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Using social forestry to stop illegal logging and benefit local communities


A local organisation based in Riau province, Indonesia, called Yayasan Hutanriau (Riau Forest Foundation) helped communities in the Bukit Betabuh Forest Reserve respond to the illegal expansion of palm oil plantations and illegal logging on their customary lands, which threatened their livelihoods and vital biodiversity. With support from the Rights and Resources Initiative’s Strategic Response Mechanism, the communities were empowered to create social forestry enterprises that would allow them to retain the rights to their lands and to economically benefit from the forest resources. As a result, the Bukit Betabuh Forest Reserve is better protected against illegal loggers and the communities are gaining an income from the forest whilst simultaneously re-planting traditional trees and plants.


Yayasan Hutanriau (Riau Forest Foundation)


Bukit Betabuh Forest Reserve is in an important wildlife corridor, connecting Rimbang Baling Wildlife Reserve and Bukit Tigapuluh National Park. This area is particularly important for Sumatran tigers but suffers from both legal and illegal oil palm plantations.  

The poaching and wildlife trade problem

Species affected Timber Species

Products in trade

Illegal logging for timber.

The anti-IWT initiative

In 2015, 200,000 hectares of forest in the Bukit Betabuh reserve caught fire. Local community members from the Air Buluh village fought to stop the fire from spreading, which seemed likely to have been purposively caused to create an illegal oil palm plantation. Although the local communities confiscated equipment, illegal oil palm plantations and illegal logging continued inside the reserve, ignored by the provincial and local governments.

With help from the Rights and Resources Initiative’s (RRI) Strategic Response Mechanism (SRM), local communities were supported to initiate plans to convert their village forestlands into social forestry enterprises. The aim was to enable them to retain rights over their lands, benefit financially from forest products and protect the vital local ecosystem.

One of the key activities was the development of sustainable crop commodity plans for the jernang, or dragon’s blood, a particularly valuable NTFP. Jernang can fetch a higher price than oil palm and needs trees to stand, so the communities were also committed to replanting the area. In addition, many of the farmers were once illegal loggers who realised the economic potential from social forestry and instead became committed to guarding the Bukit Betabuh reserve.

The strategy

Strengthening disincentives for illegal behaviour

Un-paid (voluntary) community scouts
Strengthening and supporting traditional norms and sanctions against IWT
Further detail

Forest guards patrol the forests 3-4 times a week.

Increasing livelihoods that are not related to wildlife

(Non-wildlife-based) enterprise development/support
Further detail

The communities were supported to develop sustainable crop commodity plans for the jernang, a valuable NTFP.

Has the initiative made a difference?

The social forestry enterprises in Air Buluh village are heavily involved in maintaining the reserve and 75% of people have switched professions from illegal loggers to forest guards, which has led to a decrease in illegal logging. So far, these groups have managed to protect 900 hectares of the forest area from illegal loggers and other encroachers.

In addition, about 30 hectares of protected forest have been re-planted with traditional plants. The project has also provided a model for effective forest protection and community forest enterprise development, recognised by a second group of forest farmers implementing initiatives to protect the forest and optimise NTFPs.

Biodiversity in the area is also thriving thanks to the social forestry enterprises.

What works and why

Local elections for a new kepala desa (village head) were vital to the success of planting traditionally important tree and rattan species. During the early states of the project a member of the forest-farmer community being supported by the SRM won the local election. This influenced the community and the forest-farmer group to afforest their protected areas with traditional trees and plants, as well as influencing other communities in the area to do the same.

Factors for success

Effective and trusted community leaders

Organisers, donors and partners

Rights and Resources Initiative's Strategic Response Mechanism

Scale-Up Riau

For further information contact (