Case Study: promoting sustainable livelihoods in Danau Sentarum National Park, West Kalimantan — the case of Wild Honey Bees

By Fitrian Adiansyah, Abetnego Tarigan, Maria Cristina Guerrero, Aloisa Zamora-Santos, Heri Valentinus, in Forest partnerships: enhancing local livelihoods and protecting the environment in Southeast Asia and the Pacific, 2007, edited by Maria Osbeck and Marisha Wojciechowska-Shibuya, IUCN, Bangkok, pp. 20-23. For the pdf version of the full please click here: 2007_CaseStudy_WildHoneyBees

West Kalimantan is one of four provinces in Kalimantan, the Indonesian portion of the island of Borneo. The province has a population of about 3.74 million people (2000 Census) and major ethnic groups include the Dayak, Malay and Chinese, who constitute about 90% of the total population.

The borders of West Kalimantan roughly trace the mountain ranges surrounding the watershed of the Kapuas River, the longest river in Indonesia, which drains much of the province, namely the extensive Lake Sentarum area — an extensive protected reserve of 132,000 hectares of lakes and of seasonally inundated forest ecosystems.

The Lake Sentarum area plays an important role as a natural reservoir for the mid- and downstreams of the Kapuas River and watershed . Of particular importance is the annual flooding regime (flood pulse), which ensures biological abundance that is extensively utilized by local people and forms a vital part of the local economy. In addition to fishing, local people depend on harvesting a variety of other terrestrial and aquatic organisms for their livelihoods, many of which are thought to be closely associated with the energy and nutrient cycles dependent on the annual flood pulse phenomenon. The Kapuas River is 1,143 km long and the watershed is 85,200 km2 in area. Despite abundant rich natural resources and biodiversity, threats to the forests stemming from logging and agricultural expansion have made life increasingly more difficult for the majority of people living in the area who remain below the poverty line.

Local NGOs have collaborated to tackle the threats to Danau Sentarum and to provide assistance to local people in support of their livelihoods. They have played a role in providing critical services in areas such as: Indonesian natural resource law; regulations on international investment and relations; ways to register community land; and negotiation tactics and strategies. Recent efforts by WALHI, WWF-Indonesia, SawitWatch and Riak Bumi have focused on facilitating a dialogue between communities, other local NGOs and government officials to find workable solutions for the future management of the Kapuas Watershed.

As sustainable management regimes in the upland areas impact the honey harvesting activity downstream, in December 2006, Riak Bumi, WALHI, Sawit Watch and WWF co-organized a multi-stakeholder dialogue with government and non-government actors, resulting in a declaration that commits communities upstream to end electrofishing by 1 January 2007 and prohibits the use of small size nylon nets as of January 2008.

Wild Honey Harvesting and Marketing

Nests of Apis dorsata, the giant honey bee, have traditionally been exploited to produce large volumes of honey and wax for trade. The tikung system of honey collection is still practised by a relatively large group of the local population in the DNSP region. The honey is collected via three different techniques: lalau (climbing up tall trees to harvest honey), tikung (traditional honeyboard system) and repak (a place where bees produce no more than one comb on any kind of any tree branch — the first person to find the comb becomes its owner). Although the tikung system is the most typical honey harvesting approach practised in the park, honey gathering from tall trees that have been colonized by bees is also popular in this region.

Apis dorsata wild honey has good economic potential as a food product as gatherers can obtain a high price. For local forest communities, wild honey (an NTFP) can be an alternative income source to help cover their daily needs. Sustainable harvesting of wild honey and management of Apis dorsata habitats are essential to protect the forest and the environment. Honey harvesting is also an alternative solution to mitigate de-forestation problems that have surfaced in recent years in Indonesia, resulting in the degradation of natural resources and the environment.

In this context, Riak Bumi initiated theIndonesia National Workshop on the Wild Honey Bee Network in Danau Sentarum National Park in January 2005 with participants from Kalimantan and Sulawesi. This forum facilitated the exchange and sharing of experiences on the management and practical utilization of wild honey bees by local gatherers; information dissemination and communication between areas emerged as a strategy for addressing forestry problems in Indonesia.

