Industrious thinking

Indonesia’s timber going green – and global
A man finishes a centerpiece carving in Jepara, Central Java – a center for furniture production and woodworking in Indonesia. Dita Alangkara for CIFOR

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Forests provide both environmental benefits and economic opportunities. Striking a balance between the two – especially in developing countries where forests are being depleted and livelihoods can be precarious – is critical.

For pulp and paper, plywood and furniture producers in Indonesia, billions of dollars in investment is flowing into the country, together with increasing pressures for sustainability assurances in exports.

Herry Purnomo, Center for International Forestry Research (CIFOR) scientist and Bogor Agricultural University professor, said the entire region was struggling with how to turn forest extractive industries green.

“It is no easy task. Deforestation is happening and institutions and governance need to be strong to address sustainable forestry.”

Indonesia established its Timber Legality Verification System (SLVK) in 2013, a scheme that certifies wood was harvested legally and required for exports to Europe, the United States and Australia.

Abdullah Rufi’ie, director of forest products processing and marketing with the Indonesian Ministry of Environment and Forestry, said, “Since this legality, the value of our timber exports has increased, and we have been exporting more certified timber.”

At the source

The increasing demand around the world for sustainably sourced wood and wood products has implications on the ground. Indonesia’s legal timber certification means the country now has expanded access to markets, and the supply must follow.

Five million hectares of certified forest after 20 years of certification in Indonesia is not good at all. Indonesia needs to double or triple this figure in the next five years.

Herry Purnomo

For Purnomo, where this wood will come from is the question.

“Every year the amount of timber cut from natural forests has decreased, along with forest concessions. And some forest concession areas have been converted to oil palm and other uses.

“How can we continue providing timber products at the same level?”

Rufi’ie said the new sustainability requirements entailed wise use of source materials.

“The trend now is to obtain raw material from private forests and community forests, especially in Java. People are planting fast-growing teak species that can be used for furniture – and there is increasing demand because the wood is widely available and of good quality,” he said.

Many markets

Following SLVK, Indonesia is in the process of obtaining the Forest Law Enforcement, Governance and Trade (FLEGT) license for its timber trade. This will allow Indonesia’s timber to easily enter EU markets, bypassing strict timber regulation requirements.

In a recent op-ed in The Jakarta Post, Purnomo wrote, “If realized, [FLEGT] would improve the livelihoods of millions of small-scale furniture producers and craftspeople in a country where 98 percent of furniture making is done by small and medium enterprises.”

Purnomo’s Furniture Value Chain Project with CIFOR has worked with such craftspeople since 2008 to improve the furniture value chain in Jepara, on the north coast of East Java.

With FLEGT licensing, the careful, creative work of people in Jepara and other towns in Indonesia could enter markets they had no access to before, increasing incomes for millions of people.

But there are other markets aside from the EU.

Rufi’ie discussed plans for agreements with other countries that have specific timber certification guidelines.

“We are trying to get mutual recognition agreements with many countries. But our system doesn’t only consist of exports but imports as well, and we want to ensure that any timber that enters our supply chain is legal, demonstrated with certificates of origin and legality,” he said.

For Purnomo, the domestic market is important.

“There is a lot in the domestic market to work on,” he said.

Conservation and industry

More investment into sustainable practices is needed to boost exports and encourage the domestic market, as well as supporting small and medium businesses’ moves to sustainability.

At the upcoming Asia-Pacific Rainforest Summit (APRS) in Brunei from 3 to 5 August, ways to support domestic, regional and global markets for sustainable products will be discussed by representatives from government, business, civil society and the research community.

In the session titled “Inclusive forest industries for a green economy”, panelists will delve into managing the shift from unsustainable forest industries and how to improve forest certification.

“Five million hectares of certified forest after 20 years of certification in Indonesia is not good at all. Indonesia needs to double or triple this figure in the next five years,” Purnomo said.

Indonesia’s timber, especially with FLEGT to be finalized later this year, is tied to international markets, and finding ways to manage this process sustainably to support small-scale and informal contributors is key to many conservation goals.

Purnomo said, “Timber legality is just one step toward ensuring the sustainability of Indonesia’s forests and reducing carbon emissions, conserving biodiversity and improving the livelihoods of forest-dependent people.”

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