Devolution Projects




CAPRi Research Project "Collective Action to Secure Property Rights for the Poor: Avoiding Elite Capture of Natural Resource Benefits and Governance Systems"

In collaboration with


BAPPEDA, District Development Planning Agencies of Bungo and Tanjung Jabung Barat Districts, Jambi Province, Indonesia

Project Period: from July 2004 to December 2006

A brief description of this project:

A participatory action research team worked with local communities (women’s and men’s groups) in two districts in Jambi through planning-action-reflection steps attempting to engage in equitable collective action, to secure property rights and to articulate aspirations through development forums. The team also worked with district level local officials identifying forestry and natural resource policies that affect the lives of local communities and communities’ abilities to engage in collective action, and facilitated district officials in their interaction with local community groups, private companies, NGOs and the Ministry of Forestry, focused on collaborative land use planning and forest resource benefit distribution.

Research Sites:

Bungo and Tanjung Jabung Barat Districts, Jambi Province, Indonesia.

Village sites:

  1. Sungai Telang, Rantau Pandan sub-district, Bungo district; and

  2. Lubuk Kambing, Merlung sub-district, Tanjung Jabung Barat district.

Main Research Partners:

1. CIFOR, Centre for International Forestry Research, Bogor

2. BAPPEDA, Regional Development Planning Agencies in Bungo District, Jambi

3. District Forestry Services, Bungo

4. BAPPEDA, Regional Development Planning Agencies in Tanjung Jabung Barat District, Jambi

5. District Forestry Services, Tanjung Jabung Barat

6. Two NGO individuals based in Jambi

7. Local communities at the two selected village sites

Project Background

Clear property rights regimes can help local communities to act collectively to harness the benefits of natural resource management and use on their customary lands. Secure access to benefits also provides a strong incentive for sustainable resource management, which delivers a wide range of environmental services (Meinzen-Dick et al, 2002, Thiesenhusen, 2003). There is growing international recognition that current markets fail to “value” the full range of benefits provided by forests, and also fail to reward those responsible for delivering locally and globally valuable environmental services (ES). (Landell-Mills, and Porras, 2002). The services provided by sensitive forest use by local people include clean and abundant water supplies, biodiversity protection, carbon sequestration, and landscapes for recreation and tourism (Constanza et al., 1997; Guyon, 2002; Pagiola, Bishop and Landell-Mills (eds), 2002). As well as losing out on their fair share of direct economic returns from natural resource use, poor and marginalized communities are also losing out on returns from ES benefits. In many cases the poorest and most marginalized communities are actually bearing a large share of the negative aspects of unsustainable natural resource exploitation. In the 1990s, many countries in Asia, including Indonesia embarked on a policy of decentralized forest management. As political economies make the sometimes-turbulent transition to decentralized governance there are clear pitfalls but also opportunities for harnessing returns from ES and direct natural resource exploitation for the poor (Tomich, Thomas and van Noordwijk, 2004; Shilling and Osha, 2003; IFAD, 2002; Douglas, 2002).

In Indonesia the processes set up to manage forest-based assets under Soeharto’s New Order regime, were primarily designed to reserve the lion’s share of forest rents for the state, and to secure political allegiance within the state’s ruling political and professional elite (Barr, 1999, McCarthy 2004, Winters, 1996; Repetto and Gillis, 1988, Dove and Kammen, 2001). After the fall of the New Order, Indonesia introduced a radical and very rapid process of decentralisation in 1999. Since then civil society has seen a growth in freedom and capacity for lobbying and providing open public commentary on state governance issues. This new space, together with legal and institutional reforms has also opened opportunities for collective action by indigenous and traditional rural communities to improve their livelihoods by securing property rights for themselves. Beyond the benefits of democratization, clear opportunities in Indonesia include the introduction of measures aimed at giving formal recognition and more power to local governance systems; and the devolution of responsibility for the process of natural resource and land use allocations through spatial planning exercises carried out by the regional planning offices (BAPPEDA).

