22 Oktober 2020

Learning From Guguk Customary Forest

Guguk is the name of a beautiful village located in Renah Pembarap sub district, Merangin District in Jambi province. It is a village where its dwellers is still in bound to local wisdoms and tradition. It has a customary forest they respect as a legacy from their forefathers.  Guguk is a local Jambi language meaning cottage or small hut. In 2003, Merangin District authority has finally acquired community rights to manage their own Guguk Customary Forest (based on Bupati decree No. 287 of 2003).

In Sumatra, Guguk Customary Forest seems like an oasis in the desert. Amid massive logging and forest clearing in Sumatra, this forest still stands tall as a green and pristine forest. Guguk Customary Forest provide forest seeds sources as well as germplasm storage. It performs ecological function, as habitat for natural regeneration of the native species and the preservation of species threatened with extinction according to the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) red list (2011 ), including Shorea macroptera, Shorea parvolia, Shorea acuminate, Hope sangal, and Shorea balanoides. The forest also still holds great potential for its animals, including tigers, hornbills, and elephants.

In order to keep their customary forests, local community forming an institution as vehicle to manage their forest called Customary Forest Management Group (KPHA) which outlined in the Joint Decree No. 01. KB / VIII / 2003. Based on this decision, a series of regulations that define and regulate related to village forest management were made. Things contained in this decree are among others:
1. Guguk Customary Forest is a customary forest owned by Guguk village and become a liability of Guguk Village community to maintain its sustainability.
2. Communities are prohibited to open agriculture fields (humo, in local language). Field/humo or sesap that already exist in the area of ​​customary forest should not be expanded. However, their owners can still take advantage of planting perennials
3. People are prohibited using harmful materials like poison, tuba, electricity, explosives, and compressor in fishing activities within customary forest areas.

The local customary board, has created work plan for forest management that has already in force since 2003. The program is carried out by funding assistance from community itself, individual donors or other institutional donors. The program includes equipment provision for field patrols, performing routine patrol in the forest, provision of hardwood seedlings (Raintrees, Shorea, and Jelutung), flora and fauna monitoring, rejuvenation of community rubber trees, improve household incomes adjacent to Guguk community forest, etc. Penalties or violators are unhesitantly enforced. Those who break the rules, such as cutting trees illegally, will face customary sanction and fined for a buffalo.

The community was never tempted to give up their forest for capital owners. It is not exaggeration to say that the villagers Guguk really uphold their customary forests. The other villagers around the village Guguk put high respect with Guguk’s community. And that’s why, Guguk customary forest of ​​690 ha area remains sterile, protected from the threat of illegal logging and encroachment.

Due to the persistence and seriousness of the local community in maintaining these forests, in 2006 the Ministry of Forestry (now the Ministry of Environment and Forestry) confers CBFM Award (Community Based Forest Management). In 2014 they were awarded Kalpataru, a national level awards for excellence achievement in environmental programs, for the achievement of Guguk resident to maintain the integrity of their forest.

Supports and awards from outsiders has made locals more encouraged to carry out their way of life. This community with recognized customary rights has the responsibility to manage and protect their forests with their wisdom. But of course, recognition only is not enough, but there should be a real support for community to keep continuing protect the forest. It is quite possible that threats from inside and outside the village will cause people to change their pendulum, put economic first before environmental and cultural values.

TFCA-Sumatera supports assistance programs by KKI-Warsi in this community forest. The assistance program includes creating capacity building program to manage agroforestry, ecotourism development, development of non-timber forest products, and improving the quality of handicraft produced locally. So far, the benefit of this assistance has already felt by local peoples, particularly in terms of economy. In the future, similar support will be replicated to other customary community in order to keep the sustainability of remaining forest in Sumatra.

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