This article explores the competition over rights to land that plays out in the process of applying for formal recognition of hutan desa (village forest); a new form of community forest management in Indonesia. Despite its community rights origins, the hutan desa recognition process creates a ‘first come first served’ situation, in which the first applicant for an area of forest becomes the land use owner, but not necessarily based on their legitimate rights to the forest area. This case study of a Dayak Modang community in East Kalimantan offers a lesson for community forestry implementation in Indonesia. It highlights the need to adjust imbalances of power among actors — within and or among local communities, companies, and the various levels of government — involved in the process of securing hutan desa. The regulation implementing hutan desa must consider uneven power between actors; more adaptive process with requesting parties recognised as co-management parties is needed to achieve a just outcome for local communities.
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Vol. 19 • No. 4