Hans Nicholas Jong, Sorong, Papua – Residents of Manggroholo village and Sira village in South Sorong, West Papua province, rejoiced on Thursday as their villages were the first in Papua to have their rights to manage the island's forests acknowledged by the government.
The South Sorong administration handed over the hutan desa (village forest) permits to representatives of the villagers on Thursday.
The Environment and Forestry Ministry defines a "village forest" as a state forest not encumbered by previous rights and managed by a village to improve its welfare.
Fredrik Sagisolo, the head of a local indigenous community alliance, said he expected the permit issuance to be followed by the recognition of other hutan desa in West Papua.
"We wanted our customary land rights to be wholly recognized because we knew that we had a lot of potential, but it was not us who managed the potential," he said.
Greenpeace Indonesia heralded the acknowledgment as a landmark decision as it marked the first time villagers in Papua received rights to manage their own forests under the village forest scheme.
The scheme was part of President Joko "Jokowi" Widodo's land reform plan, which included the distribution of 12.7 million hectares of land access to local communities, villagers and indigenous people.
"After almost 10 years of fighting, finally today our friends received a permit to manage hutan desa, which will allow freedom and sovereignty in managing hutan desa," Greenpeace Indonesia forest campaigner Kiki
Taufik said during the permit-giving ceremony in Teminabuan, South Sorong. He said the villagers had been fighting for their rights to manage around 3,500 hectares of forests from palm oil companies that wanted to convert the forest areas into oil palm plantations since 2013. (rin)