The role of Indigenous land tenure formalization for conservation in Indonesia


Link to presentation recording

Abstract: Global and regional studies indicate that Indigenous Lands - areas traditionally managed, owned, or occupied by Indigenous Peoples - are often associated with major conservation benefits such as reduced deforestation. Thus, policymakers, governments, and Indigenous Peoples have expressed the hope that such more secure land tenure for Indigenous Peoples may contribute to both indigenous self-determination and climate change and biodiversity loss mitigation, especially in regions with extensive tropical forests. In Indonesia, over the last two decades, several government and civil society programs have offered the opportunity for Indigenous Peoples to formalize their claims to land and natural resources. While prior research suggests that one path to formalization – Indonesia’s Social Forestry program, which allocates limited use rights to forests – generates few benefits for forest conservation, several other programs that grant ownership rather than use rights have not been evaluated. To understand how designation of Indigenous Lands affects land cover in Indonesia, we examine the conservation outcomes associated of 1,119 Indonesian Indigenous Lands that collectively cover 20.7 million hectares or 9% of the total land area of Indonesia. Using a quasi-experimental approach, we assess the effect of Indonesian Indigenous Lands on deforestation and cash crop encroachment, differentiating our results by both the tenure security and tenure rights possessed. We discuss the implications of our findings for conservation-based arguments for procedural justice for Indigenous Peoples in the face of external land use pressures, such as expanding to oil palm and paper/pulp plantations.

I also organized and convened the session this talk was in, “governing agriculture-driven land cover change in the tropics”.