Despite the potential advantages of decentralisation measures, the devolution of power to lower levels of government is often slow to filter down to groups who have been routinely excluded from decision-making processes. Excluded groups often lack the capacity to organize themselves and exploit new political rights and freedoms. Women and indigenous groups have also tended to be further marginalized as local elites, power brokers and monopolistic traders capture most of the gains from decentralisation. Collective Action to adapt property rights institutions under decentralization continue to be monopolized by elite networks of local and central actors (Ribot, 2002; Barr et al, 2001, McCarthy 2000). These constraints have come in the way of sustainable forest and land use and equitable sharing in the benefits from improved management.

There was an urgent need to support a process of self-empowerment so that poor and marginalized communities can act collectively to prevent elite capture of natural resource benefits and build a sustainable future based on transparent property rights, improved technology and centuries of accumulated wisdom.

Project Description

The project was based on a mutual – and logical – extension of CIFOR’s Decentralisation and ACM (Adaptive Collaborative Management) research projects on the impacts of decentralized governance systems on forests and poverty. The project was implemented in partnership with the District Government Planning Bureaus (BAPPEDA) in Tajung Jabung Barat, and Bungo Districts, Jambi Province, Indonesia. Both these bureaus have been involving the public in the development of a new spatial plan for land use based development for their districts. Our BAPPEDA partners were well placed to use the findings and lessons generated through participatory action research with stakeholders at all levels to develop a more inclusive and equitable spatial plan for the area, based on clear and transparent property rights. To facilitate this, the project focused on understanding the current regime governing access to property rights; how different customary and government institutions interact to form a de facto property rights system; who benefits the most from the current system and how this affects local community members’ share of natural resource benefits. This has strengthened analysis of how complex institutional contexts shape the processes that determine property rights regimes that disenfranchise the poor and marginalized; how collective action could enhance local people’s access to influential decision-making networks so that policy outcomes reflect their long-term development interests.

Objectives of the project were to:

  • Characterize and identify the impacts of the current property rights regime on local poverty levels and the sustainability of natural resource use in the area;

  • Identify and promote opportunities for building institutional capacity and coordination within and between different stakeholder groups to adapt the current property rights regime in the interests of poor and marginalized groups, particularly women and ethnic minorities;

  • Identify and test institutional governance mechanisms that can be used to give the poor a routine and influential role in decision-making over land use allocation and planning (via the local planning and devolution processes);

  • Identify and facilitate negotiations on relevant district, provincial and national policy options that increase the poor’s share of ES and natural resource use benefits; and

  • Make policy-relevant and accurate scientific information available to local stakeholders to support informed and equitable decision-making.

Some major findings and lessons:

(As presented by the project team at CAPRi Research Workshop and Conference on “The Role of Collective Action and Property Rights for Poverty Reduction” held in Uganda, 28 February-2 March 2007)


Though it was not designed to quantitatively analyze various collective action in terms of motivation, effectiveness and impact, the research project found that social capital such as family ties, friendship, motivation and trust plays an important role in featuring successful collective action. Unsuccessful groups were inclined to have (1) elite as the members -- they are often selected as the leader, (2) been built in hastily, without sufficient planning, for example, in responding to the government’s instant request for the distribution of aids, and (3) weak monitoring and group rules as to knowing how they progress and apply sanctions for non-compliance. The lack of external support (e.g. government’s systematic control over the distribution of aids) has also further exacerbated the situation.

In some cases, where collective action was successfully stimulated, actions were taken that effectively prevented elite capture by the local headman. Elite capture occurred when the village head constantly refused to sign a letter prepared by the group to be submitted to district government asking for grants under the farming plantation program (P2WK). The refusal was related to the head’s reluctance to formally recognize the presence of communities living in a newly established hamlet from which the group come from. The group’s failure to persuade him has made the group took actions to bypass him and approach a higher level of government. The group’s effort resulted in the district head calling the headman over the issue and disbursing the grants directly to the group. Capture was also found to happen when government’s revolving funds allocated to a jernang group were misused by the group’s head and some members who turned out to be linked to the village structure.

