FARMERS HIT THE HONEYPOT
Planting trees on degraded lands is not an easy job, and the returns are slow to accrue: farmers need other sources of income, too, if tamanu cultivation for biofuel is to be sustainable.
In Wonogiri, scientists from the Center for International Forestry Research (CIFOR), the (CFBTI) and the Korean National Institute of Forest Science (NIFOS) sought to find out if the figures add up in the farmers’ favor.
They collected data from twenty farmers who already grow tamanu on degraded land (which locals call ‘nyamplung’). The farmers intercrop the tree with maize, rice and peanuts, and make use of it in honey production.
The researchers found that while the rice and peanuts were not profitable, and the maize was only marginally so, farmers grew them anyway to feed their families. The big money, however, lay in honey production, which was almost 300 times more profitable than maize, says CIFOR scientist Syed Rahman. “We were all surprised to see just how profitable it was,” he adds.
The results suggest that tamanu can be grown sustainably as part of an agroforestry system that also utilises honey production and subsistence crops in the area. What’s needed now, says CFBTI senior scientist and Professor Budi Leksono, is for the market for biofuels to be developed further to create economies of scale.
“The market for nyamplung oil is not really developed yet,” says Leksono. “But we’re anticipating an energy crisis, and [by doing this work now] we are preparing for the plantations of the future.”
However, the policy around this needs to be designed extremely carefully, cautions Rahman. “Because it’s potentially so profitable,” he explains, “the risk is that people will expand this system to forestland, too.” So careful constraints must be applied to ensure it’s cultivated only on degraded and underutilized lands, he says.
The implications are exciting. As CIFOR senior scientist Himlal Baral notes, while national and global interests and commitments for forest landscape restoration are increasing, success so far has been limited by a lack of solid business cases or financial viability. “In order for funding to flow into landscape restoration, it needs to be profitable,” he says. Tamanu-based systems may well offer a compelling case for restoration that’s worth everybody’s while.
This research was supported by This research was supported by the CIFOR Bioenergy project funded by NIFoS (National Institute of Forest Science, South Korea).
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