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Assessing the Performance of Customary Forests and Social Forests in Avoiding Deforestation: The Case of Indonesia

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picture of an Indonesian rainforest

Join the Center for Global Sustainability on Tuesday, November 22, at 2:00 PM EST to hear Dr. Yohanna M. L. Gultom, Department of Economics at Universitas Indonesia, discuss her research into methods for halting deforestation.

Speaker BioDr. Yohanna Gultom is an assistant professor at the Department of Economics, Faculty of Economics and Business Universitas Indonesia (FEB UI). She is also the Deputy Director of the Master Program in Economic Planning and Development Policy (MPKP) and the Chair of the Institutional Economics and Governance research cluster under the Economics Department. Her research interests revolve around institutional economics, public-private partnerships, public procurement, property rights, political economy, efficiency and productivity, and agricultural institutions. She has publications in Energy Policy, Public Performance & Management Review, Energy for Sustainable Development, International Journal of Public Administration, Asia Pacific Journal of Public Health, and Journal of Financial Management of Property and Construction. She received her doctorate in Public Policy at Oregon State University while also a recipient of a Fulbright Ph.D. scholarship. She received her master’s degree in International Affairs from Columbia University, a master’s degree in Philosophy and Economics from Erasmus University Rotterdam, and a bachelor’s degree in Sociology from Universitas Indonesia.

Paper AbstractThe latest research agenda on the legacy of Ostrom in environmental governance includes what qualifies as common-pool resources (CPRs) and how the privatization of CPRs is justified. Araral (2014) argues that what Ostrom claimed as successful CPRs are privatized commons owned by a collective or limited partnership. In privatized commons, exclusion to the resource system is feasible since access to the resource is limited and property rights are clear and enforceable, making it less vulnerable to overexploitation. Yet, the global trend of forest management decentralization in the form of community-based forest management (CBFM) promoted by the government may not qualify the definition of privatized CPRs since the institution for commons management is externally imposed, not organically evolved within the local community. 

This paper investigates to what extent the externally imposed CBFMs differ from the self-governance privatized commons in performance, taking the case of significant reform in social forestry programs in Indonesia since 2016. The program gave permits to around 1.8 million hectares of state forest areas and placed these areas under community management in the forms of Village Forests, Community Forests, Community Plantations, and Forestry Partnerships. Besides, the program recognized Adat Forests as a new form of forest rights for the first time and transferred forest ownership rights of state forests to some indigenous "Adat" communities. Using a difference-in-differences approach to examine panel data of 1,642,280 forest areas in Indonesia between 2006 to 2022, this study evaluates the effects of the Adat Forest compared to other social forestry schemes on deforestation. This study finds that Adat Forests compared to other social forestry governances performed more effectively in managing forests and developing sustainable livelihoods, thus halting deforestation. This finding suggests that the institutions needed for effective commons management may not exist in externally imposed CBFM compared to the self-governance privatized CPRs such as Adat Forests. 


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