Rising majestically from lowland rice paddies to a height of 3726m, Gunung Rinjani dominates the Indonesian Island of Lombok. The upper slopes of the mountain are clothed in cloud forest. The winds coming in off the sea cool as they are funnelled up the slopes of the mountain, moisture condenses onto the vegetation, and as a result the trees are permanently wet and are festooned in epiphytic orchids, lichens, and mosses. These forests are home to rare birds, black ebony leaf monkeys, barking deer, leopard cats, and palm civets.
The forests are now under intense pressure. Lombok is one of Indonesia's poorest and most densely populated islands. Pressure for land has always been intense but the problem has become much worse in recent years. First, following the Asian economic crisis in 1997 large numbers of Lombok people who had been migrant workers in Malaysia were sent home. Many of them returned to farming. Then the Bali bombing in 2001 had a huge impact on the tourist industry. As a result, the local Sassak people have fallen on hard times. A large part of their income came from work in hotels and restaurants, and from producing the beautiful handicrafts for which Lombok is renowned. Lack of cash employment is forcing them back onto the land. And with 2.9 million people crowded onto this 5625 km2 island, it is hard to make a living from traditional agriculture alone.
In theory, Gunung Rinjani's cloud forests— the only ones left on Lombok—are legally protected. But the Forest Department finds it difficult to enforce the laws when they cannot offer any alternative to the poverty stricken farmers. A large swathe of forest on the lower slopes has now been reduced to a patchwork of small fields, scattered trees, scrub, and grasses. Fires originating in these degraded areas are beginning to eat into the rich forests higher up the mountain.
This has implications for the entire island. Rinjani's forests act as water collectors for all of Lombok. Water flowing from the misty upper slopes irrigates the highly productive rice cultures of the plains and supplies domestic water to the towns and tourist resorts. Now the rice farmers in the lowlands are complaining that there is not enough water for their crops in the dry season, and they experience an increased number of floods when it rains.
In response to the crisis, Lombok's provincial government has linked up with the global conservation organisation WWF, and the U.K. Department for International Development to devise a strategy that can protect the forests and their vital watershed functions and still provide land and employment for the people.
As a contribution to this effort we have been developing a simple computer model to try and unravel the complexity of the Rinjani social-ecological system. The model uses the STELLA software and enables us to investigate the main drivers of land cover change and links between these changes and the livelihoods of the people. The model has been developed with local stakeholders and it has been useful in making their assumptions and interests more explicit.
We began by investigating the possibilities for making environmental payments to upland farmers in return for better farming and forestry practices. A bottled water company in the lowlands indicated that a modest amount of money could be available for this programme. The 42,000 water users in the provincial capital Mataram have agreed to a small levy to pay for watershed protection. However, the model suggested considerable difficulties in this approach. The number of farmers is very high—several hundred thousand— and payments that were high enough to have a real impact on their behaviour would cost more than the amounts that are likely to be available. Lack of legal clarity about land rights and the high diversity of farming systems that they use would combine to make the management of such payments very complicated.
The modelling exercise suggested that few solutions would be effective if they were not accompanied by more effective application of laws. But the difficult transition to democracy that Indonesia is now experiencing and the economic crisis are combining to make law enforcement very unpopular amongst the population.
So far one of the best options that has emerged has been to abandon government attempts to protect the watershed forests and, instead, to parcel out the land to poor people, who can use it on condition that they plant trees. This is a rather revolutionary idea. It is in fact saying that conventional approaches to watershed management are not workable in the present economic and social conditions found on Lombok. The compromise of encouraging the formation of a buffer zone of agro-forestry plantations around the base of the mountain seems like a better option.
The initial trials have centred on the village of Sesaot. Farmers are given 0.1 hectare of land and are allowed to grow field crops for the first 4 years, until the trees grow. In the early years the farmers made money by growing crops such as chilli peppers between the tree seedlings. Now they are planting a wide variety of fruit and even timber trees. Mangoes, papayas, durians, jackfruit, custard apples, rambutans, and salak fruit are all being produced for sale to traders in the provincial capital Mataram. Jackfruit and macadamia are especially popular as they produce valuable fruit and nuts but also timber that is in high demand for the curio carvers in Bali.
The land remains under forest department "ownership" and the farmers have to pay a small rent for the right to cultivate it. On a pilot scale this programme has been an undoubted success, and previously degraded areas are now covered in profitable agro-forests. However, the market for fruit and timber is limited, and unless the general economy picks up it will be difficult to extend the scheme to all the degraded areas of protection forest around the mountain.
The agroforestry trees protect the soils and the water supplies and the people earn a good living. These artificial forests do not have the same biodiversity values as the natural forests that used to exist in the protection forests, but they are better than the degraded scrub and farmland that covered the sites when the programme began. They offer the hope of providing stable and secure land use around the lower boundary of the forests.
The success of the agroforestry approach will be very sensitive to the incomes that farmers can obtain for their fruit and timber crops. We are going to continue to use our model of the Rinjani system to track how both the environment and people's livelihoods evolve over time. The model will provide a database and monitoring tool that will be used by the local stakeholder committee to help understand how the system is performing. It should help to determine how livelihoods change over time and how this is linked to changes in landcover.
The idea of payments for environmental services is still being pursued but as a complement to other approaches. The isolated hillside villages have few social services and the
Case Study: Conserving the Cloud Forests of Mount Rinjani, Lombok 305
people's lives are still precarious. The people in the lowlands are richer and the rice farmers are making money out of the water that flows from the mountains, so there is some potential for a small water tax. This will not be given as cash to the upland farmers but will be used to build clinics and schools and improve the roads. The hillside people will get these services only if they respect the agreement and grow only tree crops.They will lose these social contributions if they grow tobacco, cassava, or other annual crops that are bad for soil erosion and do not conserve water.
The situation in Lombok, where valuable natural forests exist alongside poverty-stricken people desperate for more land, is typical of many developing countries in the tropics.
Rinjani National Park is one of Indonesia's most spectacular natural areas but there is no way that it can be protected if thousands of poverty stricken, land-hungry people live around the base of the mountain. Giving people rights to some areas of degraded natural forest may help save the national park.
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