Indonesia sees a sustainable future for Sintang and other local districts

Forging a path for nature-based economies
Aerial views of a village in Kalis, Kapuas Hulu District. West Kalimantan. CIFOR/Nanang Sujana

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In Sintang, a district deep in the Indonesian province of West Kalimantan, 59 percent of land use is allocated to forests. A vast national park rich in biodiversity straddles the country’s longest river – the Kapuas. This is an area where some of the country’s major fascinations, from oil palm plantations to a conservation area for orangutans to concerns over fire susceptibility, meet in one landscape.

It is also now the first Indonesian district to produce a Jurisdictional Sustainability Profile, an analytic brief that summarizes progress toward sustainable development. It offers a breakdown of the drivers of deforestation in the area, as well as the main economic activities and commodities. It also provides a timeline that focuses on important sustainability-related events, and documents details on commitments, funding and beneficiaries.

The profile is the result of work spearheaded by Sintang’s local government and facilitated by the Sustainable District Association (LTKL), a nationwide collaboration between 12 of Indonesia’s districts. It charts the progress and the way forward for Sintang as the district strives to conserve natural resources while supporting economic development.

“Sintang already had their sustainability efforts through a Regional Action Plan called Sintang Lestari, and there were many initiatives being implemented in the district – with many partners working with many projects,” said Ristika Putri Istanti, program manager of LTKL and one of the profile’s authors, explaining that the incentives available for the district were not yet clear.

The profile highlights opportunities such as local handicrafts development and challenges such as lack of accessible incentives for sustainability development, alongside progress in nine key elements for jurisdictional sustainability, including monitoring and reporting, local community rights and agriculture. Sintang is at the intermediate stage of policies and incentives for sustainable landscapes, and early in setting performance targets, something researchers aimed to support.

“First, we saw an opportunity to link performance with incentives through reporting responsibilities at the district level based on national policies including regional performance, the SDGs (U.N. Sustainable Development Goals) and emissions reductions,” Istanti said. “Second, an opportunity to connect with global frameworks including market-based frameworks that are used by the private sector and investment communities. We wanted to bring these all together in one framework so it’s easier for the districts.”

Other district profiles are next.

LTKL used a model for the profile’s nine key elements that was developed as part of a joint Earth Innovation Institute (EII), Center for International Forestry Research (CIFOR) and Governor’s Climate and Forests Task Force study at the provincial level, and adapted it.

The profile and analysis falls under the umbrella of LTKL’s Regional Competitiveness Framework (KDSD), developed along five different pillars and 18 indicators created by the nine active district government members of LTKL to guide their nature-focused actions, spur compliance and benchmark globally.

“We co-created a summary of indicators with national and district governments as well as development partners and the private sector for the past two years, because at the end of the day it needs to be relevant and usable by everyone,” Istanti said. “Their involvement during framework development were critical.”

Collective nature

With efforts in Gorontalo and Siak currently underway, the information gathered in Sintang fits into a uniform data template for use in future district-level profiles.

“We look at the profile as a way for a district to measure and share their progress in a tangible and structured manner,” said Gita Syahrani, head of the LTKL Secretariat. “It’s a tool for joint communication – it’s talking about the progress of jurisdictions through shared contributions, which should not only talk about the government’s roles but also provide recognition for non-state actors that have contributed.”

It is the generation of evidence and data that addresses needs from the international community to the district level that makes this work stand out, said Amy Duchelle, a CIFOR senior scientist and team leader of the Climate Change, Energy and Low Carbon Development Team, referring to it as “bringing the local flavor into a somewhat standardized global approach.”

“CIFOR and EII have been developing these profiles globally at the provincial or state level, and this is the first district-level profile we have worked on,” said CIFOR research consultant Swetha Peteru, one of the profile authors.

She added, “What Sintang has done well is coordinate all of its actors. They have a multi-stakeholder body called a Joint Secretariat for Sintang Lestari. So, what is really unique about this is the truly collaborative nature of the profile.”

The district working team from the start was multidisciplinary, composed not only of government representatives but also non-governmental organizations (NGOs), community associations and academics. They were all involved in collecting data, thereby taking responsibility for the process in a unique, bottom-up approach.

Doing this kind of work at the local, or district, level allows for greater inclusion of perspectives, leading to easier implementation and hopefully improved results.

Incentivizing innovation

The goal of this district-level work, to help create thriving nature-based economies, was the topic of discussion at an LTKL and CIFOR-organized panel at the recent Global Landscapes Forum on biodiversity – where the Sintang Jurisdictional Sustainability Profile was launched.

A white paper that delves into the jurisdictional approach that is at the core of LTKL’s work was, like the profile, published to coincide with the panel discussion.

“LTKL’s initiative represents one of the most innovative ways to support jurisdictional approaches globally,” Duchelle said. “The bottom-up approach for Sintang’s profile is reflected in the authorship – including people from local government agencies, local NGOs, local and global researchers, and LTKL.”

Following the launch of these profiles, the next step for LTKL member districts is comprehensive voluntary reporting every two years, providing a range of information on its sustainable development.

“We want to showcase that if you want a district to progress on sustainability then this requires everybody’s efforts,” Syahrani said. “We had a series of discussions with companies, and found that having recognition on how their effort contributed to jurisdictional impacts via a formal reporting tool of the government is an important point. So hopefully the tool is also incentivizing companies to come in to support bigger impacts, not only on their supply chains but on jurisdictions.”

With the profile now in place and the upcoming full KDSD report, Sintang could now have a competitive advantage to attract sustainable investments due to being transparent about its commitments and progress to sustainable development.

“We hope that by creating this framework and the profile at the end of the day the district can show their progress, based on clear data,” Istanti said. “And partners if they want to support and invest in the district, now they know how.”

For more information on this topic, please contact Amy Duchelle at or Swetha Peteru at
This research was supported by the Global Comparative Study on REDD+
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Topic(s) :   REDD+ Climate change Restoration SDGs