Land use patterns along the forest edge vary according to location. In higher altitudes (>900m asl) such as in the sub-districts of Adiankoting and Pangaribuan in Tapanuli Utara, benzion, the aromatic resin from Styrax spp. trees (Kemenyan), is a dominant agro-forestry product. In lower altitudes rubber is the dominant crop with cacao, sugarpalm, oilpalm, coffee, petai, durian, snakefruit and other fruit species also important.
Primarily farmers, Batak communities recognize the forest as a critical source of water for irrigating these crops and rice. A drop in rice yields would threaten the region’s food security. Over the last 20 years a large exodus of people from the island of Nias has been occurring, large numbers of which have settled in Central and South Tapanuli. As most of the suitable arable lands have been occupied by Batak communities, many Nias settlers open up remote primary forest to make out a living.
Our surveys demonstrated a much lower awareness amongst the Nias people living near the forest edges of the environmental functions of forests; they see the forests more as a source of timber and protein.
The majority of people living around the Batang Toru forest are Christian, although percentages differ a lot in each of the three Tapanuli districts.
The religious background of these communities is of some influence on their hunting (non) restrictions, with most Christian Batak communities having few taboos relating to consumption of any wildlife species.