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“Forests and forest resources are crucial for Indonesia and the world fighting climate change,” said Director-General of Center for International Forestry Research (CIFOR), Robert Nasi, in his opening address at the signing of the Memorandum of Understanding with CIFOR and the Indonesian government last week.

Since 1993 CIFOR has called Indonesia its home. The sprawling country, spread over 17,000 islands, provides a rewarding base for forest researchers. It’s home to the world’s third largest rainforest, has half of the world’s peatlands and a quarter of its mangroves. All of these have provided the world with carbon sinks for millennia. Now, whether they mitigate or accelerate climate change- brought about when their centuries-old stored carbon is released into the atmosphere on their destruction – lies in their immediate management.

“Every aspect of forestry is political activity,” says Minster of Environment and Forestry, Siti Nurbaya Bakar, who says that experts and policymakers ‘mutually construct’ policy. Unable to attend the ceremony in person, Agus Justianto, Director-General of her government’s research agency, Forestry and Environmental Research Development and Innovation Agency of the Government of Indonesia (FOERDIA) delivered her words.

“I expect both parties will mobilize science into action and also translate international movements for people’s welfare,” he said on Minister Nurbaya’s behalf.

Indonesia has made progress in protecting forests. According to government figures, the annual deforestation rate has gone from 1.09 million hectares to 480,000 hectares in the last three years and achieved a six times reduction from 2000.

While recognizing these achievements, Nurbaya highlighted the dangers of mismanaging forests, adding that their destruction can be a “major contributor to carbon emissions, mainly due to forest fires – especially in peatlands.”

Nurbaya said the partnership between CIFOR and FOERDIA is crucial as Indonesia enters a ‘new paradigm in forest research and development.’

   Guests at the Memorandum of Understanding between FOERDIA and CIFOR select CIFOR research publications

Over the course of the five-year contract, CIFOR has pledged to continue its delivery of cutting-edge science, and support for the government in fulfilling its contributions to global targets under the Sustainable Development Goals and the Paris Agreement, says Nasi. Forests represent 18 percent of Indonesia’s national emissions reduction targets, and are expected to make up over half of Indonesia’s reductions as part of the Paris Agreement.

CIFOR’s Nasi said CIFOR has played a role in providing the scientific evidence that helped Indonesia slow the rate of deforestation.

“In addition to supporting Indonesia in achieving low emissions standards, CIFOR also supports low-carbon development,” he said. CIFOR’s core research includes research into equal opportunities regarding gender, justice and tenure; forest management and restoration; forests and human well-being; sustainable landscapes and food; value chains, finance and investments.

Straddling two continents and oceans, Indonesia has more than 300 ethnic communities and over 700 languages. According to research, by the Forests People’s Programme, more than 50 million people are directly dependent on forests for their livelihoods via direct or indirect employment, for non-timber forest products and wildlife.

Since 2015, Indonesian President Joko Widodo has committed to ambitious social forestry programs to protect Indonesia’s forests while improving the livelihoods of those who depend on them. The government program will address tenurial conflicts and equality imbalances that has come with the rapid development of the country.  According to Nasi, the plans will be a “game changer.”

   Dr. Bambang Supriyanto lays out social forestry initiative by Indonesian government CIFOR


In a presentation charismatically delivered by Dr. Bambang Supriyanto, Director General of Social Forestry and Environmental Partnership, he stressed the lack of equity in current forest ownership. Out of 120 million hectares of forest cover in Indonesia, 42 million is assigned to concessions – largely timber and oil palm plantations. Over 95 percent of that is managed by the private sector, with communities responsible for the remainder. To Supriyanto, this is less than fair.

“People living in and surrounding forests make up nearly 40 percent of those living in poverty in Indonesia,” he said, before outlining his five-point plan on each of his right hand fingers. To tackle this, his department is committed to increasing community management from the current less than five percent share, to a six-fold increase of 30 percent

“The government give trust to him [farmer] to manage the forest,” he said, before outlining his five-point plan to tackle the challenge. Citing community, village, private and forestry partnerships, he brought to the fore the importance of customary forestry – which recognizes a communities adat (an Indonesian term for a set of customary code abided by that particular clan).

Supriyanto warns that the social forestry program isn’t something his department can do on its own. For the policy to be a success, there needs to be a “good public – private partnership, that recognizes the short-, mid- and long-term goals.” A holistic approach by government has already been adopted, with five ministries playing roles, including Environment and Forestry; Village, Development of Disadvantaged Regions and Transmigration; Agriculture; Marine Affairs and Fisheries; Indonesia State-Owned Enterprises (SOEs) and Home Affairs.

Supriyanto also called for the acceleration of land permits to achieve the five-year deadline as an urgent action. The next steps he says, requires help from CIFOR and FOERDIA, to build a future for farmers working in agroforestry, silvopasture and silvofisheries, biomass production, and the sales of forest products – such as sustainable timber and honey.

“Permits are given, but sometimes farmer don’t know how to do, the next thing to do therefore is to facilitate the farmer [sic],” he says. This bolsters a recent study by CIFOR, that outlined a lack of know-how by smallholders in the conversion of peatlands into oil palm plantations, and who collectively pose a major environmental threat through their farming practices.

The final hurdle? Building a sustainable market. For this, Supriyanto says, the backing of banks and the mobilization of microfinance is necessary to put the science into action.

   CIFOR and FOERDIA cut the ribbon to open the International Peatlands Center secretariat CIFOR


Before the event came to a close, Nasi and Justianto headed to cut the ribbon on the newly established International Tropical Peatlands Center (ITPC) on CIFOR’s campus in Bogor.

The ceremony marked the opening of the ITPC interim secretariat. The secretariat will be coordinated by the Ministry of Environment and Forestry and CIFOR, who will be jointly responsible for setting up the ITPC’s framework before its official launch later this year.

Though only 3% of the world’s land area is covered by peatlands, these areas hold 30 to 40% of global carbon, a density unmatched by the world’s terrestrial vegetation combined. With Indonesia home to half of the world’s peatland areas, the country can significantly impact both regional and global environments, markets and livelihoods through its peatland management decisions.

The ITPC is set to open its doors later this year, with the mission of bringing researchers, governments, civil society and other stakeholders together to ensure the conservation and sustainable management of peatlands throughout Southeast Asia, the Congo Basin and Peru.

On 30 October 2018, Indonesia and the Republic of Congo- where recent research uncovered the world’s largest tropical peatlands reserve- signed the first ever agreement on the protection and management of peatlands between an African and an Asian country.

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Topic(s) :   Restoration SDGs