Interview with Professor Dodik Ridho Nurrochmat about “The Role of Social Scientist to Improve The Livelihood of Forest Dependent People”
by Mahtuf Ikhsan (Text and Picture)
Professor Dodik Ridho Nurrochmat is a senior lecturer in the Faculty of Forestry at Bogor Agricultural University (IPB), Indonesia. He specializes in Forest Policy and Economics, Public Policy, Political Economy, and Environmental Economics. He has a PhD in Forest Policy and Nature Conservation from Georg-August University of Göettingen. Professor Nurrochmat is also one of the founders of the IFSA LC IPB, which was established in 1991. He is currently director of Strategic Studies and Agriculture Policy Directorate at Bogor Agricultural University.
How long have you been involved in social research specifically on improving the livelihoods of forest dependent people ?
Actually, since I graduated from Faculty of Forestry, Bogor Agricultural University in 1994. I was active in some activities in social forestry and forestry programs including forestry enterprises in Jakarta, Jambi and some other areas. But as an academic and researcher, I started in 1996 when I returned to Bogor Agricultural University as a lecturer. I have been involved in social forestry and forest policy programs for more than 20 years.
What strategy do you use most in your social research to attract people to become more actively engaged with your work?
We have to start from the problem. We should not create the problem, but we should solve the problem. We must identify the problem and then find methods or manner to solve the problem. This is the key to research. Sometimes we find only the theme or topic of the research without identifying the problem. This is a very common failure in research. Many researchers fail because they make recommendations based on the wrong problem. So, even if the recommendation is good, it cannot solve the problem because it is not based on the true problem. We can get closer to determing the problem by completing a questionairre or in-depth interview with forest dependent people. This could include collecting data about the level of education, the level of income, and so on. This is a common research practice. After conducting your research, one can teach skills or provide funding for people to process and sell their agricultural and forest products.
What is a problem or challenge for social scientists when they conduct research regarding the livelihoods of forest dependent people ?
For researchers, identifying the problem is a big challenge. As a researcher, we have to find the actual problem. But, perhaps you mean obstacle within the field. With my background as a social researcher in forest policy, I would say that the biggest challenge is that policy is not linear. We cannot conclude that the scientific viewpoint is correct or that it will please the policy maker. It is a challenge to find agreement between science and policy. Science is not only for science. Science should influence the policy maker and the policy maker should hear the voice of the scientist. But, this is not easy because the nature of scientist is different than the nature of policy maker. If the information is true and used by the policy maker to formulate policy, then the product of regulation should also be beneficial. Therefore, our task as scientists is to find a means of influencing the policy-making process by promoting scientific-based research.
How can social scientists approach the different behaviors of forest dependent people ?
In my mind, there are two different pools of forest dependent people. First, there are those who are one hundred percent dependent on the forest. In this case, they manage the forest sustainably and the forests are maintained due to this reliance. In another pool, there are people who do not rely directly on the forest. In this situation, the forest is also saved and is not destroyed. However in Indonesia, the people are in between the pools. There are local communities in Indonesia that depend heavily on their forests, like the Baduy tribe. In this case, their forest is saved because they rely on the forest for their income; however, there are also people who wish to generate money from forest resources. They want to buy rice, meat, and chicken. They use the forest as a source of income and must be careful not to overexploit its resources. The people of Indonesia are between these two pools. As social researchers, we must find a means of addressing people’s needs and of providing access to necessary resources.
How can social scientists support the implementation of traditional rights for forest-dependent people?
There are many types of rights. There are property rights and rigths to use forest resources, for example. As a result, land reform does not necessarily exclusively mean land ownership certification; it may also include recognition of access to the forest and use of the forest. Therefore, providing people access and the ability to use the forest is one alternative to granting ownership. In the spirit of the national constitution, we must consider that we desire the highest benefit for the most people when it comes to forest use and livelihoods.
Can you provide any words of advice or motivation for the members of IFSA and other youth who are looking to engage further in forestry, policy, and other related fields? How can we look to shape forests for the future?
I think you can start simply. You can start with developing a green lifestyle and not just constructing the image of ecomindedness but truely engaging in green activity. I think this is an especially important practice for more people to consciously engage in especially youth! Youth can take the initiative to introduce green campaigns including supporting green products, paperless activity, self-discipline, anti-littering, and anti-pollution strategies. We must implement the three “R”s (Reduce, Reuse and Recycle) as a strategy to begin “greening” our lifestyle. Youth can make sure to recycle paper or more effectively reuse paper. I think reuse is incredible! You can use paper again as a mask or take it as food package.
About the author: Mahtuf Ikhsan is a student in the Common First Year Program at Bogor Agricultural University, Indonesia.