Protect forests but ensure food security: NGOs

Tifa Asrianti, The Jakarta Post, Jakarta | Mon, 06/06/2011 8:00 AM


To commemorate World Environment Day, activists say the government should create a comprehensive plan for the use of forests and agricultural land in order to both protect forests and ensure food security.

This year’s World Environment Day on June 5 has the theme “Forest: Nature At Your Service”.

Indonesian forests remain in danger, as the recently signed forest moratorium only protects primary forest and allows forest clearing for agriculture purposes, the activists said.

President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono signed a two-year binding forest moratorium in May. The moratorium was part of a letter of intent that Indonesia signed with Norway last year, under which
Norway pledged to give Indonesia US$1 billion in exchange for emissions reductions.

The moratorium, which covers primary forests and peatland, not secondary forests, also protects degraded forest within primary forest areas.

Sri Palupi from Ecosoc Rights said that to maintain forest sustainability and food security, the government should make a comprehensive land use plan for forests and allocate plots of land for agriculture.

“There should be a clear road map to prevent land conversion from agricultural land to non-agricultural land in Java,” she said.

She said the strategy on food security should unite both the food industry and small farmers.

M. Yayat Afianto, program manager for a campaign at Rare Conservation, said to ensure food security the government should study the characteristics of each piece of land before enforcing a certain strategy. He cited the case of land opening in Papua’s mangrove areas to plant staple foods.

“If the land is not fit for the staple food plants then the government should not continue with its plan as it will destroy the land,” he said.

He said the government should look for local staple foods instead of making rice the sole staple. People in Papua should return to eating yams, he said as an example.

“The plants that grow in the area are good enough for people to consume. Indonesia has various staple foods, so the government should not force a certain staple food on the whole country,” he said.

Ahead of this year’s World Environment Day, the Environment Ministry and the Coordinating Agency for Land Survey and Mapping (Bakosurtanal) signed an MoU to cooperate in making eco-maps and other maps under a nature conservation plan.

The ministry is also holding an “Environment Week” from June 1-7 at Senayan in Jakarta. The event will have exhibitions, musical performances, recycling and talk shows on the environment, according to a ministry press release.

The UN’s International Labour Organization (ILO) said forests were important in creating job opportunities, as ILO research has shown that there are significant sustainable employment and income opportunities in Amazon forests.

But, a network of global NGOs criticized the UN’s use of the word “service” in the theme.

Global Forest Coalition chair Fiu Mataese Elisara said in a press release that it was a perverse approach to see nature as a “service” to mankind, especially as this is the International Year of Forests.

“Forests have an intrinsic value and should be conserved in their own right, as prescribed by numerous indigenous and non-indigenous socio-cultural norms and value systems,” Elisara said.