Feeding nation while protecting environment

The Jakarta Post, Thursday, 5 January 2017,

By Fitrian ArdiansyahIndonesia country director of IDH-Sustainable Trade Initiative

Original link: http://www.thejakartapost.com/academia/2017/01/05/feeding-nation-while-protecting-environment.html

Farmer works cultivating rice in the field (Antara/Berto, as shown in the Jakarta Post)

The year 2016 has just ended, but a question remains. Will countries, including Indonesia, be able to supply food for their growing populations, taking into account the constraints of our limited natural resources?

The global demand for food, fiber and fuel is on the rise. This demand needs to be matched while we also need to ensure that our resources, landscape and ecosystems will be sustainably managed for the long term. Several projections, including from the Directorate General of Food Crops in 2013, for example, reveal that Indonesia’s rice consumption would exceed its production starting in 2020, taking into account land availability and climate change.

Threats to food security will likely increase as the population continues to soar and economic activities develop, while land availability becomes more limited. Hence, improved productivity and technological developments are necessary.

Globally traded commodities produced in Indonesia, namely palm oil, coffee and cocoa, face similar challenges.

Palm oil is one of the most efficient crops but the productivity level in Indonesia, especially on small farmers’ lands, is still relatively low at 3.2 tons of crude palm oil (CPO) per hectare — the global average is between 4 and 5 tons.

If productivity and practices are not improved, the increased global demand for palm oil could lead to expansion and exploitation of the remaining forests and peat lands and potentially to forest and land fires.

However, a decree for conservation has been adopted by the government, which is in tandem with global markets that increasingly support sustainable products.

Land cultivated for palm oil needs replanting. In South Sumatra alone, between 2016 and 2021, replanting needs are estimated to be at least 270,000 hectares.

The investment required for oil palm replanting could reach US$5,000 per ha. A new financial plan is needed to support replanting, especially if it involves small farmers.

Without adequate finances and technical support for replanting, growers and farmers could opt to expand their palm oil cultivation to high risk areas, such as forests and peat lands.

Concerning cocoa and coffee, low productivity is a huge challenge as land is often managed and cultivated by small farmers.

Low productivity has trapped small farmers in a cycle of poverty and a cycle of debt. The inability of small farmers to access finances and sound agriculture practices has led to reduced quality of input which in turn produces a low level of output (quantity and quality).

Without a provision of better input, farmers will have difficulty meeting global standards — hence, their struggle to break into the global market.

Funding for farmers is even more challenging because financial institutions perceive giving loans to small farmers as a high risk.

This perception relates to the unclear land status of farmers, low capability and accountability of farmer organizations and existing debt by farmers.

Innovation could help farmers gain agriculture knowledge, input material, improve farmer organizations and reduce investment risks. This is key to producing more with less — more productivity with less environmental impact.

Models for this have been tested across the globe, including in Indonesia.

A good model usually consists of a supply chain company committed as a long-term off-taker of commodities supplied by farmers, a farmer organization or cooperative, a bank that provides a soft-loan for a cooperative with a grace period taking into account the harvesting cycle, a provider of seeds and input materials and a donor or private foundation that provides technical support for farmers.

Such models have been applied in Aceh for aquaculture, Riau, Jambi and South Sumatra for palm oil, Lampung for coffee and Sulawesi for cocoa.

Individual corporations, organizations and banks or multi-stakeholders’ platforms, such as Partnership for Indonesia Sustainable Agriculture (PISAgro), are examining these models in collaboration with a number of cooperatives and government agencies.

A model in just one supply chain may not be enough as there are many challenges and issues shared among different actors in different supply chains.

These shared issues include land legality, water and landscape management, fire prevention and energy provision and require a holistic approach beyond just one farm or supply chain.

In Musi Banyuasin district, South Sumatra, a supply shed approach led by its regent is being tested to support the development of integrated sustainable commodities, such as palm oil, rice, rubber and protecting forests and peat lands.

This approach has gathered the support of local government agencies, mills and local and international organizations to collaboratively help identify and map independent small farmers and their challenges.

A combination of segregated supply chain and integrated supply shed approaches with clear financial support and sound agriculture practices is one of the most effective ways to develop commodities while protecting our fragile ecosystem.

