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Controversy surrounding Australia’s Kalimantan Forest and Climate Partnership REDD project deepens

Controversy surrounding Australia's Kalimantan Forest and Climate Partnership REDD project deepens

Recently an Evaluation Team spent two days looking at Australia’s Kalimantan Forest and Climate Partnership project. Local communities from the project area and Indonesian NGOs wrote to the Governor of Central Kalimantan Teras Narang pointing out the inadequacies of the Evaluation and the ongoing problems with the project.

Despite the many criticisms of the project AusAID appears determined in its attempts to greenwash the project. “We are engaging the community on every level and in every step of the way,” a recent news release from AusAID quotes Mansyur, a KFCP facilitator, as saying. Not so, according to the recent letter, which states that, “KFCP project developer has never consulted or ask for consent of the community based on FPIC principles prior to implementation of REDD pilot project.”

The letter even reports fights breaking out between project staff and villagers in Katimpun – the village where Mansyur works.

UPDATE – 11 September 2012: Yesterday, the Australian Ambassador for Climate Change, Dr. Justin Lee, visited the KFCP project. Perhaps not surprisingly, Ambassador Lee appears not to come across any problems during his visit. “I’m pleased to see the progress on the ground,” he said in a press release. “Seeing first-hand, I learned how complex the project is, but it is still one of the most advanced REDD+ activities in the world.”

During his visit, Ambassador Lee met villagers from Katunjung. “I am very pleased to have listened to their views on the project,” Lee said. “We need their involvement to make this work. Seven village agreements are currently in place to ensure support for local communities carrying out REDD+ activities.”

It’s difficult to imagine a bigger contrast between the official Australian version of the project and the views of the villagers, as expressed in the letter to the Governor of Central Kalimantan.

The press release is available here in English (pdf file 103.1 kB) and Bahasa Indonesian (pdf file 102.4 kB).

The Honorable A. Teras Narang,
Governor of Central Kalimantan

Dear Mr Narang,

We would like to take the opportunity to share our viewpoints and findings with regard to Kalimantan Forest and Climate Partnership (KFCP) project, which has been undergone an evaluation recently by Evaluation Team composed of Central Kalimantan Province and Kapuas District Government.

We regard that Indonesian peoples also share common responsibility to the joint project between Australia and Indonesia governments that has been given the significant funding of AUS$30 million. Because it surely put some impacts to surrounding communities and environment of the project area which is up to 120,000 ha in the sub-districts of Mantangai and Timpah at Kapuas district.

We appreciate the initiative taken by the authorities of Central Kalimantan province and Kapuas District to conduct KFCP project evaluation recently. Honestly, we are skeptical, however, that the 2-days evaluation is effective to cover the whole project area consists of 7 villages, let alone to reach neighbouring villages which bear the indirect impacts of the project.

We are aware about KFCP documents which stated that KFCP is a pilot project to build a model of program to reduce Green House Gas emission from deforestation and forest degradation by supporting the development of forest and forest carbon valuation and monitoring, by providing spaces for communities to take part and providing livelihood, by improving forest governance and community-based forest management, by conducting reforestation and rehabilitation of peatland canals, by preventing and mitigating forest fires, by supporting institutional building and incentive distribution, etc.

Our finding, however, reveals that the implementation of KFCP project often contradicts to principles, targets and expectation of local communities as well as the interest of the project itself, as can be seen below::

Rights on land and other resources

  • Hitherto, KFCP project developer has never consulted or ask for consent of the community based on FPIC principles prior to implementation of REDD pilot project. There has never been any clear information being made available regarding the exact location of the 120,000ha project as well as about community’s rights to access their land and forest designated for the project, let alone about the status and management of peatland designated to be reforested and rehabilitated by blocking the drainage canals. This practice contradicts FPIC principles.
  • Forestry Regional office of Kapuas District forbids the local community to set up oil palm plantation in their own village, as in the case of Kalumpang village, for the reason that the land belongs to the KFCP project developer. This is a one-sided claim, which has never been informed to the community before the decision was taken and certainly has been depriving their access to resources.
  • KFCP project developer and the local government have been ignoring demands and objections of the community expressed face to face as well as by letters. They do not show any good will to seek for solution with regards to the problem about of recognizing and respecting community rights to lands.

Community participation

  • Participation is one of the key principles of KFCP project. In practice, however, people’s participation under this project is counted as working for money for the project. Community’s participation is far from the genuinely involvement due to their awareness and understanding of the aims, benefits and risks of the project. This creates a situation whereas the community is merely object of the project, while project developer and operator decide, arrange and implement the project. Lack of genuine community’s participation led to the project experiencing lack of control and accountability, intransparency with regards to information and funding, and project operator making decision single-handedly.
  • Lack of participation and intransparency bring some negative impacts such as conflicts between communities against project operator and developer. For examples: some fighting broke out between project operator and villagers of Katimpun; villagers of Mantangai Hulu being labeled criminals following a protest; some tension occurred between people of Sei Ahas village in connection to the presence of KFCP project.
  • Under reforestation project, the local people were recruited to work in the tree nursery, preparing the land and to do the replanting. They were paid below minimum wage of Regional Standard of Central Kalimantan. And yet, the work was done in time and within budget. However, once the trees were planted, the locals were no longer involved in the maintenance leaving the new plants withered and died. On the other hand, community’s request for having alternative livelihood program has been ignored. Instead, people were asked to simply follow any program as planned by the project developer (the case of Mantangai).

