Rooted progress – Marking the first year of a community-based sustainable forest management programme in Ketapang Indonesia

Rooted progress – Marking the first year of a community-based sustainable forest management programme in Ketapang Indonesia

Indonesia - 19 April, 2024
Nerea Rubio EchazarraNerea Rubio Echazarra

Tropenbos Indonesia’s and Rimba Collective’s collaborative project to promote sustainable community-based forest stewardship and livelihood improvement in four villages of the Ketapang District, West Kalimantan province, is moving forward. Embarking on a 25-year journey, the project, also supported by MoMo4C, has laid the foundation for success during its inaugural year, with facilities, training and strategic planning set in motion.

Sungai Pelang, Sungai Besar and Pematang Gadung are three village forests (largely) located in the Peat Hydrological Units (PHUs) of Sungai Pawan – Sungai Kepulu and Sungai Kepulu -Sungai Pesaguan, Matan Hilir Selatan sub-district.

This landscape, comprising diverse forests ecosystems including peatlands and peat swamps, is known for its rich biodiversity, housing various endangered species like orangutans and pangolins. Remarkably, three of these villages harbour the last remaining peat forest ecosystems with a depth of more than three meters of Indonesia.

Pematang Gadung peatland village forest

According to the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN), peatlands, when in their natural wet state, provide indispensable ecological functions. They regulate water flow, help maintain air quality and reduce the risk of flooding and drought. Peatlands also serve as the largest natural terrestrial carbon store and restoring these ecosystems is crucial for significantly reducing emissions to combat climate change and achieve other Sustainable Development Goals.

Pangkalan Telok is the other village forest area located further north in a separate forest ecosystem on mineral land in Nanga Tayap sub-district. Pangkalan Telok Village Forest covers an area which is classified as a Protection Forest. Pangkalan Telok Village Forest provides various benefits to the community as well as a habitat for various biodiversity. It provides critical ecosystem services, such as the Bukit Batu Menangis as hydrological services and erosion control areas, the Bidadari River as a source of clean water for drinking and various purposes, Bukit Batu Menangis with steep hills and plenty of trees prevent erosion, while the primary forest can serve as fire prevention areas.

Map of Village Forest by Tropenbos Indonesia

Unfortunately, these valuable forests are heavily threatened by forest encroachment, wildfires, illegal logging, illegal gold mining activities, land clearing for agriculture, and expansion of oil palm plantations. To counteract these challenges, it became imperative to strengthen the capacities of local communities and Village Forest Management Units (VFMU), providing them with the tools needed to combat these threats and ensure the sustainable management of the forest.

Therefore, since 2022, Tropenbos Indonesia has been through a community-based forest management approach to preserve the remaining forest areas and restore the degraded areas. This led to the approval of the Ecosystem Service Outcomes Agreement in the beginning of 2023. The resulting project is dedicated to establishing good management practices for village forests and their surroundings, with the aim of preserving and enhancing forest ecological functions while simultaneously promoting the community's wellbeing. This approach aligns with the broader goals of the Social Forestry programme of Indonesia, which involves a set of policies and practices aimed at involving local communities in the management and use of forest resources.

The funding support for these important Village Forest areas comes through Rimba Collective, an institution formed on the initiative of palm oil buyers and processors whose mission is to support sustainable forest conservation and restoration for 25 years. Lestari Capital has been appointed by Rimba Collective to deliver fund, supervise, and support forest conservation and restoration. This funding is crucial given that Social Forestry –outside Java – without any sponsor or donors has mostly been under idle lands or involved land transaction.

Sungai Besar Village Forest

Currently Rimba Collective is supported by four companies, namely Nestle, Unilever, P&G, and PepsiCo, and its funding mechanism is based on performance-based environmental service reward from achieved Ecosystem Service Outcomes (ESO). Part of the income received from the ESOs achieved will go into conservation and restoration activities and the remaining part will be available to invest in the development of sustainable rural businesses.

As the programme enters its second year, the groundwork has been laid, including the establishment of facilities and infrastructure such as offices and communication equipment, conducted training sessions and meticulous planning for upcoming activities. These will include the identification and piloting of innovative, sustainable businesses in support of forest conservation and restoration. Although concrete outcomes are yet to be observed, the potential is unmistakable.

Tropenbos Indonesia’s support has not only increased the institutional capacity of VFMUs but has also enabled the future implementation of effective forest protection and monitoring systems. Furthermore, while the forest restoration is still in the preparation stage, VFMUs now possess crucial knowledge about the restoration patterns that will be implemented soon. Moreover, recognising the importance of awareness raising and outreach, Tropenbos Indonesia and Rimba Collective have been engaging with local stakeholders through environmental awareness activities and planting campaigns.

As the second year begins, the collaborative efforts are poised to make a lasting impact, creating a sustainable legacy for the forests and local communities of Ketapang District.

MoMo4C is a joint project of IUCN NL, WWF Netherlands and Tropenbos International, and six partner organisations in our landscapes.