At the forum, participants raised concerns about the difficulty of marketing wild honey bee products. Discussion revealed that harvesting practices and postharvest processes result in low quality wild honey; moreover local
conditions, namely forest fire smoke and logging, exacerbate the problem. The participants agreed to work towards standardization to ensure good quality wild honey in order to meet market demand. They also agreed to set up a wild honey bee network to facilitate support facilities and information exchange and dissemination. The network’s goals are to improve the quality of wild honey, to enhance its marketing value and to generate increases in volume and price. Such aims will provide incentives to encourage more gatherers to harvest honey judiciously and maintain natural bee habitats in the forest. Riak Bumi plans to select locations for extension in Sumba, Flores, Sumbawa, possibly (later) West Papua and Mentawai archipelago.

Honey and beeswax is sold in local and regional markets; Riak Bumi has worked to link communities and markets directly to close the gap between the producer and the final consumer. This has helped to channel increased
economic benefit to the local producers that would have otherwise been diverted at various levels of the marketing chain.

During the 2003 harvest season, Riak Bumi helped package and market over 1.5 tonnes of honey from participating villages and double the financial return to the producers. With an additional 20 tonnes of honey harvested annually throughout the DSNP area, this initiative could potentially contribute to significant poverty reduction for many communities. By helping new communities to improve the quality and marketing of their honey, Riak Bumi will augment socio-economic benefits to more villages.

[Fitrian Ardiansyah, World Wide Fund for Nature WWF-Indonesia: “It is difficult for NGOs to determine what to prioritize because the companies are moving so fast.” “We need an integrated approach to the problems. Partnering with a network of NGOs made us expand our horizons, and build mutual understanding and relationships on regional issues to strategize and seek the optimal solutions.” “NGOs from the South have built a good working and sharing network on rain-forest issues through this programme; but what about the NGOs from the North?”]

As honey gatherers increasingly recognize the enhanced financial value of their honey, there is a corresponding marked shift in people’s attitudes towards local forest protection, conservation and enhancement. This includes
growing recognition among communities for the need to work cooperatively to reduce the risk of fires; to adopt self-imposed rules to guide the community in the use of forest resources; and to re-plant to enhance bee habitats and ensure future wood-supplies. In 2000 and 2001, four local villages in the park worked together to reforest 120 hectares.

Furthermore, while many bee-keeping projects throughout the developing world have focused on the introduction of frame hive bee-keeping systems, which require the importation of exotic bee species (i.e. Apis mellifera or A. cerana), the DSNP project has emphasized the need to improve upon the traditional honey-board hunting system (tikung harvesting system), which works with the indigenous A. dorsata bee and is compatible with the
ecological conditions of the DSNP.

With Riak Bumi facilitating the training of six villages in improved harvest and post-harvest processing techniques, marketing of forest honey, as well as participatory reforestation of fire-damaged sites in seven villages, the communities have heightened awareness about the need for baseline data to monitor honey production, bee population ecology and forest regeneration. As a result, permanent monitoring plots to gauge their achievements have recently been established in the DSNP.

Furthermore, in June 2002, Riak Bumi co-organized a workshop on “Anthropogenic Impacts on DSNP” that convened local communities, NGOs, government agencies and academic institutions. This resulted in a community
declaration committing them to participate in the conservation and management of the park through specific clauses on customary laws, forest protection and apiculture development. The continuation and expansion of these activities reflect the park communities’ recognition of the critical link between livelihood sustainability and the need for their active participation in biodiversity conservation.

Organic Certification 

In 2006, BIOCert an organic certifying body in Indonesia, announced that it had selected the Forest Honey Network Indonesia as its pilot project for organic certification. Guided by BIOCert, Riak Bumi, the national secretariat of the network, and the NTFP-EP (head-quartered in the Philippines) joined forces to develop Local Standards and an Internal Control System (ICS) for the Honey Producer Groups of the Wild Honey Harvesters in West Kalimantan.

While various aspects of the management system need to be analysed to determine whether the honey produced by the network qualifies for organic certification, the network seems to be well on its way to setting up its ICS and eventually becoming certified. With a number of factors already working in its favour — a sustainable management system and strong established institutions that can manage the certification process — the Forest Honey Network Indonesia’s madu (honey) may soon bear the organic seal and break into worldwide markets.

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