This research examines the importance of forest cover and protected areas in villages susceptible to natural disasters on Java Island.

By Janice Lam, University of Waterloo

Java Island faces deforestation, pollution and fragmentation, which make conservation efforts difficult to achieve. Four case studies are examined: the Mount Merapi volcano, Pangandaran tsunami, Yogyakarta earthquake and Surakarta flooding (see Figure 1). Protected areas provide an opportunity for ecosystems to recuperate and physically provide buffers against the devastating effects of tsunamis, storms and flooding events (IUCN, 2013). The community can improve their resilience by using protected areas as a temporary living space during disasters and an opportunity to diversify their livelihood (Suryanto et al., 2011). There are two main benefits that protected areas and forest cover can offer in the event of disaster: they can be used to mitigate the intensity of natural disasters and as a resource to improve the resilience of the affected community. The results of this research will analyze possible solutions to aid with the conservation of forested and protected areas. Possible solutions include alternative livelihoods such as agroforestry, training programs and establishment of new protected areas. Currently, non-governmental organizations and villages have conducted successful relocations and incentive programs to improve their local resilience to disasters. Local participation in management decisions is critical to the success of forest policies. It is recommended that compatible goals and policies be created in the future.

The results of the research indicate that there is an immense gap between local participation and awareness in relation to protected areas. Conservation outcomes can improve if the control over protection and enforcement is co-managed between the government and the community (Yonariza & Webb, 2007). Regulations developed for protected areas oftentimes fail to address social, cultural and political factors of the community (Andrade & Rhodes, 2012). There is no easy formula in creating regulations which will be compatible with each community, but understanding the particularity of each area is paramount to its success (Andrade & Rhodes, 2012).

Figure 1. Map of Study Area. (Assistance Credit: Mohamed Mursheed Drahman)

Economic incentives are attractive to communities; therefore, it can be used as a pull factor in the transition process to more sustainable livelihoods. Alternatives to illegal timber harvesting, such as livestock raising and agroforestry, can reduce their economical need for timber (Yonariza & Webb, 2007). Relocation programs with economic incentives can benefit communities living near hazards such as an active volcano, floods, earthquake and tsunami-prone areas. Since the earthquake in Yogyakarta, the Bantul village has diversified their crops and provided a planting program to aid families with their income (See Figure 2). Other villages can adopt a similar program to gain appreciation for nature and sell their harvest for extra income (Fieldnotes, 2016).

Figure 2. Photo of soursop tree at a resettlement village, grown to supplement villager income.  

It is evident that both protected areas and forestry contribute to the resilience of the local population during a natural disaster. Alternative livelihoods, training programs and economical gains ripple into other positive impacts such as poverty reduction. Local participation in management decisions produces the most optimal results, so the gap between management and local communities must be tightened. By working together to create compatible goals and policies, conservation and restoration of protected and forested areas can be preserved for the next generation. Non-government organizations have set out examples of successful relocations and incentive programs, which can be adapted by the government and disseminated to other communities. The future of Indonesia’s protected area is dependent on cooperation between community members and local government bodies. Canada can learn from these lessons by replicating suitable training programs, economic incentives, and existing conservation and mitigation programs to benefit our citizens.


Janice Lam has a Bachelor of Environmental Studies in Geography and Environmental Management at the University of Waterloo. She conducted natural disaster field research in Indonesia in 2016 and her research interests include conservation, restoration and forestry.




Andrade, G. S., and Rhodes, J. R. (2012) ‘Protected Areas and Local Communities: An Inevitable Partnership toward Successful Conservation Strategies?’, Ecology and Society E&S, 17(4).

IUCN (International Union for the Conservation of Nature). (2013) Protected areas protecting people: a tool for disaster risk reduction – natural solutions. Available at: (Accessed 30 May 2016)

Suryanto, P., Hamzah, M., Mohamed, A., Alias, M., Nawari, N., and Wiratno, W. (2011) ‘Exploring the Potential of Silviculture Agroforestry Regime as a Compatible Management in Southern Gunung Merapi National Park, Java, Indonesia’ JSD Journal of Sustainable Development.

Yonariza., and Webb, E. L. (2007) ‘Rural household participation in illegal timber felling in a protected area of West Sumatra, Indonesia’ Envir. Conserv. Environmental Conservation, 34(01), 73.

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