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Hutan Nagari Alam Pauh Duo Jorong Simancuang (HN Simancuang) in West Sumatera holds a very critical position for local villagers as it serves as the primary water catchment area. Since its inception as a village forest (Hutan Desa or Hutan Nagari) in 2012, local communities managing HN Simancuang have been working to protect it from potential threats. Our spatial analysis shows that within the period of 2001-2017, tree cover loss in HN Simancuang only occurred in 3% of the total tree cover, indicating that the communal arrangement to protect HN Simancuang forests has been able to maintain forest cover, albeit increasing threats, such as illegal logging and land clearing.
To provide a more robust evidence on the role of local communities in conserving the forest, we conducted a random survey to 113 households in Jorong Simancuang and Jorong Karang Hitam Simancuang, the two sub-village settlements that make up HN Simancuang. The survey was designed to capture community perception towards forest and identify their degree of dependence on forest. The results indicate that although forest-based income did not significantly contribute to the total income of the community, the community’s dependence on water for agriculture and daily consumption from HN Simancuang drove them to conserve forest. This perception, which we also tested using statistical analyses, was manifested in unique tenurial arrangements among local villagers. Our study at HN Simacuang thus suggests that identifying common grounds among communities could be the first step in implementing successful community-based forest management.