The conservation of forests in the National Park buffer zones and other areas surrounding GPNP is vital to protecting the National Park and to securing important natural resources for local communities. However, Indonesian law is reluctant to recognize traditional ownership of land, leaving community forests at continual risk of conversion to oil palm plantations, mining or timber concessions. GPOCP’s Customary Forest Initiative aims to protect these forests by supporting the legal transfer of management rights, under Indonesia’s Hutan Desa program, to those communities that have traditionally managed them. Facilitating the creation of local conservation areas around GPNP, that are sustainably used and managed by villagers, is a practical way to reduce encroachment rates into the Park and to conserve vital orangutan habitat in the wider landscape.
In 2014, GPOCP began the process of establishing two new Customary Forests in the villages of Padu Banjar and Penjalaan, both to the northwest of the National Park. We legally secured nearly 7,500 hectares of land in 2017. Our approach involves community training in customary forest management and regulations, technical assistance in preparing proposal submissions to the local government and facilitating meetings with forest authorities at the regency and provincial level. The Customary Forest legal process is long, complicated, and virtually impossible for villages to work through without assistance from an NGO, thus GPOCP is fulfilling a critical role in supporting local forest conservation. This model has shown to be quite successful and we aim to propose new Customary Forests in the near future.