The decentralization policy and increased freedom to speak up were also important contextual features that contributed to villagers’ ability and willingness to meet with the sub-district (kecamatan) government and then the bupati (head of the district), who in turn called the local headman to account. A fair amount of progress was seen in strengthening self confidence and collective action, initiating income generating activities, building networks and links from the village to larger scale entities (like plantation companies and government) and capacity to negotiate and manage conflicts. One example of this process occurred when the facilitated group was able to spontaneously take a negotiating position and bargain for their (the community’s) participation in the Government-led program on forest and land rehabilitation (GNRHL) in nearby production forest. The facilitator served only to link these stakeholders while the planning process and negotiation were conducted independently by the villagers with the district forestry office (DISHUT).There was also increased eagerness on the part of local women to receive capacity building – they became eager to learn about village government, jernang (Daemonorops draco) propagation, rubber cultivation, and gender through the shared learning efforts organized by the project. The number of groups has grown and the people have gained in confidence. We were also able to compare [still in analysis] various grouping mechanisms within the villages.

At the district level, where this approach had been less tested, was perhaps more ‘experimental’, our results were more mixed. One difficulty was recurring loss of crucial personnel, through unpredictable and uncontrollable political changes. Another problem was the simple inertia of a huge government bureaucracy, reaching from the district all the way to the center of the world’s 4th largest country. Although there has been an explicit national effort to decentralize, with considerable success, the attitudes that evolved under the very centralized Soeharto regime do not change overnight. And there is pervasive suspicion (sometimes related to rent-seeking) among governmental sectors, with very little tradition of cooperation or asset sharing among them.

Still, we made progress on several fronts. While catalyzing the interaction between local communities and district officials, we worked with a group of district people from the regional planning office (Bappeda), the District Land Agency (BPN) and the Bureau of Forestry and Plantations (Dishutbun) to deal with specific issues such as spatial structure and development planning and forest area allocation. This aimed to see how institutional collective action take place at this level in which different offices with their own but relevant programs made efforts towards achieving their shared goals. We have now been successful in bringing property rights - a rather sensitive issue to some parties - to the fore; and bringing together the district governments (who proposed a conversion of forestlands into areas for non-forestry purpose) and the Ministry of Forestry (holding an exclusive power over forestlands) to share arguments and concerns and negotiate dispute issues. Our stance here has been to promote the inclusive process of decision making and the importance of clear property rights for the local communities (i.e. have there been any policies that would secure people’s right to continue to access land resources and that would enhance collective action?; what would be the district government’s decisions on land allocation and property rights, once their proposal to the Ministry of Forestry has been approved?)

We have also strengthened communication between the communities and the regional planning office (Bappeda), the District Land Agency (BPN) and the Bureau of Forestry and Plantations (Dishutbun) to collaboratively provide feedback, plan and act on the community’s efforts for land certification and alternative income generation. The regular meetings among governmental bodies and other stakeholders were valuable information sharing events, and contributed to more open and more coordinated attitudes from officials. Similarly, the interaction with local communities and the exposure to CIFOR personnel’s respect for local knowledge and potential have opened bureaucratic doors a bit to a wider range of inputs. The process of researching, drafting, getting critiques, and finally collaboratively producing analyses and policy briefs, a collaborative book on gender, and an edited book on research on Jambi was a new experience for most bureaucrats, and should be a valuable skill for the future. The necessity to deal with CIFOR’s non-corrupt accounting system was also a capacity building experience. Finally, these districts brought their land use planning efforts to the attention of the central government, which initiated a dialogue that may yet bear fruit on land use planning.

