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Kersi Sihite, Pandumaan-Sipituhuta, North Sumatra, Indonesia

“The benzoin is the source of our life. If it does not exist people can not live here. It is the source of our livelihood and allows us to send our children to school. So we strongly objected when Toba Pulp Lestari (TPL) cleared the forest...We continue to struggle, against all difficulties, until the last blood runs out, we should strive to fight for our land.”

Answer

For generations, Indigenous Batak communities have planted benzoin trees in their traditionally-owned forests and have sustainably harvested the tree’s fragrant resin. This culturally significant practice is often a primary source of cash income. Since pulp producer Toba Pulp Lestari (TPL) took over communities’ land for its pulp plantations, many benzoin trees have been cut down, directly threatening the livelihoods of many communities.  

In December 2016, Pandumaan-Sipituhuta became one of nine communities to have their customary land rights recognized by the Indonesian government. While this land was removed from the plantation of Toba Pulp Lestari, the community is still waiting for local legislation to pass so that they can acquire formal title to their land.

Photo of Kersi Sihite preparing a benzoin tree for harvest. Photo credit: Credit: Joel Redman /  If Not Us Then Who?

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