Friday, April 8, 2011

Managing economic growth in the conservation areas

As previously reported in my article entitle ‘Brief info of Bengkulu’, the province of Bengkulu occupies 1,978,870 ha of land, lies along the Bukit Barisan Mountain. This leads to the situation where only 46,5 percent areas are classified as conservation regions, either as National Park, Conservation Forest or other form of protection areas.  However, many reports indicated that this conservation region is no longer serves as conserving area, since it has been widely exploitive; illegal logging, illegal farming, etc. The rest of areas are available to support the 1,7 million people for inhabitants, plantation and other economic activities.
Annual economic growth of this province is only 5 % (less than national economic growth) and 65 % of the people are making money from agricultural sectors (as a farmer or farm workers), mainly in on-farm activities.  It is no longer a wise strategy to improve provincial economic growth by fully relied on the use of available lands for agricultural (on farm) production.  For example, there is no industry to make use of the crude palm oil (CPO) here. Indeed, CPO could be simply developed into vegetable oil (that daily need by the people) and other derivates. The plantation enjoys exporting CPO rather than manufactures its derivative products.  The government tends to make no enforcement, unfortunately, to this palm oil industry.  This situation also similarly takes place to rubber, coffee, and other plantation products.  In addition, the exploitation of coal and gold to some degree (and other non-renewable natural resources) as well as plantation industry in the province of Bengkulu are proven to have no trickle down economic effects to the people of Bengkulu. The people are remained poor, the infrastructures get worsen (roads, seaports, etc). 
The government needs to manage this limited area by developing an agricultural based industry, including vegetable, cash crops, animal husbandry, that covers on-farm activities, product development and marketing.  The productions must comply with agribusiness systems. In order to make more people to get involved and, hence increase their annual income.  The government must ensure the marketing and the people must produce it on farm.
Similar to the land resource management, the marine resources (the province of Bengkulu has 14,929 km2 of marine areas) should be properly managed into industrial scale.  Another effort to improve the quality of human living is by taking the carbon compensation. This has been initiated by the Municipality of Lebong. The small amount of compensation is somehow meaningful for the people around the conservation areas as long as the local government manages the compensation into pro people policies. Is there any other compensations for the people? Yes, power plant generated by the river and lake as well as by geothermal.  At the present time, there are several power plants in Bengkulu that its electricity is being ‘exported’ to other provinces. The people of Bengkulu who have to conserve the catchment areas should be somehow get-compensated. Another example, the geothermal-based power plant that is being developed in the Municipality of Lebong should be arranged its contributions to the local people in advance.

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