Governments around the world are promoting social forests as part of their stated commitments for sustainability and social justice. Since 2014, social forest policy in Indonesia has undergone rapid expansion, increasing by a factor of five, from 653,311 ha to around 3,369,583 ha in 2019. This paper examines the processes through which social forest policy is implemented to consider who benefits (access) and who loses (exclusion) within different policy stages. We identify these stages to include initial formulation, formal handover, and policy implementation, and map them onto an access-exclusion framework to analyze how power is contested and who benefits. Applying the framework to three case studies from Sulawesi demonstrates that at the initial stage, processes that generate social forestry are defined by access and exclusion related to the collection and control of information. Through processes that define the formal handover stage, key actors contest rules and establish the contours of legitimacy governing social forestry. Finally, during implementation, access and exclusion occur through the management and use of resources. By analyzing access and exclusion dynamics across temporal dimensions that structure social forestry policy, we at once demystify what social forestry entails while providing a clearer picture about the boom of its expansion in Indonesia since 2014, showing how a highly anticipated policy filled with populist ideals goes bust from below.
- Social forestry