The area of lowland natural forests in Sumatra in the period 1900-1997 was reduced by 13.8 percent, from 16 million hectares to 2.2 million hectares. In the early 2000s, the Central Sumatra lowland natural forest that functions as a production forest was estimated at around 500,000 hectares. Without serious efforts and directed management, the preservation of the remaining forests of the Sumatran plains is seriously threatened.

Observing that, Burung Indonesia together with its consortium, Birdlife International, and The Royal Society for the Protection of Birds (RSPB) jointly initiated and developed initiatives to save the damaged lowland forests of Sumatra through the remaining ecosystem restoration activities.

In 2014, the government of the Republic of Indonesia issued regulations concerning the management of restoration of production natural forests through Minister of Forestry Regulation Number SK.159 / Menhut-II / 2004 concerning Ecosystem Restoration in Production Forest Areas and Minister of Forestry Regulation Number P.18 / Menhut-II / 2004 concerning Criteria for Production Forests That Can Be Granted Business Permits for the Utilization of Timber Forest Products in Natural Forests with Ecosystem Restoration Activities. The two regulations are then under the umbrella of Government Regulation No. 6 of 2007 concerning Forest Management.

In 2005, the Minister of Forestry appointed an area of approximately 101,355 hectares in Jambi Province and South Sumatra Province as an Ecosystem Restoration area in Production Forests, through the Minister of Forestry Decree. No. 83 / Menhut – II / 2005. This is the first ecosystem restoration forest in Indonesia.

The Birdlife Consortium (Burung Indonesia, an NGO in Indonesia engaged in bird conservation; RSPB, an NGO in the UK engaged in bird conservation; and Birdlife International, a partnership organization based in the UK and engaged in bird conservation) then formed the KEHI Foundation (Forest Ecosystem Conservation Indonesia). To meet the administrative requirements – because the production forest concession area must be managed by a legal entity – a PT Restoration Ecosystem Indonesia (PT REKI) was established.

The Ministry of Forestry granted a Business License for Timber Forest Product Utilization (IUPHHK) to PT REKI for an area of 52,170 hectares through the Decree of the Minister of Forestry Number SK.293 / Menhut-II / 2007 on August 28, 2007, in the Sungai Meranti and Sungai Kapas forest areas, within the Musi Regency Banyuasin, South Sumatra Province. As for the Jambi region, a permit was obtained in 2010 for an area of 46,385 hectares in Batanghari and Sarolangun Regencies through the Minister of Forestry Decree No. 327 / Menhut-II / 2010). The total concession area is 98,555 hectares. This area is called Hutan Harapan.

Hutan Harapan is an important water catchment area and source for the people of Jambi and South Sumatra. Batang Kapas River and Meranti River are the headwaters of the Musi River that flows through the Batanghari Leko River. This river is the main source of life for the people of South Sumatra, both for clean water, fisheries, agriculture, plantations, and transportation facilities.

Lalan is another river, which is the source of life for the people of Bayunglincir and its surroundings. The Kandang River, which is also upstream in the Hutan Harapan, is an important water source for the communities around the Bahar River, Muarojambi Regency, Jambi Province. In the 2015 dry season, rivers that tipped in the Hutan Harapan were still able to capture and supply water for the people of South Sumatra and Jambi.

Hutan Harapan is inhabited by more than 307 species of birds, 64 species of mammals, 123 species of fish, 55 species of amphibians, 71 species of reptiles, 728 species of trees. Some of these flora and fauna are not found in other forests in Indonesia and even in the world. Some are already very rare and endangered, such as Sumatran tigers, Asian elephants, sun bears, agile gibbon, storm’s storks, hornbills, jelutong, ulin, Tembesu, and keruing.

The Batin Sembilan community is a group of people living in the wild who have their own wisdom in managing forests. They use Hutan Harapan by taking non-timber forest products, such as rattan, jernang (dragon’s blood), sialang honey, jelutong latex, resin, and medicinal plants. Hutan Harapan is a living and roaming area for around 300 Batin Sembilan family heads. (*)