“Water is sacred resource for our livelihoods, apart from the forests. A potential investor came to our indigenous community and said that ‘the natural resources, cultures, rituals, that your community have is amazing. It would be attractive for external visitors,’” said Putu, an Indigenous community member from Dalem Tamblingan, Buleleng, Bali, as he recalled his encounter with an investor who had managed to attain a business permit from the local government to open a tourism facility in his village.
Several civil society organisations (CSOs) in Asia participated in the Asia Learning Exchange on Social Inclusiveness and Youth. The event, organised in Bali, Indonesia, from 29 May to 2 June 2023, aims to create a space for dialogue among CSOs across Asia and strengthen solidarity in advocating for land rights.
“We learned so much about how the communities managed natural resources using traditional knowledge. Both women and men work hand in hand to do this,” said one participant of the event, who came from Nepal.
The event organisers include the Indonesian Coalition for Tenure Justice (Koalisi Tenure), Tenure Facility, International Land Coalition (ILC), and Samdhana Institute. The organisers emphasised that the main objective of the event is to formulate the various insights and ideas into promoting meaningful participation of women, youth, Indigenous Peoples, and other marginalised groups to protect the right to land and natural resources, Indigenous territories, and the environment.
“Indonesia has an extensive history in structural land inequality. The central government plays a role in land grabbing incidents in indigenous territories, by issuing land concessions for businesses in various sectors, or in the name of infrastructure projects for development. This is often done without consent from Indigenous Peoples and local communities,” said Rukka Sombolinggi, Secretary-General of the Indigenous Peoples' Alliance of Nusantara (AMAN), who is part of the organising committee.
Land and customary territories that provide bountiful resources, food, and place of residence for local communities are vulnerable to land conflicts and land grabbing incidents. Similarly with forests with rich ecosystems, such as mangroves, peatland, and karst. In turn, Indigenous Peoples, peasant farmers, fisherfolk, and local communities are prone to criminalisation for peacefully protecting their right to land and natural resources.
The Asia Learning Exchange event started with a two-day visit to communities in four locations spread across Java, Bali, and West Nusa Tenggara provinces.
Participants from Nepal, India, Kyrgyzstan, Cambodia, Timor Leste, the Philippines, Thailand, and Bangladesh held discussions with local communities, peasant farmers, rural women, youth, and Indigenous Peoples, before returning to Denpasar, Bali, to exchange ideas and experiences in advocating for land rights and tenure justice from the grassroots level.
The community visits not only showcase the complexity of agrarian issues in Indonesia, but also the strength and perseverance of the civil society in the country in promoting genuine and inclusive agrarian reform, which does not only entail issuing land certificates for the people. Women and youth are encouraged to be actively involved in the event as resource persons.
“With this forum, the agrarian reform movement in Indonesia emphasises that our struggle for land rights is built upon the practices and initiatives of local communities that promote genuine agrarian reform and tenurial justice for peasant farmers, fisherfolk, local communities, and Indigenous Peoples. This can only be realised with a strong people’s movement,” said Dewi Kartika, Secretary-General of the Consortium of Agrarian Reform (KPA), also a member organisation of the ILC.
Tenure justice for Indonesian people
The learning exchange is part of the preparatory process for organising of the Tenure Conference in September 2023. With the theme “Realising Social and Environmental Justice: Tenure Justice for Indonesian People”, this learning exchange provides a moment of reflection and an opportunity to enrich knowledge about tenurial security across Asian countries with its own context. The organisers hope to gain insight from local communities, women, and youth, as a guideline to prepare for the 2023 Tenure Conference.
“The Asia Learning Exchange is a great medium to strengthen the struggle of communities for tenurial justice, either for local or international participants, or even for the local communities who have kindly hosted this event,” said Mardhatillah, Indonesian Coalition for Tenure Justice.
The previous Tenure Conference was held in 2011 and 2017. The 2023 Tenure Conference will emphasise on the voices of local communities as an effort to promote people-centred development.
- The Asia Learning Exchange on Social Inclusiveness and Youth is organised by the Indonesian Coalition for Tenure Justice (KT), International Land Coalition (ILC), Samdhana Institute, and Tenure Facility (TF).
- About Koalisi Keadilan Tenurial di Indonesia (KT): https://koalisikeadilantenure.com/kami/
- About Tenure Facility: https://thetenurefacility.org
- About International land Coalition (ILC): https://www.landcoalition.org
- About Samdhana Institute: https://samdhana.org
- The community visits were organised and coordinated by members and partners of ILC and Tenure Facility in Indonesia: Indigenous Peoples' Alliance of Nusantara (AMAN), Ancestral Domain Registration Agency (BRWA), Consortium for Agrarian Reform (KPA), and the Sajogyo Institute (SAINS)