The Batin Sembilan are one ofthe important stakeholders of Hutan Harapan ecosystem restoration concession which is managed by PT Restorasi Ekosistem Indonesia (REKI) in Jambi and South Sumatra. The PT REKI or Hutan Harapan management upholds human rights and recognizes the existence of Batin Sembilan indigenous people in accordance with United Nations Human Rights Declaration and the Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (UNDRIP).
Around 228 families of the Batin Sembilan live in Hutan Harapan and still depend on the forest where they lead semi-nomadic lives (Silalahi, 2013). The forest is a source of land where they can practice swidden agriculture (behumo), gather non-timber forest products and hunt wildlife. Socially, it is a place for their ancestor’s spirits to dwell. Another 1,272 families of the Batin Sembilan live in the area surrounding Hutan Harapan and have no forest and very little land. Many of them have been pushed off their land in the surrounding area to make way for plantations.
The respect for and recognition of the Batin Sembilan is reflected in PT REKI’s policies and efforts to work with them to create better livelihoods and protect the forests. PT REKI has signed forest utilization agreements with four of the Batin Sembilan groups that are living in Hutan Harapan, while the others are still being discussed. The four groups are affiliated to the Marga Batin Kandang Rebo Bawah Bedaro clan located in the Mitrazone, Gelinding, Tanding, and Simpang Macan Luar. The agreements give the Batin Sembilan certainty regarding access to the forest and land for developing their livelihoods and practicing agriculture.
A total of 104 Batin Sembilan families, divided into four groups, have become partners in managing and protecting the forest. Hutan Harapan provides 5,000 ha from its concession as the livelihood zone for the Batin Sembilan. One of the follow-ups to the agreements is the development of rubber agroforests which has already begun with each of the four groups.
Hutan Harapan has also worked with the Batin Sembilan to process and market non-timber forest products (NTFPs) such as rattan and honey. In addition to creating livelihood opportunities, the Batin Sembilan also have access to sanitation facilities as well as basic health services in “Klinik Besamo”. The children have access to basic education in “Sekolah Besamo”. Finally, the Batin Sembilan have developed tree nurseries where the seedlings are sold to PT Reki as well as assisted in planting, fighting fires and working as forest guards.
Hutan Harapan management planning to develop agreements with other groups of Batin Sembilan including the Pangkalan Ranjau group which is facilitated by AGRA. Several informal meetings and two formal meetings were coordinated by the Ministry of Environment and Forestry (MoEF) in July and August 2016 to agree on the allocation of land for livelihood development. As is the case in all agreements, along with the MoE, the Jambi provincial and Batanghari district governments are participating in the process.
The recognition of the Batin Sembilan indigenous people in Hutan Harapan is part of PT REKI’s Human Rights, Social and Community Engagement Commitment (HARSCEC) policy. The commitment was consulted with the relevant stakeholders in 2015. The management of Hutan Harapan is committed to ensuring that ecosystem restoration activities have a positive impact on the lives of the Batin Sembilan.
This commitment was announced in Palembang on 30th November, 2015 and in Jambi on December 2nd, 2015. The core of this commitment, is among others, respect for human rights, implementation of the principle of free, prior, informed, and consent (FPIC) and economic empowerment of the indigenous and local people. Some stakeholders, including the central and local governments, NGOs including AGRA, universities, CSOs, traditional leaders, and media attended the events.(writer: Joni Rizal, editors: Mangarah Silalahi & Thomas A. Walsh, photos: Doc. Hutan Harapan)