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Mantri + Lurah = Ma-Lu

Social forestry

Sofyan Hanafie

SOFYAN HANAFIE IS the Forest Administrator, Telawa District, for Perum Perhutani, the Indonesian state forestry company that operates in Java. This article is based on one that appeared in the June 1980 edition of duta Rimba, the Perum Perhutani magazine.

How forestry agriculture and the needs of people in the countryside are being dealt with by an Indonesian state forestry company

The extent of man's utilization of natural resources varies with time, place and local economic, social and cultural development. On the island of Java, 70 percent of the population earns its income from agriculture. The current population density is 575 persons/km², but this is expected to rise to 900/km² by the year 2000. Since available land for agriculture is already diminishing, this increase will result in the impairment of natural resources.

Several signs of such impairment are already visible. Erosion is accelerating. Rivers are accumulating silt and pollutants. Flooding is on the increase. Soil fertility is declining. The air is getting more polluted.

One of the main causes of such processes is the destruction of forests and other vegetation, which had previously provided important soil cover. Efforts to conserve forests, as well as land and water, have been going on for some time. They are aimed at averting floods, reducing erosion and rejuvenating water production through reforestation and afforestation. Such efforts are complemented by construction projects such as reservoirs, dams and water channels.

Government afforestation and reforestation projects are primarily directed at lands which have reached critical stages of deterioration. As stated in the second Pelita, or Five-Year Development Plan, such measures are directed at: (a) expanding the supply of basic needs for the population; (b) increasing the conservation of forest, land and water resources; and (c) safeguarding development achievements in irrigation.

In the Third Five-Year Development Plan, these goals are repeated in the context of restoring forest functions or rehabilitating ecological systems in a way that will make the procurement of forest products and cultivated land for the local population more equitable.

As is known, reforestation attempts to return logged-over or barren land to its original condition while afforestation is aimed at lands outside the forest, such as barren privately owned lands, cash-crop planting areas and areas near housing and pastures. Priority is given to plants which enhance land and water conservation. This includes not only horticultural and fruit-bearing plants, but also those which act as green fertilizers and terrace strengtheners.

The main task of Perum Perhutani, Indonesia's forest state corporation for Java, is to implement reforestation and afforestation activities in the best possible manner and in the shortest possible time. In 1975, barren land covered 90 031 hectares, or 14 percent of the forest areas in central Java. This entire area has now been reforested.

The afforestation programme undertaken by Perum Perhutani aims at improving soil fertility, enhancing the social and economic standards of the population and rehabilitating water resources. In this context, water reservoirs have been created to provide clean water for the local population. The reservoirs also help Perum Perhutani develop its gondorukem (resin) plant, seedling cultivation and other things. Watershed management construction, such as check dams, and other conservation techniques aim at putting the flow of water under control throughout the year, averting erosion and reducing surface run-off. This contributes to agriculture, forestry, fisheries and animal husbandry.

Perum Perhutani's efforts to conserve the living environment, especially its forest vegetation, are undertaken through a preventive measure called the "prosperity approach." This approach creates projects designed to improve the standard of living of those living near forests. These projects include mass intensification of inter-cropping, honeybee cultivation, creating fuelwood supplies, planting elephant grass (Pennisetum purpureum), building check dams and supplying clean water.

Such projects, as part of the prosperity approach, do not, of and by themselves, necessarily ensure environmental balance. Guidance or education of the local population is also necessary. Such guidance is provided through the Mantri, or Forest Guard. and the Lurah, or Head of Village, programmes. Since the Mantri and the Lurah are intended to work together, the entire effort is called Ma-Lu (Mantri-Lurah).

We believe we have developed a self-help method that fits our needs and our culture. It is flexible and it works.

Why are the Mantri and the Lurah connected to efforts to achieve environmental prosperity? The answer lies in their importance in the village, where they can communicate directly with villagers and oversee the surrounding forest.

The Mantri act as important field workers, handling technical problems directly in accordance with a policy outline given by their superiors. The Lurah, besides his natural hierarchical authority, has a psychological influence over the village population.

In the Ma-Lu programme, the Mantri must become the centres of agricultural and silvicultural information for the population around the forests. Their own houses must serve as models, with seedling beds of forest and fruit-bearing plants. Their efforts are supplemented through mass education activities such as radio broad casts.

In addition to material benefits, the Ma-Lu programme can also achieve psychological benefits in that it promotes personal relationships between Perum Perhutani officials and village leaders, resulting in the development of a mutual sense of responsibility. Based on its success so far, the Ma-Lu programme was expanded in 1979. We believe we have developed a self-help method that fits our needs and our culture. It is flexible and it works.

A TREE NURSERY IN CENTRAL JAVA, an area of massive erosion and massive reforestation

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