erosion, and damage to watersheds. It is caused by population pressure, the need for food, lack of suitable agricultural land, and lack of opportunities for employment. It is not possible to control it by prosecution and punishment of the cultivators, who, with their families, number over 1 million, and in addition those who entered the forest before 1975 have been given immunity against prosecution by Presidential Decree. Thus the aim is to use socio-economic measures to encourage people to settle on the land as permanent farmers, who will not need to continuously move to new sites for slash and burn agriculture.

The Multiple Use Forest Management Project, a joint project between the Bureau of Forest Management, Government of the Philippines, and the Food and Agriculture Organization and the United Nations Development Programme began in 1978. It has an agroforestry component with the aims of rehabilitating forest land occupied by shifting cultivators, together with the development of stable agriculture, fruit-tree cultivation, and wood production. The guiding principles of the programme include ensuring the continued existence and improvement of the forest, and the improvement of the income and living conditions of the forest occupants.

Field work began in two districts in 1979, one at 500 m elevation, with 2,000 mm of rainfall spread over five to six months, and one at 1,500 m with 4,000 mm of rain falling in seven months. Work in a third, lowland, district began in 1981. The first step was to obtain information from the local people. including mayors, notables, community leaders and the cultivators themselves. This showed that the main needs felt by the forest occupants were (a) land titles, or at least long-lease permits; (b) productive trees for planting; (cl improvement of their living conditions and the welfare of their families, through schools, hospitals, etc.

The project was unable to help over land titles, though it explained the existing legal situation, but the request for help in obtaining trees led to a mutual agreement on treeplanting between the project and the forest occupants, in which the project would provide seedlings free of charge, technical assistance, and extension, while the forest occupants would stake out, plant, mulch and weed the seedlings, and protect them against fire.

The aim was for an average of twenty trees to be planted by each participant. In the lowlands soil-tolerant species were planted, such as mango (Mangifera indica), jackfruit (Artocarpus heterophyllus), pomelo (Citrus grandis), star apple (Chrysophyllum cainito) and santol (Sandoricum koetjabe). Coconuts were much requested by the cultivators, but reserved for planting in areas of good soil.

At the higher elevation the main species used was coffee (Coffee arabica) with others such as bananas, citrus and guavas (Psidium guajava). Here the programme also included bench terracing, which was done by the occupants themselves, on payment, with the assistance of project staff.

Certain fruits such as guavas and avocado pears (Persea americana) were encouraged for their nutritional value, although their market value is less than that of some of the other fruits. As a reward for good standards of maintenance and fire protection in the first year, in the second year selected trees such as grafted mangoes and dwarf coconuts were given to participants, together with improved seed of maize, groundnuts, sorghum, etc. Forage crops are also being propagated.

At the same time as participants were planting fruit trees on their land, the Bureau of Forest Development was planting forest trees, usually on land with a slope of over 50 per cent. Species used were Casuarina equisetifolia, Acacia auricularaeformis, Dalbergia sissoo, Cassia siamea, Gmelina arborea, Calliandra callothyrsus, Eucalyptus spp.. and Alnus japonica.

The rate of progress of the work is shown in Table 1.

Among difficulties encountered were the need to persuade the cultivators to plant their fruit trees at the correct distance (they tended to plant them too densely), and of the importance of ring-weeding round the trees and mulching them. Mulching is needed to improve soil fertility, to maintain humidity, to reduce weeds, and to increase soil protection.

TABLE 1. Rate of Progress of Tree Planting, 1979-1981

Year Number of
Number of
in Hectares
Average Trees
per Participant
1979 109 6,701 48.64 61
1980 484 22,837 127.06 47
1981 479 25,954 156.82 54

At first, forest occupants were suspicious and did not believe that the project would fulfil its promises. These suspicions were removed when they received the first batch of seedlings. The keeping of promises is a key factor in this type of project, otherwise people's confidence will be lost. and the project will fail.

In the upland area the people were obtaining relatively high incomes from growing vegetables, particularly from terraced and irrigated land, and hence were less interested in tree-growing. In particular young coffee was not weeded and mulched properly, and people were reluctant to prune older plantations. They regarded coffee as a more or less natural crop, needing little tending, instead of the rather demanding crop which it is, if good yields are to be obtained.

Some forest occupants wished to extend their plantations on to public lands on which the forest had been destroyed. Solutions to this problem are foreseen, as the government has decided to give long lease permits, allowing the planting of fruit and forest trees, and is also preparing a social forestry programme linked with agrarian reform.

Another difficulty is that the forest occupants are very scattered and it is also difficult to get them to work together to plant whole slopes rather than scattered patches. The people are very individualistic and to get them to work together with others will require prolonged and patient efforts.

Despite these difficulties the project has on the whole been successful. Only 7.5 per cent of the planted trees were damaged by fire, and the target of twenty trees per forest occupant has been considerably exceeded, the actual average being fifty-four trees per participant. The number of barangays (villages) covered has increased from two in 1979 to fifteen in 1981; many more would like to participate, but the programme has been limited by shortage of budgetary allocations. The flexibility of the programme, in which the number of trees to be planted is not specified, and there is a wide choice among a number of species, is appreciated by the participants. The project however requires that holes should have been dug at the correct spacing before any tree seedlings are issued.

A cultivator who owns only twenty mango or jackfruit trees can expect to double or treble his income. This is realized by the participants; the final proof, however, will only be obtained after some years, when the crops begin to be harvested.

Involving the forest occupants is the cheapest and fastest way to ensure restoration and rehabilitation of watersheds.


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