Australia has committed A$30 million to the Kalimantan Forests and Climate Partnership (KFCP) in Indonesia. Recently, questions from Senator Christine Milne (of the Green Party) in the Australian Parliament were (sort of) answered by the Minister for Foreign Affairs and the Minister for Trade.
The project is home to indigenous peoples and the recognition of customary land is one of their key concerns – with or without the KFCP project. The 120,000 hectare KFCP project consists of two parts: an avoided deforestation component to the north of the project area and an area to be rehabilitated in the south.
There is little doubt that something needs to be done, at least in the southern part of the project. The KFCP project covers a small part of former President Suharto’s Mega Rice Project – the “most glaring misuse of tropical peatland in recent times” as Jack Rieley of Nottingham University put it. Suharto’s big idea was to make Indonesia self-sufficient in rice by creating one million hectares of new rice fields. Under the project, during the mid-1990s, Suharto’s business cronies clear-cut more than one million hectares of forest, killed about 5,000 orangutans, built 4,600 kilometres of channels to drain the peat swamps but didn’t produce a single grain of rice. 60,000 settlers moved to the area to work on the project, many of whom are still there.
A film made last year by Gekko Studio provides a fascinating glimpse into the complexities of setting up the KFCP project.
In the film, Muhadi, a village officer at Mantangai Hulu, says:
“I think that KFCP is a good programme, just look at their objectives to rehabilitate the land. On the other hand, our society just wants an assurance that the KFCP programme will change the scheme, from a scheme which is based on state land to one which is based on customary land.”
Abdon Nababan, Secretary General of AMAN (the Indigenous Peoples Alliance of the Archipelago), comments that,
“I guess that the socialisation programme hasn’t been run well, and it is still incomplete. So people are just responding to the summary. They have said, ‘it is good, it promotes economic development, it earns us some money it is possible to preserve out peatland.’ But it doesn’t explain the programme duties, which are to legitimise and protect indigenous peoples’ territorial rights. Besides, FPIC (free, prior informed consent) is a way to seek the community’s agreement, so how can we say that KFCP will be a good project if they haven’t provided clear maps of their customary territory? If the customary territory is not clear, it will become dangerous because this FPIC could become a source of conflict. One party might agree to the scheme, even though the territory which will be included in the REDD scheme is not even their territory, it might be another community’s customary territory.”
Unfortunately, the Minister for Foreign Affairs (ex-Prime Minister, Kevin Rudd) and the Minister for Trade (Craig Emerson), failed to reflect these realities and concerns in their answers. Instead, they skip over questions about FPIC and whether the KFCP project will become part of the voluntary carbon market. The transcript of the senate session is available here (pdf file 24.8 KB) and below, (reformatted to appear as an interview):
Senator Milne: (1) (a) How have local communities been informed about the Kalimantan Forests and Climate Partnership (KFCP);
(b) who was informed; and
(c) what feedback has been received on the proposed project?
Minister for Foreign Affairs and the Minister for Trade: (a) Australia is supporting Indonesia in its efforts to reduce emissions from deforestation, The Kalimantan Forests and Climate Partnership (KFCP) is a key element of the Indonesia Australia Forest Carbon Partnership which is a leading international partnership on reducing emissions from deforestation and forest degradation in developing countries (REDD+). The KFCP was designed, and is being implemented, in close consultation with local communities and is linked with pre-existing initiatives in peatland planning and conservation in Central Kalimantan. Since mid-2009, the KFCP has worked through village facilitators (13 of whom are posted in villages which are home to the great majority of people in the project area) to explain the objectives of KFCP, gather community views about the project, understand the social and economic circumstances of the local communities, and develop options for alternative incomes for the local people (including improved management of smallholder rubber plantations in areas where agriculture is already practiced and on forest conservation activities). Key elements of the implementation will be undertaken by local NGOs (CARE and Borneo Orangutan Survival) who have long-term relationships and knowledge of the area.
(b) The KFCP was designed in partnership with Indonesian officials at national, provincial and local level. Village heads and customary leaders were also consulted in the design phase. The early implementation phase of the KFCP includes a communications component to provide further information on the objectives and approaches of the KFCP.
(c) Community representatives have been receptive to the KFCP on the basis that they retain equitable access to forest resources and to incentive-based payments.
Senator Milne: (2) Has there been a land tenure assessment performed on the land to be covered by the project; if so, what was the result of that assessment; if not, why not?
Minister for Foreign Affairs and the Minister for Trade: An assessment of customary rights and other forms of local land tenure was completed in the design phase in 2009. Land tenure remains a very complex issue and further information about local land tenure and property rights will continue to be collected during the implementation phase.
Senator Milne: (3) Has there been an attempt to gain the free, prior and informed consent of local Indigenous and forest dependent communities in relation to the project?
Minister for Foreign Affairs and the Minister for Trade: The KFCP was designed in partnership with Indonesian officials at national, provincial and local level, as well as village heads and customary leaders. There has been extensive and ongoing consultation with the local communities, and facilitators have been posted in 13 villages which house the majority of people in the project area.
Senator Milne: (4) (a) Has the Government undertaken any contingency planning for KFCP in the event that it is not possible for country parties to agree on the inclusion of reducing emissions from deforestation and forest degradation in developing countries in the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC); and
(b) is it anticipated that KFCP will became part of the voluntary carbon market.
Minister for Foreign Affairs and the Minister for Trade: (a) and (b) Australia continues actively to support the inclusion of REDD+ in a future international climate change agreement. As a REDD+ demonstration activity, the priority of the KFCP is to trial how REDD+ can work in practice, and to inform the UNFCCC negotiating process on REDD+. The KFCP will test approaches to meeting possible future UNFCCC requirements for a REDD+ market mechanism. There has been significant progress on REDD+ in the UNFCCC negotiations, including recent agreement in the Copenhagen Accord on the need to immediately establish a mechanism for REDD+.
Senator Milne: (5) (a) Does KFCP propose plantations as reforestation and an alternative source of income for local communities; and
(b) is there anything in the design of KFCP that prevents plantations from being recognised for carbon credits.
Minister for Foreign Affairs and the Minister for Trade: (a) and (b) The KPCP will undertake reforestation as part of efforts to rehabilitate and stabilise existing areas of degraded peat swamp forest to help prevent further forest degradation and deforestation. Reforestation will be undertaken using native species. The KFCP will also support local livelihood activities, such as improved management of smallholder rubber plantations in areas where agriculture is already practiced. The KFCP will not support industrial plantations. As part of trialling approaches to REDD+ the KFCP will estimate and monitor changes in emissions and removals of greenhouse gases.
Senator Milne: (6) Given that in its submissions to the UNFCCC in 2008 on KFCP, the Australian Government discussed the need to restrict forest conversion within Central Kalimantan at a province-wide level, can details be provided of (a) what restrictions are currently in place in relation to forest conversion; and (b) what plans are in place for forest conversion across the province.
Minister for Foreign Affairs and the Minister for Trade: (a) and (b) Australia will continue to work with Indonesia on these issues, however, restrictions and planning relating to forest conversion are the responsibility of the Government of Indonesia, with whom the joint UNFCCC submission on the KFCP was made, through its legislation and decision making processes.