The bold part of this journey is to build on these approaches to increase investment, develop commodity production and protect larger areas.

It is time for Indonesia to demonstrate its ability to “produce more with less”.


In search for agreed land use solutions


by Fitrian Ardiansyah

To see the pdf version, please click: Opinion Fitrian Ardiansyah_CoalAsia_Sep2012

Searching for agreed sustainable land-use management in a developing country like Indonesia is a balancing act. The two recent government regulations issued this year, namely number 60 and 61, provide ample proof on this issue.

As a tropical forest developing nation, rapid development of forests – for forestry, agriculture, infrastructure or mining activities – in Indonesia has led not only to economic growth but also to environmental degradation and greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions.

If no immediate actions taken, the unsustainable economic growth may push the already fragile ecosystems in this country close to its ‘tipping point’ – a threshold in which damages to ecosystems are irreversible and causing unacceptable environmental changes.

This country is home to peatlands, savannas and the third largest of the world’s tropical forests, which are considered among the most valuable ecosystems in the world.

Indonesia is hence considered as one of the mega-biodiversity countries. In the 2010 State of Biodiversity of Asia and the Pacific, however, the UN Environment Program (UNEP) ranked Indonesia second after Australia as having the most threatened plant and animal species in the region. This is due to, among other things, high rates of fragmentation and net loss of forests that have continued between 2000 and 2009.

In 2009, data from the Forestry Ministry show that Indonesia had 132.4 million hectares of forest estates (kawasan hutan) and out of these only 90.1 million hectares were covered by forest vegetation – of this roughly one-third was covered by primary forests, one-third by logged over areas and one-third by vegetation other than forest.

To address the ever declining state of the country’s forests, the Indonesian government has issued the moratorium of forest conversion in 2011 and introduced the overall REDD+ framework – that include efforts to reduce deforestation, forest degradation, conservation, sustainable management of forest and enhancement of forest carbon stock.

Implementing the moratorium, REDD+ and sustainable forest management is of course very challenging given the pressures coming from variety of sectors that have interests in forest and land use – sectors which, furthermore, are often regulated under different ministries and layers of government. These institutions are known to have issued overlapping policies on land use and land use changes, and influenced the issuance of different documents and maps of forest and land use.

These respected sectors are, nevertheless, crucial in the development of the economy of Indonesia. They are the main engine of this so-called emerging economy.

Commercial exploitation of natural forests began in 1967 and was one of the main drivers of the Indonesian economy since then. Billions of US dollars contributed from the export of forest products on a yearly basis consisting of plywood, sawn timber, and processed timber as well as pulp and paper, furniture and other processed timber products.

With regard to agriculture production, especially the palm oil sector, Indonesia in 2009 surpassed Malaysia to become the biggest producer of palm oil in the world, with production accelerating dramatically in recent years. Indonesia’s CPO (crude palm oil) exports and resultant revenues have increased significantly, from 3.8 million tons (valued at US$1 billion) in 1999 to 17.85 million tons in 2010 (US$10.03 billion).

The mining sector also contributes significantly to the country’s revenue. For instance, it is reported that the mining industry accounted for 10.8 percent of Indonesia’s GDP in 2009, with minerals and related products contributing one-fifth of the country’s total exports. This sector looks set to post strong average annual double-digit growth of 11.2 percent in real terms over the forecast period to reach US$149.8 billion in 2015.

To date, many scholars agree when it comes to land use change – including forest cover change – in Indonesia, forestry, palm oil, mining and infrastructure sectors are the most important and influential causes.

Given close association of these development sectors with land use and forest cover change, agreed and appropriate solutions need to be identified and reached so that economic development can still flourish while forest protection is ensured.

The issuance of the two government regulations – the Government Regulation (GR) No. 60 of 2012 on the amendment of No. 10 of 2010 on Procedures for Conversion of Allocation and Functions of Forest Areas and GR No. 61 of 2012 on the amendment of No. 24 of 2010 on Forest Area Utilization – has been perceived as an attempt by the Indonesian government to find such solutions.