Repeated interaction through various means enables local stakeholders to be aware of their position in the network, stakes they would gain from collective action, and risk they would bear. A monthly multi-stakeholder forum in one of the district sites, set up jointly by the research project and other parties, has become the important vehicle through which district officials, local communities, research institutions and NGOs stakeholders sustain the patterns of interaction. Fund limitations preventing local communities from going to the city to interact with officials, for example, and repeated changes in government personnel continue to challenge us. However, the project’s investment in getting actively involved policy champions at district offices in the research and in building the facilitator role of selected villagers has the potential to sustain the learning processes. Our government collaborator’s strong desire to develop a district long-term development plan (RPJP) through a more inclusive process – at the time when our facilitation has lessened– seemed to be an indication.

Policy Implications

There are several implications of our findings:

  • It is possible to catalyze effective collective action among groups of men and groups of women---in this context, separately---and strengthen local self confidence and capabilities to interact with more powerful outsiders, negotiate effectively with them, and bring pressure to bear to reduce elite capture of local benefits.

  • The differences within and between communities are vast, and participatory action research within comparatively homogenous groups provides one mechanism for incorporating this diversity into planning at village and district levels. By focusing on what local women and men can and want to do (rather than their poverty or ignorance), a climate of confidence is built that should, over time, contribute to successful development/conservation.

  • Doing participatory action research with government officials surfaces some difficulties that do not normally appear in villages; but the approach seems to build some capacities---willingness to listen to a wider variety of stakeholders, increased respect for local community input, greater desire to work across governmental sectors, hopefully a greater willingness and ability to manage adaptively and equitably---that will be important in making decentralization work.

  • The approach we have taken, although not specified in Indonesian law, is consistent with recent laws mandating participatory approaches and greater local self-determination. It therefore can serve as one reasonably effective model that fits with Indonesian laws and contributes to the goals of decentralization.

  • Some groundwork has been laid for strengthening land tenure security and improving incomes. These are longer term goals---not realistically anticipated during a two year project. But the capacities to analyze situations, develop plans and monitor them together, assess progress and correct course as needed, communicate effectively and negotiate with outsiders, and bring group pressure to bear on individuals and/or groups working against community interests are all skills that should contribute to making the community’s (and its members’) assets more secure and gaining access to the benefits from such assets for themselves.

  • Good, comparatively neutral---recognizing that no one is truly neutral---facilitation is important in this process at both levels.

Project Outputs (hyperlinks to some publications will be available soon):

Adnan, H. and Yentirizal. in prep. Berkah atau Petaka?: Adaptasi Kelembagaan dan Aksi Kolektif Masyarakat Desa Sekitar Hutan Dalam Menerima Program Transmigrasi (Misfortune: Adapting Institutions and Community Collective Action in Accommodating the Transmigration Programme). Governance Brief. CIFOR

Colfer, C.J.P. in prep. Simple Rules for Catalyzing Collective Action (Aturan-aturan Sederhana Katalisasi Aksi Kolektif dalam Pengelolaan Sumberdaya Alam).

de Vries D.W. and Sutarti, N. 2006. Adil gender: mengungkap realitas perempuan Jambi (Gender Equity: Revealing the Reality for the Women of Jambi). Governance Brief No. 29b. CIFOR, Bogor.

de Vries, D.W. 2006. Gender Bukan Tabu: Catatan Perjalanan Fasilitasi Kelompok Perempuan di Jambi (Gender is no a Taboo: a note from facilitating women group and collective action)

Hadi, M., Komarudin, H., and Schangen, M. in prep. Kebijakan Bidang Kehutanan yang Mendorong Efektifitas Aksi Kolektif dan Penguatan Hak Properti di Kabupaten Bungo (Forestry Policies that Promote Effective Collective Action and Strengthen Property Rights in Bungo District). Governance Brief. CIFOR Hasan, U., Irawan, D. and Komarudin, H. in prep. Memperkuat Modal Sosial Masyarakat Melalui Perubahan Sistem Pemerintahan Desa di Kabupaten Bungo (Strengthening Social Capital through Village Government Changes in Bungo District). Governance Brief. CIFOR

