Box 1

Old story, new threats: digitalization of land in Indonesia

Digital technologies are increasingly being applied to land governance across the globe. Promoters of digitalization claim that it will enhance the efficiency of land administration and provide more tenure security (see Nyéléni Newsletter on Digitalization). Digital satellite imagery, drones, electronic databases and blockchain technology are used to map, demarcate and register land, store land-related data and facilitate land transactions. These technologies are often pushed by big donor-funded projects, which are primarily aimed at consolidating the privatization and commodification of land and attracting corporate investments.

The World Bank-funded Program to Accelerate Indonesia’s Agrarian Reform (One Map Project) is a case in point. Approved in 2018, this USD 240 million program focuses on comprehensive mapping of land and forests as well as land registration and issuance of individual land titles. The data and maps are incorporated into digital land registry and cadastre, called e-Land. According to the World Bank, e-Land will provide access to tenure information not only to the public and government agencies, but also to “commercial banks, real estate market facilitators, and land valuers”. As such, the project continues the World Bank’s policies in Indonesia and elsewhere to foster land markets and create a business-friendly environment.

Peasant organizations such as Serikat Petani Indonesia (SPI) point to the fact that the project does not resolve Indonesia’s main land issues, namely, the extreme concentration of land ownership and the lack of protection of customary forest rights. Indigenous and peasant communities are often excluded from the official digital maps. Therefore, SPI and local communities are producing their own maps with the help of digital tools such as GPS in order to challenge the official maps and corporate land claims and assert their rights. Instead of supporting agrarian reform, the project thus has opened a new challenge for communities and social organizations: the battle over digital data. 

Box 2

Community forest management for biodiversity and climate preservation

Community forest management is an extremely efficient forest preservation tool. Indigenous Peoples and other forest peoples make a use of biodiversity often based on ancestral knowledge, enhancing the biodiversity of the forests where they live. The case of the Ngobe indigenous people in the South region of Costa Rica and North of Panama is an example of this: they weave forest fibers and their hats and baskets are of high quality. They use a large variety of palm fibers and lianas from the forest: a Ngobe woman can use and knows tens of forest plants with which to elaborate different woven products. Thus, for long duration rustic baskets, they use “cucharilla” lianas, for rapid and rustic hats, they use “estrella” lianas, for fine hats they use the fibers of three or four different underwood palms. We asked one of the women what happens if they run out of lianas and palms. “No!”, she said, “we harvest lianas on the waning moon for them not to dry up when we trim them, and we only harvest some leaves from the palms and only during the appropriate moon time, and during the rainy season we host a liana festival, where the entire community participates with young people to collect our lianas from the forests”.

The agroforestry systems of the Bribri people and other Indigenous Peoples of Costa Rica are true gardens that integrate a rich diversity of beans, pumpkins, different plantain and cacao varieties, maize, rice and a wide range of wood trees that wisely and precisely regulate the light of the system. Integrating ancestral knowledge with primary forests, it forms an impressive setting of biodiversity and agrodiversity. Over and above, it is no surprise when a study analyzing over 500 experiences of “common heritage” management concluded that “most of these groups showed essential features to improve community wellbeing and obtained beneficial results both in economic terms and in terms of improvement of resources such as water basins, forests and pest management”.

More information: Baltodano J. Y Rojas I. 2008. Los Ngobes y el Bosque. Asociación de Comunidades Ecologistas La Ceiba- Amigos de la Tierra.CR. 64 pp.
Pretty J., 2003. Social Capital and the Collective Management of Resources Sciencie #302, Dic 2003, 1912-1913