As analyzed by one law firm (LGS) in its website, these two regulations have been issued to address a number of outstanding issues with the regulatory framework. This law firm argues that GR No. 60 of 2012 simplifies land replacement for permanent or limited production forests by removing the “adjacent to a forest” requirement, and GR No. 61 of 2012 is intended to provide certainty for borrow to use license holders, allow strategic industries to operate in forest areas, and reconcile conflicts with the Law No. 26 of 2007 on Spatial Planning Law.

There are always two sides of the coin. In the context of GR No. 60, the supporters of this regulation argue that this regulation improves legal certainty for the development activities, especially agriculture plantations, to take place.

This also ensures that plantation activities using particular forest estates need to replace these areas with the same size or bigger. The regulation, furthermore, puts the threshold of forests that cannot be converted in that particular estate (30 percent of the total area) and explicitly mentions about the importance of ensuring the environmental carrying capacity of the estate.

With regard to GR No. 61, this regulation offers improvement of legal certainty for particular mining activities which have been operated or obtain licenses in forest areas.

Many critics, however, claim that this regulation will only jeopardize the future sustainable forest management and forest protection in this country. Some environmental organizations refer to the fact that rapid expansion of oil palm plantations, for instance, has caused the conversion of a significant area of forests and peat lands.

These organizations are backed up by some scholarly studies including the one conducted in 2008 that estimated that palm oil development was responsible for a significant percentage of deforestation in Indonesia.

A similar accusation is labeled against the mining industry. A study conducted in 2000 argues that the development of mining will result in negative impacts including extensive land disturbance, loss of forest cover and habitat, contamination of rivers used for drinking water and food supplies, and increasing social conflict over access to mineral resources.

It is clear that regardless of the issuance these two regulations, conflicting claims and arguments will remain.

The role of the government is critical to ensure that land use processes and outputs resulting from these two regulations are synchronized with the efforts carried out by the process put in place under the moratorium of forest conversion that has resulted in one land use and forest cover map as well as the overall REDD+ process.

Without synergizing these two regulatory and substantive processes, Indonesia will miss the opportunity to provide legal certainty for both economic development and environmental protection.

As a country that has committed to sustainable development agenda, it is important that the country is not just focusing on economic performance but also on the environmental and social aspects of development. This means that the government needs to provide guidance and push for sustainable and responsible practices in the plantation and mining industry’s operations.

Many has argued that plantations and mining operations which overlap with Indonesia’s forests, especially overlaps with areas of high ecological values, have already caused significant impacts on biodiversity and ecosystems.

It is, therefore, important for the players in these sectors, particularly the private sector, to show that they are as much as responsible and willing to improve their practices for the better.

Indonesia is at the cross road in showing whether the country can develop its economy without further harming its environment.

These two recently issued regulations show once again the challenge in achieving that balancing act.


Fitrian Ardiansyah

The writer is climate and sustainability specialist, a doctoral candidate at the Australian National University, and the recipient of Australian Leadership Award and Allison Sudradjat Award. He can be reached at fitrian.ardiansyah@anu.edu.au

The HCVF Application in Indonesia

Indonesia has some of the most biodiverse rainforests in the world, but also the highest deforestation rate. The HCVF (high conservation value forest) concept has taken hold in Indonesia as a means of reconciling economic pressures to open up forest areas with the need to reduce the rate of forest loss.

Several NGOs have actively encouraged the use of the concept, integrating HCVF within their ongoing work on conservation, sustainable forestry and land use management, in collaboration with government ministries, the private sector and local communities. The urgent objective of applying the concept, as far as many are concerned, is to help pre-empt forest conversion and the loss of biodiversity and social values that accompanies it.

HCVF assessment represents an embryonic concept introduced and promoted by the Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) – originally intended for site specific Forest Management Units (FMUs) – and now adopted further such as by the Round Table on Sustainable Palm Oil (RSPO). The basic premise is that all forested areas possess biological, environmental and social values with identifiable conservation attributes.

If these attributes are identified, then management should ensure maintenance and/or enhancement of High Conservation Values (HCV) described by these conservation attributes. The Indonesian HCVF toolkit was the first national version to be produced, in 2003, and various arms of government are currently studying how HCVF can fit into existing government policies and planning processes. If this integration of HCVF into government policy goes ahead, it will help to align government land-use decisions with demands from international markets for ‘HCVF-free’ paper products and sustainably-produced palm oil.