Rehabilitation of drainage canals (by blocking)

  • The rehabilitation of drainage system by blocking the canals has closed the access of the local communities to their garden, ponds and other sources of livelihood. After receiving some cash of compensation, some people in the community allowed the project to take place and getting involved themselves in blocking the canals. However, the decision being made without consent of wider community member, for example, of those living along the canals. The blocking resulted in their houses being flooded and destroying their rubber garden (cases of Katunjung and Mantangai Hulu).
  • Timber logged from nearby forest is used to block the canals. This practice contradicts KFCP project’s aims that is to reduce emission by avoiding deforestation. This is observation from Mantangai Hulu and Katunjung. Other than that, local people are paid below agreed price for their timber. The project operator and local authority broke their own promises regarding timber price. Not surprisingly, the community is protesting against the discrepancy (Case of Mantangai Hulu).

Livelihood programme

  • This programme supposed to support people’s livelihood such as by providing funding to grow rubber plantation. However, until today people are still waiting for the promise to materialize. In some cases, local community rejected the programme because their inputs on activity and budget were not heard (case of Mantangai Hulu).

Conflict resolution and complaint mechanism

  • KFCP project does not have complaint and conflict resolution mechanism. The project management tends to rely on the police or military personnel to curb conflicts, as in the case of Mantangai Hulu. The people who protest are being labeled criminals and sent to the police station. Military personnel were invited to attend meetings with community creating intimidated feeling among communities.
  • People’s complaints and inputs to KFCP’s field workers have been ignored and have not been followed up resulting in unrest.
    The local people are complaining about lack of capacity and skills of KFCP field workers. They are inconsistent and unable to provide sufficient information and response to the needs of community.

Other matters

KFCP closes its eye to oil palm plantation development projects, logging and mining activities in the surrounding area of the project. Take the examples of 20,000ha plantation of PT Rezki Alam Semesta Raya, PT Graha Inti Jaya and PT Global Agro Lestari, which are blatantly cutting down the forest and destroying peatland. Those companies clearly hamper the target of KFCP to restore the area as well as to reduce emission from peatland.

Based on the findings above, on this open letter we urge the Governor of Central Kalimantan to:

  1. Issue programme and policy to support any effort to recognize, protect and respect the rights of community to land according to the Governor Regulation Nr 13/2009 about adat land and adat rights on land.
  2. Find immediate solution for land conflicts between communities of Katimpun, Sei Ahas and Pulau Kaladan against oil palm plantation company PT Rezeki Alam Semesta Raya that has taken people’s land and destroy their forest.
  3. Immediately issued a decision to return the lands of indigenous peoples taken over by PT. Rezeky Alam Semesta Raya according revocation letter of the Bupati of Kapuas.
  4. Facilitate re-negotiation of KFCP project, this time by implementing FPIC principles. Communities and wider public members are to be invited to define and decide the continuation of KFCP project. The community should be allowed to have their say in any further planning including any new agreement about the project.
  5. Urge the government to develop policy and programme that support community initiatives to protect the forest and peatland based on their own knowledge and rights.
  6. Urge KFCP project developer to fulfill their promise to provide alternative livelihood to improve people’s income generation, especially the promise to develop rubber plantation.
  7. Urge project developer to submit accountability report about the implementation of KFCP project. The report should be published and made widely available.
  8. In relation to the visit of the Australian Ambassador to climate change projects planned for mid-September 2012, we demand the government of Central Kalimantan to publicly invite the communities to meet with the Ambassador and local authorities and hold a dialogue forum.

We thank you for your attention and good will to realize people’s interest.

Desa Mantangai Hulu, 29 August 2012

Signed by:
1. Norhadie Karben, Chairman of Serikat Tani Karet, Mantangai Hulu
2. Tanduk O. Kasan, Chairman of BPHD AMAN Kab. Kapuas
3. Ali Rahman, Peasant, Desa Pulau Kaladan, Mantangai
4. Abdul Hamid, Member of BPD Desa Katunjung, Mantangai
5. Asmuni, Yayasan Petak Danum, Kapuas
6. Basri HD, Peasant, Mantangai Hulu
7. Uber S. Neos, Kelompok Tani Desa Katimpun, Mantangai
8. Sarkani, Kelompok Tani Desa Katimpun, Mantangai
9. Ukal, Kelompok Tani Desa Katimpun, Mantangai
10. Karben Hudi, Peasant, Mantangai Hulu
11. Y.L. Franky, Yayasan PUSAKA, Jakarta.
12. Muliadi, Yayasan Petak Danum, Kapuas.
13. Simpun Samperna, AMAN Kalimantan Tengah.
14. Muhammad Teguh Surya, REDD+ observer, Jakarta
15. Dedi Ratih, Eksekutif Nasional WALHI, Jakarta
16. Arie Rompas, Executive Director of WALHI Kalteng, Palangkaraya.

PHOTO Credit: Remote Sensing Solutions GmbH

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