Friday, October 10, 2008

Forest and My Villagers

Today in my class Political Science 780, we discussed about the political ecology and gender. And the leaders in that discussion were Andrea and I.

This is very an interesting topic. We started the discussion with analyze the Nancy Peluso's book, Rich forests, Poor People, and a chapter from A. Dale Shields (and team), Developing and Dismantling Social Capital: Gender and Resources Management in the Philippine . Those authors did a great job even though almost half of my classmates thought that Shields et,al, are less academic.

We began the themes of the problem of forests in Indonesia. I shared my own experiences to be a villager who lives not far from the teak forest in Indonesia. I attempted to explore the changing condition of my villagers before and after 1997 where the crisis of economy has been attacking Indonesia. Indeed, only rattans and firewood that we took as forest products before New Regime Era fell. Thus, it was quite hard to find the villagers' houses, which used teak to be interior. However, the condition was hundred percent different when villagers were getting influences of monetary crisis. The Blokagung peasants, which is the name of my village, and the peasants from outside Blokagung began to cut the teaks and sold them. They really did not care about the environmental effect of what they did. Personally, I could accept it since they have to feed their family, and they have to keep their children in the schools.

In early months, selling teak was not a big deal. They just brought the teak by bikes to outside forest. If we wanted to buy it, we just waited in our house in the late afternoon. When they passed our house, we could negotiate the price in the street and the teak would belong to us if we could deal the price. This process was just like to buy "krupuk" in Indonesia. As a result, all the houses in my village are using teak even for the floor. It was funny when I asked my dad "where did you buy the teak,? and he said, "I brought for thief. I wanted to help him just it."

Nevertheless, after a few months, the police began to capture the thief and the person who collected the teak. Well, actually the religious leader that had power and charisma in the village already attempted to take the role. He often gave advice for the villagers to stop stealing the teak. However, the religious schools could not do anything when the villagers argued him and gave the proof that actually the police was the boss of the thief.

Basically, I want to add the questions of this case. Who actually is considered to be thief? In fact, villagers live for long time in the forest, and they also maintain the forest, so why the state controls the land, the species, and also the forest labor?. Is it because in our UUD there is the article that says, "all water, land, and air belong to the state? In other hand, permission to explore the forests is given to the international corporations or to the big entrepreneurs by the state. With forest concession or Hak Pengusaha Hutan (HPH), they could receive the benefit from the forest. In reality, HPH left many problems in not only the environmental destruction but also the conflict with the local people. It is stupid.

If politic and money are only ways to talk with other, how can the poor peasants gain their rights? Negotiation, in my view, is not really working because it is not running if two groups do not have same level and cann't seat in the same table. As we can see, it never happens in Indonesia.

So, where are my communities going to go?? How are the ways for my communities to survive their live? SO let come back to the village, and give them that they have to get.