The Kayan Mentarang National Park situated in the interior of East Kalimantan, Indonesian Borneo, lies at the border with Sarawak to the west and Sabah to the north. With its gazetted 1.4 million hectares, it is the largest protected area of rainforest in Borneo and one of the largest in Southeast Asia.
The history of the natural landscape of the park is inexorably intertwined with the history of its people. About 16,000 Dayak people live inside or in close proximity of this National Park. The communities living in and around the park are still largely regulated by customary law or "adat" in the conduct of their daily affairs and the management of natural resources in their customary territory. The customary chief (kepala adat) administers the customary law with the help of the customary council (lembaga adat). All elected officials at village level and prominent leaders of the community sit on a customary council. Traditional forest areas with protection status or strict management regime exist. "Tana ulen", for example, is land whose access is restricted, limited. It is an expanse of primary forest rich in natural resources such as rattan (Calamus spp), sang leaves (Licuala sp.), hardwood for construction (e.g., Dipterocarpus spp, Shorea spp, Quercus sp), fish and game, all of which have high use value for the local community.
The Nature Reserve established in 1980 had a strict protection status, meaning that no human activities are allowed inside the protected area. WWF together with LIPI (Indonesian Institute of Research) and local people ran a long-term social science research program ("Culture and Conservation", 1991-1997) and conducted experimental community mapping to show that the communities were dependent on forest resources and had rightful claims to the land. The results provided the necessary evidence to recommend a change of status from Nature Reserve to National Park in 1994 (where traditional activities are allowed).
The issue of social entitlements, and particularly lack of tenure security, was identified by the WWF team as a key issue and priority area for intervention in the period 1996-2000. Although Dayak people had been living in the area and made use of forest resources for centuries, the forest they inhabited and managed was "state forest" with a situation of open access, whereby the state could decide to allocate exploitation rights or decide to establish a conservation area without prior consent of the local communities. Local communities had very little power in trying to defend the forest or secure the source of their economic livelihood against the interests of logging companies, mining exploration, or outside collectors of forest products.
Under these circumstances, the WWF Kayan Mentarang project developed a strategy and program of field activities that would lead to the legal recognition of "adat" claims and "adat" rights so that indigenous communities could continue to use and manage forest resources in the conservation area. Activities included: community mapping; qualitative assessments of the use and availability of forest resources with economic value; workshop for the recognition of "tana ulen" or forest under traditional customary management; participatory planning for zonation recommendations and the redrawing of the external boundaries of the park; drafting of "adat" or customary regulations for the management of the national park; strengthening of local organizations and institutional development.
Following several meetings and discussions among the ten "adat” leaders from the customary lands around the park area, the Alliance of the Indigenous People of Kayan Mentarang National Park (FoMMA), was formed and formally established on October 7, 2000. The main objectives were to create a forum for conveying the aspirations of the indigenous communities and debating issues concerning the management of the National Park and natural resources in the customary lands of the park. FoMMA is concerned with guaranteeing protection of the forest and the sustainable use of natural resources as well as protection of the rights of indigenous people, and also concerned with increasing their economic prosperity. FoMMA now legally represents the indigenous people on the Policy Board of the park, a new institution set up to preside over the park's management. The Policy Board includes representatives of the central government (agency for Forest Protection and Nature Conservation), the provincial and district governments, and FoMMA. The operating principles of the board emphasize the importance of coordination, competence, shared responsibilities, and equal partnership among all stakeholders. The board was formally established in April 2002 with a Decree of the Ministry of Forestry, which also spells out that the park is to be managed through collaborative management (a first in Indonesia).
After decades of marginalisation and dispossession, recent developments in the Kayan Mentarang National Parks offer hope to the indigenous communities of Kalimantan. It is becoming increasingly evident that conservation objectives can rarely be obtained or sustained by imposing policies and projects that produce negative impacts on indigenous peoples and local communities. Alternative and progressive approaches that genuinely take into consideration local peoples' needs and rights and secure their full involvement in biodiversity management and decision making can provide a more solid basis for ecological protection and improvement of people's livelihoods. There is hope that the co-management arrangement being developed in Kayan Mentarang will fulfil these objectives.
By: Cristina Eghenter, WWF Indonesia Kayan Mentarang Project, email@example.com ; Martin Labo, Alliance of the Indigenous People of Kayan Mentarang National Park (FoMMA), firstname.lastname@example.org and Maurizio Farhan Ferrari, Forest Peoples Programme, email@example.com