To date, HCVF work in Indonesia has included a considerable number of HCVF assessments at the concession level by pulp, palm oil and timber companies, including more than a dozen in Sumatra and a handful in Kalimantan. WWF (in Sumatra, Kalimantan and Papua), The Nature Conservancy (in East Kalimantan), Tropenbos (East Kalimantan), Flora and Fauna International (West Kalimantan) and Sumatran Orangutan Conservation Programme (North Sumatra & Aceh) have been working with companies and local governments to designate, manage and monitor HCVFs within plantations and logging concessions.

Several landscape-level HCVF assessments have also been undertaken in, for example:

– The Trans-fly region of southern part of Papua Province, where the HCVF assessment identified priority conservation areas and important indigenous social/cultural areas, and helped WWF to influence local government to incorporate this in its planning process;

– Riau Province, Sumatra, where the coarse-scale HCVF assessment provided the basis for negotiation to secure the conservation of the few remaining large intact forest blocks such as the Tesso Nilo Forest complex;

– West Kalimantan Province, Kalimantan, where HCVF assessment provided the arguments for WWF and other NGOs to sustain remaining forest areas and protect the ‘Heart of Borneo’.

The HCVF landscape analysis is predominantly approached through the generation of maps and spatial analysis. In Papua and West Kalimantan cases, the HCVF landscape level assessments have been strengthened by the efforts to acknowledge and incorporate social and cultural values. This part of assessment was undertaken through a series of consultative meetings and a workshop with social experts and representatives of indigenous communities.

In the case of timber plantations, WWF has been urging pulp and paper companies APP and APRIL to protect the HCVFs in their concessions in Riau, Sumatra. In response, APP appeared to commit to protecting the HCVF found in one of its concessions and commissioned Smartwood to map HCVFs in three of its other FMUs in the area. On the basis of this mapping, APP announced that it would protect the HCVFs identified and signed an agreement with Smartwood to track how well it is managing its HCVFs over the next five years. However, recent monitoring reports have shown that APP has failed to protect these areas from fires, illegal logging and further forest conversion, despite its earlier pledges.

For its part, APRIL conducted its own HCVF assessments in several of its FMUs, with support from local and international experts. APRIL also commissioned Proforest to conduct additional HCVF assessments. Furthermore, the company pledged it would not convert any HCVFs, as identified through application of the Indonesian toolkit, in any of its new concessions and would not source wood from HCVFs anywhere in the world for any of its mills. However, in April 2006, an investigation found that natural forest in a concession associated with APRIL was being logged, causing disturbance to elephant habitat.

In oil palm concessions, three of Indonesia’s major palm oil producers, PT SMART Tbk., PT Astra Agro Lestari Tbk. and PT. London Sumatra Tbk. have signed Memoranda of Understanding with WWF to undertake pilot HCVF assessments with WWF in some of their concessions. Both companies have agreed to implement the protection and management prescriptions identified in the HCVF work, and to apply the lessons learned in their other concessions throughout Indonesia. The companies hope to apply the lessons-learned from this pilot to their other concessions. However, the effectiveness of HCVF application in this sector is yet to be seen.

The overall HCVF application in Indonesia still raises several key challenges, which include:

– The first version of Indonesia HCVF toolkit was developed by a relatively small group of interested practitioners and experts. Since then, much experience in HCVF assessment has been gained and many more stakeholders have become involved. The challenge now is to involve a wider group of stakeholders in a process to strengthen the toolkit based on this experience, including stronger social/cultural analysis and lessons-learned from the oil palm experience;

– The results of HCVF assessment at landscape and provincial-wide levels need to be further used to influence government’s land use and development planning – for instance, by being gazetted in the provincial and/or district spatial planning;

– The cases with pulp and paper and oil palm companies highlight the need for active stewardship of HCVFs if company commitments are to make a real difference in practice.

Article compiled and re-written by Fitrian Ardiansyah, WWF-Indonesia (fardiansyah@wwf.or.id) based on several articles on HCVF written by WWF-International and WWF-Indonesia

Source: WRM’s bulletin Nº 114, January 2006, http://www.wrm.org.uy/bulletin/114/Indonesia.html