Irawan, D., Komarudin, H. and Hasan, U. in prep. Dapatkah Proses Penataan Ruang Memperkuat Hak-hak Properti Masyarakat? Studi Kasus di Kabupaten Bungo (Can Spatial Planning Strengthen Local Community Property Rights? A Case Study in Bungo District). Governance Brief. CIFOR

Komarudin, H. and Siagian, Y.L., 2006. Linking Collective Action to NTFP Markets for Improved Local Livelihoods: an Indonesian case

Komarudin, H., Hasantoha, A., Oka, N.P., Syamsuddin and Irawan, D. 2006. Participatory Action Research and Its Application in District Government Settings.

Neldysavrino. 2006. Menggapai Cita di Kelompok Dasa Wisma (Achieving A Common Goal through Dasa Wisma Community Group). In Indriatmoko, Y., Yuliani, L., Tarigan, Y., Gaban, F., Maulana, F., Munggoro, D., Lopulalan, D. and Adnan, H. (editors) Dari Desa ke Desa: Dinamika Gender dan Pengelolaan Kekayaan Alam. . CIFOR, Bogor (only in Indonesian version).

Padmanabhan, M. and Siagian, Y.L. in prep. There is no dignity without property: Collective action to secure land rights for women in Indonesia and Ethiopia Siagian Y.L. and Komarudin, H. 2006. The Role of Collective Action in Helping People Out of Poverty: Some Early Findings from Jambi.

Siagian, Y.L. and Neldysavrino. in prep. Aksi Kolektif untuk Suatu Kepastian Hak Kelola Masyarakat Miskin atas Lahan (Collective Action to Secure Management Rights of the Poor over Lands). Governance Brief. CIFOR

Siagian, Y.L., Komarudin, H. and Pierce Colfer, C.J.P. in prep. Collective Action to Secure Property Rights for the Poor: Case Study from Indonesia

Siagian, Y.L., Morgan, B., Yentirizal and Neldysavrino. 2005. Women’s Participation through CA for Inclusive Decision-Making Processes: Lessons Learned, Jambi Provinces, West Sumatra, Indonesia (Paper presented in CAPRi International Workshop on Gender and Collective Action in Thailand and at IASCP conference in Bali].

Syamsuddin, Komarudin, H. and Siagian, Y.L. in prep. Penataan Ruang dan Tantangan Penguatan Hak-hak Properti Masyarakat di Kabupaten Tanjung Jabung Barat (Spatial Planning and Challenges to Strengthening Property Rights in Tanjung Jabung Barat). Governance Brief. CIFOR

Syamsuddin, Neldysavrino, Komarudin, H. and Siagian, Y.L. in prep. Sudahkah Aspirasi Masyarakat Terakomodir dalam Rencana Pembangunan? Pelajaran dari Sebuah Aksi Kolektif di Jambi (Are Community Aspirations Being Accommodated in Development Plans? A Lesson from Collective Action in Jambi). Governance Brief. CIFOR

Yentirizal. 2006 Mencari Alternatif di Sungai Telang (Looking for Alternatives in Sungai Telang). In Indriatmoko, Y., Yuliani, L., Tarigan, Y., Gaban, F., Maulana, F., Munggoro, D., Lopulalan, D. and Adnan, H. (editors) Dari Desa ke Desa: Dinamika Gender dan Pengelolaan Kekayaan Alam. CIFOR, Bogor (only in Indonesian version).

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The goals of the ACM programme were to achieve more sustainable and equitable management of forest resources and human well-being in a multi-stakeholder environment through the development and identification of a set of models, institutional arrangements, methods, tools and strategies to empower local communities.