Verifying Indigenous based-claims to forest rights using image interpretation and spatial analysis: a case study in Gunung Lumut Protection Forest, East Kalimantan, Indonesia

Hunggul Y.S.H. Nugroho*, Andrew Skidmore, Yousif A. Hussin

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


The decision of Indonesian’s constitutional court in May 2013, to review Law Number 41/1999 on Forestry, marked a significant step forward in Indonesian policy related to recognition of the rights of Indigenous people to forest. Under the decision, Indigenous forest is no longer considered State forest and rights to it should be granted to Indigenous communities inhabiting them as long as there is proof of their Indigenous status. However, at the implementation level, special measures are required to ascertain who is truly Indigenous. Bogus claims of indigeneity and rights to land are not uncommon. This paper examines the verification mechanism employed for spatial analysis to assess traditional knowledge and Indigenous law implementation as substantial evidences for Indigenous rights recognition to a forest area. We conducted a case study in the Gunung Lumut Protection Forest with two groups of Indigenous communities living around the forest using image interpretation and spatial analysis supported by socio-economic and cultural analysis. We also assessed the capacity and awareness of Indigenous communities to manage their forest. This case study illustrates that in general Indigenous people apply ancestral norms, beliefs and traditional knowledge and wisdom in managing their livelihoods and daily life. Nonetheless, increasing necessities of life, better accessibility, and socio-cultural assimilation has changed the Indigenous people’s behavior towards nature. Holistic approaches in transferring land rights, effective long-term engagement, and revitalization of Indigenous law in line with formal law enforcement, are among the essential measures that must be conducted systematically to ensure that the Indigenous forest remains and is sustainably managed for the benefit of the Indigenous community and the environment.

Original languageEnglish
Number of pages19
Early online date23 Jul 2020
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 23 Jul 2020
Externally publishedYes


  • ADAT
  • Indigeneity
  • Traditional knowledge
  • Indigenous forests
  • Evidence-based policy

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