Land Conflict in Forest Areas

Nearly 70% of Indonesian land has been designated as state forest area. However, of the 130.7 million hectares of the forest estate, only 14.2 million hectares have been formally gazetted.1 Forest area is largely managed by public administrators and business entities with limited use and ownership rights. The number of conflicts between land managers and local communities keeps increasing, especially as 126.8 million hectares are claimed as the traditional territory of indigenous communities.2

With such overlapping land claims, the distribution of concessions to companies for timber production and plantations has naturally resulted in a growing number of disputes between companies and communities. It is not surprising that the number of industrial tree plantation conflicts in Indonesia is the highest worldwide.3

The World Bank reported that nearly 25 million hectares of forest lands in Indonesia were in dispute, more than 20% of total area, involving 20,000 villages.4 Land tenure conflicts negatively affect between 60 to 90 million people whose livelihoods are directly dependent on state forest lands.5 Tenure insecurity disrupts development activities in communities located in and around the forest zones, and threatens social networks, income generation, and food security.

In a one year period alone (2013-2014), the UNDP documented losses of at least USD 35 million in 12 provinces.6 These conflicts also affected the natural environment, hampering attempts to stop deforestation, and resulting in extensive forest fires.


[1] Rebecca Anne Riggs, Jeffrey Sayer, Chris Margules, Agni Klintuni Boedhihartono, James Douglas Langston, Hari Sutanto, “Forest Tenure and Conflict in Indonesia: Contested Rights in Rempek Village, Lombok,” Land Use Policy 57 (2016): 242.
[2] National Commission on Human Rights, Summary of Findings and Recommendations for Improvement of the Law and Policy Concerning Respect, Protection, Compliance and Remedy Relating to the Human Rights of Indigenous Peoples over their Territories within the Forest Zone (Jakarta, National Commission on Human Rights, 2015), 11.
[3] Meri Persch-Orth and Esther Mwangi, “Company-Community Conflict in Indonesia’s Industrial Plantation Sector,” CIFOR Infobriefs 143 (2016).
[4] World Bank, Towards Indonesian Land Reforms: Challenges and Opportunities. A Review of the Land Sector (Forest and Non-forest) in Indonesia (Jakarta: World Bank, 2014).
[5] R.A. Riggs et al., “Forest Tenure and Conflict,” 242.
[6] UNDP Indonesia, Executive Summary: The 2014 Indonesia Forest Governance Index (UNDP Indonesia: Jakarta, 2015), 25.