Around 8,000 hectares of forest areas in Balihave been illegally transformed into sma|l—scale coffee and cacao plantadons in a number of regencies in the province, a top forestry official said. According to head of the Bali Forestry Agency Anak Agung Ngurah Buana, the island has a total of · around 130,000 hectares of forest areas, which includes almost 96,000 hectares of conservadon forests, 1,900 hectares of permanent production forest areas, 6,700 hectares of limited production forest areas, 1,700 hectares of natural forests and around 19,000 hectares dedicated to national forest parks. “Many people living next to forest areas regularly annex a plot of land mostly in production forest areas,” said Buana. Their actions are harmful to the forest ecosystem since they frequently cut or bum trees to cultivate various crops like cacao, coffee and even vegetables.Every family takes at least one hectare of forest land. Because most farmers had sold their own land to investors, they were forced to advance into the forests, Buena said. To solve the problem, the provincial forest agency has collaborated with the desapakraman (customary village) authority to develop a community-based forest development program. Under the program, farmers are allowed to cultivate dmeir crops in forest areas without destroying the existing flora. .The agency has successfully worked with farmers in SumberKlampok village in Jembrana regency. About 13 farmers’ groups participated in the program, planting various vegetables on 370 hectares of forest areas. Buana said his agency would expand the program to numerous villages located near forest areas. Meanwhile, Made Suarnatha, chairman of the Wisnu Foundation dealing with people empowerment programs and environmentalissues — warned the agency should set clear boundaries between forest areas and villages. “The agency should not claim the customary villages’ areas,” he said. According to Suarnatha, the scheme has actually been adopted by the Tenganan indigenous community in Karangasem regency to protect/their forest. “The Tenganan people have adopted this practice a long time ago amd have been successful in conserving forest areas,” said Suarnatha. Suarnatha welcomed the cooperation scheme, saying it would bring benefits to the villagers living near forests. “The villagers will reap the benents from nearby forests and willwherefore have a strong sense of belonging and willingness to protect forests,” he said.