Save the Remaining Intact Forest Landscape in Indonesia

Save the Remaining Intact Forest Landscape in Indonesia

Indonesia - 06 January, 2016

Forests are another land where people can live in harmony; a place that can be called “home”. But a dying message has been sent from the forests – also from the Indonesian forest, telling us that it continues to degrade, to face serious threats and to drastically change its forest cover. Between 2009 and 2013, Indonesia has lost 4.6 million ha of forest area and now the remaining area is only about 82 million ha (Forest Watch Indonesia, 2014). The number will continue to shrink if we don’t do anything to save the remaining.

Forests are undeniable important as “life supporting systems” due to their multi-ecosystem functions (Edi Purwanto, Jakarta Post, 23 November 2015). Forests hide various functions which are often taken for granted such as to infiltrate rain water that reaches the forest floor and therefore maintaining the minerals in the soil, stimulate water recharge processes, control soil erosion and sedimentation, prevent landslides and flood hazards. Forests are also a source of biodiversity, a carbon sink and a reservoir of carbon stock as well as the place to support the livelihoods of local people living in and around the forests.

Workshop ambiance.jpgIgnoring the various functions of the forest may result in forest fires and other disasters. In 1997 the economic loss due to forest and land fires was 8 billion US$, two times the loss compared to the economic loss from the earthquake and Aceh tsunami in 2004 that reached 4.5 billion US$. The fires, which destroyed over 25 million ha of forests and lands in Sumatra and Kalimantan put the disaster on the first rank of the most detrimental to the economy of Indonesia during the period of 1900-2014 (Kompas, 20 October 2015).

With such a bleak prospect for the future of the forests if no action is taken, Tropenbos International Indonesia organized a workshop under the theme “Save the Remaining: Strategy to protect and utilize the remaining intact forest landscape for life supporting systems”, held in Bogor, Indonesia - 14 December 2015. The event gathered 30 participants from various institutions with the aim to formulate a strategy for the protection and sustainable utilization of the remaining forests from the perspectives of policy, management and institutions, and empowerment of communities.

Saving the remaining seems a tough topic to discuss, with a lot of things to be considered and which involves various stakeholders. The various presentations held during the workshop showed the complexity of this topic.

Tri Cahyo Wibisono (Yoyok) from Wetlands International Indonesia, through its presentation titled “Status and Problems in the Wetlands Ecosystem”, reminded us that wetlands should receive special attention along with planning for intervention and restoration. Some wetlands are now in sore conditions due to shallowing lakes, river pollution, rice fields which have turned into houses or peatland areas which have been damaged due to fires or converted into oil palm or forest plantations. He described that at least 3.5 million ha of peatland areas have been converted into forest plantations. Moreover, contradicting policies, a social gap, unclear spatial planning, poverty, and lack of communication between stakeholders are some of the biggest problems for wetlands.

In Indonesia, illegal logging continues to takes place and land conflict is still a nightmare for forest concessionaires according to Bob Purba from Forest Watch Indonesia during his presentation “Land Coverage Status in Forest Area”. Timber is currently extracted mainly from natural forests and many concession areas end as mining areas and/or oil palm plantations. The expansion of the oil palm industry is frightening and with the decentralization era it is difficult to control the permits given for oil palm plantations, as well as the thousands of permits released for mining. Therefore, good governance is key to hamper deforestation. It has been proven that a good governance index is correlated to a lower deforestation rate. And not the least important is a fair treatment to indigenous communities. “The rights of indigenous communities must be clear otherwise it will be impossible to use the forest if they are disregarded”.

Ani Adiwinata Nawir from CIFOR stated that saving the remaining should be related to a landscape based management during her presentation “Protection strategy of forest ecosystems for life: An overview from the perspective of social economy and framework policy aspects in facilitating forest management based on a sustainable and integrated landscape”. The need to implement a landscape based management has spurred directly or indirectly by more complex factors that have triggered deforestation. However, she noted that various perspectives might appear, therefore it is necessary to equalize the perspectives before being able to implement an integrated management approach. Another challenge is to implement at local level what is has been planned at a global level. So far in Indonesia global plans have been implemented through many programs but significant outcomes have not yet ripened. Most programs implemented by the Indonesian government are usually characterized to base their achievement target on budget allocation, extensification instead of intensification for an increased productivity and not having an integrated planning based on the ecosystem functions at the landscape level.

Ani Adiwanta Nawir also stressed that with the new Asean Economic Community/Masyarakat Ekonomi Asean (MEA) that started in December 2015, Indonesia has a lot of opportunities as well as challenges. Globalization will drive Indonesia further to improve coordination between programs and sectors to make sure that the management options chosen will support each other at the landscape level.

Three speakers and moderator.jpgSaving the remaining forest is indeed an uneasy task, but some enabling conditions may give hope that it will be possible. Some possible enabling conditions mentioned during the discussions in the workshop are:

  1. Strong political will of the centre and regional government to save intact forest landscape (IFL) as life supporting systems taking into account the different roles of relevant stakeholders.
  2. Data and information on the status of forest cover and tenure should be available and acceptable for all forest stakeholders.
  3. The government is able to establish clean and clear state forest areas.
  4. Functional strong forest management institutions at local level.
  5. Changes on the bureaucratic (government) working system and the administrating and liscensing culture to become an honest facilitator, broker and supervisor of forest management practices.
  6. The availability of national and international fund sources (e.g. Bonn Challenge) to protect and restore the remaining forest.
  7. A fair and efficient forestry business climate
  8. Oil palm developers should shift their emphasis from expanding their area under oil palm production to intensifying production in the existing estates.
  9. The ‘borrow and use’ (pinjam-pakai) state forest areas for mining activities is not possible.

Additional to the enabling contidions, some priority programs could be develop directed to redesigning areas and forest functions based on Landscape Conservation Planning for specific watersheds; finding a solution for land conflict in primary forests; restoring degraded forests; and strengthening law enforcement with the support of the Corruption Eradication Comission (KPK) and Financial Transaction Reports and Analysis Center (PPATK). Other specific programs for production forests, conservation forests, and protection forests, which include new renewable energy, scientific eco-tourism, and the development of livelihood tree types such as fruit and agarwood, could be implemented.

If the enabling conditions are met together with strong programmes, the target of saving the remaining will be much closer to reality.