Fighting for ecological justice

Entrepreneurship Forestry for Empowering Community in Lampung

Advocacy for the legality of land management for communities living around forests is necessary, bearing in mind the importance of protecting the environment and natural resources. However, for Muhammad Sidik, a Kaoem Telapak member from Lampung, more than focusing on legal aspects is required. He believes that assistance in forestry entrepreneurship is vital, so people need to maintain it seriously.

Muhammad Sidik was born in the city of Medan, North Sumatra. Since 1996, he has been active in forest conservation issues, working with the Leuser Lestari Foundation (YLL) and joining the Sangkala Free Nature organization. Sidik conducts forest monitoring and investigations in Gunung Leuser National Park. This activism led him to meet Kaoem Telapak in 1998, previously called Telapak. Since then, he has gotten closer and become a part of Kaoem Telapak.

As time passed, Sidik remained consistent in working on forest conservation issues. He also actively encourages the community and several small-scale sawmills in Lampung to obtain a Timber Legality Assurance System (SVLK) certificate. The SVLK certificate is a tool to ensure that the wood produced by the community comes from legal sources.

According to Sidik, people have addressed several forestry issues regarding strengthening institutions, land assurance, and territory management. Most people fought for the legality of land use. However, the community will not develop economically if you only focus on legal issues. “Therefore, it is necessary to empower communities around the forest, namely related to business management or entrepreneurship, so that people’s economic level increases,” he said.

Sidik believes developing capacity for communities around the forest in business management or entrepreneurship is necessary. The initiative intends to improve the community economy. More than just having legal administration, the community needs to be involved in managing their business better and sustainably.

In 2016, Sidik and his colleagues established the People’s Industry Creative Unit Association (UKIR), intending to address challenges after the period of the social forestry program. Through UKIR, they seek to help communities in the Lampung region in entrepreneurship, focusing on learning skills and knowledge.

Currently, UKIR is assisting three community groups in Lampung to process wood and coffee commodities. Once the target groups have sufficient strength, they will be encouraged to form independent cooperative units.

Sidik said with full appreciation that Kaoem Telapak supported the initial initiation of UKIR. Kaoem Telapak played an essential role in providing institutional support, networking and a discussion environment which significantly contributed to the development of UKIR. “I first learned how to process coffee from Kaoem through Dapoer Kaoem,” he said.

Muhammad Sidik, member of Kaoem Telapak from Lampung

In addition, when Kaoem Telapak managed the Community Forestry Enterprise program, UKIR became one of the program’s beneficiaries. Kaoem Telapak also sent UKIR to Guatemala to deepen his entrepreneurial knowledge in the forestry sector, and this shows Kaoem Telapak’s role in supporting and developing UKIR towards success.

In managing entrepreneurship assistance in the community, Sidik revealed that three main challenges are often faced. These challenges include the need for business capital development, access to production tools, limited entrepreneurial knowledge, and inconsistent product quality. “This is a problem that UKIR wants to overcome,” he said.

Sidik actively guides all UKIR-assisted groups to obtain business legality. After that, they are encouraged to take care of the legality of their products, such as business permits and PIRT or BPOM. This step’s purpose is for the community to sell their products legally and freely. “This official permit is important so that the product can be accepted and trusted by the community,” said Sidik.

To overcome the problem of access to better means of production, Sidik facilitated this by helping his group to communicate with the local government. As a result, all the fostered groups managed to get coffee roasters with more sophisticated and efficient technology. Previously, the means of production they used were ancient and less efficient regarding production capacity.

With Sidik’s efforts and support from UKIR, he hoped that the community could overcome these challenges and improve the quality and sustainability of their businesses.

“The toughest challenge is how production can survive,” said Sidik. He gave an example in coffee production: farmers must pick red coffee cherries to get quality coffee beans. However, unfortunately, not all farmers are willing to pick red coffee cherries, and as a result, the coffee produced does not meet the expected standards.

According to Sidik, civil society and organizations working in forestry sectors must develop collaborative works to create a broader and more tangible impact. “This forestry entrepreneurship can be a serious, impactful movement,” he said.

By overcoming these challenges and seriously developing forestry entrepreneurship, the production of commodities such as coffee can continue sustainably and meet the desired quality standards. “Synergy between institutions and collaboration with farmers will be the key to success in running this forestry entrepreneurship movement,” said Sidik.