January 2024 - Since October 2022, Earthworm Foundation (EF) has regularly issued public updates on the progress of collaborative initiatives with PT. Toba Pulp Lestari Tbk. (TPL). This marks the sixth public update, detailing advancements from September to December 2023 and outlining planned activities for 2024. Earthworm plans to provide a more comprehensive update in July 2024.
Earthworm is actively involved in formulating the Head of Regency Regulation for village boundary mapping in collaboration with local governments. In November 2023, Earthworm collaborated with the Humbang Hasundutan Regency Government and 10 districts in a coordination meeting to address the fundamental need for definitive village maps. The event also included an overview of past participatory mapping activity in Sionom Hudon Timur and the upcoming mapping activity in Simataniari conducted by Earthworm in partnership with TPL. During the meeting, government representatives expressed their support for accelerating participatory village boundary mapping in the villages within the district.
The endorsement for scaling up participatory mapping initiatives to other communities resonates closely with Earthworm's efforts to harmonise TPL procedures associated with land management with contemporary best practices, notably by incorporating the Free, Prior, and Informed Consent (FPIC) principle into all interactions with local communities. The map outputs produced in collaboration with local communities serve as pivotal tools for delineating intersections between concession areas and distinct village boundaries, thereby facilitating the establishment of a framework for dialogue, cooperation, and conflict resolution.
The primary aim of participatory mapping is twofold. First is to adhere to Free Prior Informed Consent (FPIC) principles by fostering stronger knowledge of and ties with local communities. Secondly, to generate maps for facilitating discussions leading to mutually agreed management frameworks for addressing boundary overlaps between TPL and communities.
In 2023, Earthworm (EF) and TPL collaboratively conducted participatory mapping with the community of Sionom Hudon Timur Village, followed by a public consultation attended by diverse stakeholders, including local government representatives, traditional leaders, companies, and village residents, with subsequent refinement of the mapping outcomes through further consultations with these stakeholders.
In 2024, EF and TPL will engage in thorough discussions with the local community to formulate a draft agreement - Memorandum of Understanding (MoU), which will serve as a manifestation of the collective commitment to managing contiguous or overlapping land between TPL's concessions and the village area aims to ensure mutual benefit without detriment to either party. The forthcoming MoU will epitomise TPL's commitment, in tandem with the community, toward the joint stewardship of the land, setting a precedent for collaborative management practices in other villages adjacent to the concession.
Concurrently, the engagement process and participatory mapping initiatives in Simataniari Village (where Pargamanan-Bintang Maria is located) persist. In executing these activities, EF remains unwavering in adhering to the principles of FPIC and coordinating with pertinent stakeholders, including governmental bodies and Civil Society Organisations (CSOs). This commitment seeks to reconcile divergent perspectives and facilitate agreements for conflict resolution between TPL and the local community.
The operational plan for 2024 on activities in Sionom Hudon Timur and Simataniari:
Additionally, field visits by Earthworm team to gather data on conflicts and engage with local stakeholders, thereby fostering networking opportunities, are set to persist. This endeavour serves the dual purpose of addressing community concerns and strengthening ties with CSOs. This initiative spans all five estates and remains instrumental in the ongoing efforts towards strategically resolving key conflict situations.
Earthworm actively provides technical expertise and recommendations in the review of Business Processes and Standard Operating Procedures (SOPs). This support enhances TPL's dedication to extensively reforming internal protocols related to community engagements, grievance handling, and conflict resolution. During the first three quarters of 2023, EF and TPL engaged in a series of rigorous discussions and review processes concerning SOPs related to land grievances. The objective was to identify issues and provide recommendations for the 39 SOPs associated with land grievances and concessions. One significant outcome of these recommendations was recognising a fundamental need for establishing a Manual for SOPs, which will serve as a guide for developing, distributing, and monitoring the evaluation of SOPs.
In November 2023, a collaborative workshop between TPL and Earthworm was convened, with the primary objective of formulating the Manual for SOP Establishment. Representatives from each department attended the workshop. During this session, the draft Manual was immediately trialled with two key SOPs, namely the SOPs of Community Timber Plantations and Basic Community Rights. These SOPs are significant due to their relevance to the company's engagements with the local community. The iterative approach employed in this process ensures the refinement and applicability of SOPs throughout their development and implementation phases and is to be applied in the revision of other SOPs in accordance with EF's recommendations.
Outlined below is the 2024 plan of the review of business processes and Standard Operating Procedures (SOPs):
The main objective of conflict mapping in TPL's work areas is to improve the understanding of a comprehensive conflict resolution plan. This process is the foundation for documenting and comprehending conflict manifestations, providing insights into relevant factors, dynamics, and actors.
In 2023, EF and TPL collaborated to convene a workshop to conduct a comprehensive assessment of land claims across five TPL estates. With the support of EF, TPL has since identified indicative figures regarding the extent of hectares implicated, the number of conflicts with communities, and the categorisation of conflict severity (e.g., severe, moderate, and minor). These figures underscore the imperative for further technical validation and on-site verification to ensure precision in quantification and to reconcile notable divergences identified among relevant departments. Once these data are finalised, Earthworm and TPL will prioritise addressing land conflicts and publish the findings.
The following outlines the action plan related to conflict mapping for the year 2024:
Our objective persists in both assisting the company in enhancing its community engagement strategies and establishing robust frameworks to address grievances and conflicts in a responsible and efficient manner. Additionally, the Earthworm team will persist in cultivating local trust and engaging with diverse stakeholders, including communities, civil society organisations, and government entities, to facilitate collaboration concerning community land claims. As we venture into 2024, our commitment to these endeavours remains steadfast, underpinned by an ethos of continuous improvement informed by stakeholder insights and best practices. Our actions will continue to be guided by the principles of FPIC, which have underpinned our initial engagements, and we remain receptive to inputs and feedback from all involved parties.