School of Anthropology & Conservation

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Islamic beliefs in Sumatran forest management

Current projects: Integrating religion within conservation: Islamic beliefs and Sumatran forest management

Principal Investigator - Professor Stuart Harrop

Project Officer - Jeanne McKay

Project Dates - 2009/12

Funding Body - Darwin Initiative

The vast archipelago of Indonesia contains about 10% of the world's remaining tropical rainforest. This plays a critical role nationally by providing ecosystem services for rural communities and internationally by maintaining biodiversity and contributing to the regulation of climatic systems. Unfortunately, Indonesia, and in particular Sumatra, has some of the highest rates of tropical deforestation, especially beyond protected areas. Thus, innovative approaches to community-based conservation are urgently needed.

Indonesia has the world’s largest Muslim population (88% of its 245,500,000 population follows Islam). Religion has a strong influence on daily life and within Islam there are several key principles (Tauhid, Khalifah, Mizan and Fitrah) written in the Al-Qur'an (Muslim holy book) that underpin nature conservation and outline the human role in conserving natural resources. Further, three interrelated land-use management systems apply Islamic principles within nature conservation: i) Hima – management zones established for sustainable natural resource use; ii) Harim - inviolable sanctuaries used for protecting water resources and their services; and, iii) Ihya Al-Mawat - reviving neglected land to become productive.

Thus, this project aims to implement a faith-based community outreach programme to strengthen and integrate the religious management systems of Hima (through participatory mapping of land and forest use systems and by ensuring their protection through joint community/Dept. Forestry patrols), Harim (through watershed management) and Ihya Al-Mawat (through creating nagari tree nurseries and then nagari agroforestry systems to rehabilitate and reforest degraded lands) into the legally recognised traditional (nagari) system (usually comprising several villages). This will be conducted through,

  • Training - in forest and biodiversity monitoring, arboriculture, Islam and environmental outreach.
  • Capacity building - of local institutions to manage and conserve forests and their ecosystem services through a locally produced governance framework.
  • Research - into ecosystem services, local livelihood benefits and forest and biodiversity monitoring.
  • Environmental education and public awareness - through rural and urban community outreach (e.g. Friday prayers, schools programme), and an education curriculum, to stimulate wider interest.

Other resources

For further information please contact: Jeanne McKay

Click here to read a cover story on the project in Eco Islam

Click here to read about the project on Ravenswood Media Newsletter

Click here to read about the project on the FFI website

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Last Updated: 15/05/2013