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Rejoso watershed, at the foot of Mount Bromo in East Java, Indonesia, provides strategic ecosystem services, including the Umbulan Spring that lies downstream. In 2021, President Joko Widodo inaugurated a clean water system from the spring, which now supplies water to over 1.6 million people in the surrounding districts and the provincial capital of Surabaya.

In recent years, there has been more and more ecological pressure on the Rejoso watershed, both in the upstream and downstream areas. Land cover changes and stone and sand mining upstream and water drilling in the downstream areas for domestic, agricultural and for industrial purposes have put massive pressure on the water reserve.

A recent Montpellier University study assessing the recharge and functioning of the Bromo-Tengger aquifers estimated that in about 30 years the groundwater basin of the Rejoso watershed may dry up unless water use efficiency and water catchment conservation are implemented immediately. During the 1980s, water discharge from Umbulan Spring was up to 6,000 liters per second. Now, it is only half that amount and dropping.

   Umbulan Spring at the downstream of Rejoso watershed now supplies water to over 1.6 million people in the surrounding districts and the provincial capital of Surabaya. Photo by Aunul Fauzi

Rejoso Kita: a multistakeholder conservation initiative

Natural resource management cannot be carried out by the central or local governments alone. “It requires the active involvement and investment of all stakeholders, especially the community and businesses who use these natural resources,” said Mochamad Saleh Nugrahadi from the Coordinating Ministry for Maritime Affairs and Investment in a workshop organized by the Pasuruan Watershed Forum (Forum Koordinasi Pengelolaan DAS Kabupaten Pasuruan, or FDP) in Jakarta, 25 August 2022.

The Forum is supported by Rejoso Kita, an action research programme coordinated by World Agroforestry (ICRAF), that initiated a pilot payment for ecosystem services for the conservation of upstream and midstream of the Rejoso watershed between 2016 and 2018. “The payment scheme for ecosystem services at the Rejoso watershed is essentially a co-investment scheme,” said Beria Leimona, a senior expert landscape governance and investment with ICRAF in Indonesia.

A total of 174 farmers from 12 farmer groups managing 106.6 hectares of land in seven villages in Tosari and Pasrepan sub-districts received payments for ecosystem services  between Rp 1.5–3.2 million/ha/year (USD 100–215/ha/year) as a result of a reverse group auction process. In their conservation efforts, the partner farmers protect and maintain 300–500 trees per hectare, create erosion-retaining grass strips, and make rorak, or gutters between rows of plants to capture rain water and sediments, to increase rainwater infiltration.

The purchaser of ecosystem services in this scheme is PT Tirta Investama (Keboncandi Factory), a producer of bottled drinking water sold under the Danone-AQUA brand name in Pasuruan. Downstream, the Rejoso Kita has shown that an intensive engagement process and appropriate incentives for farmers and agricultural supply chain actors – including support for access to funding such as micro-credit for farmers – can shift people’s behaviour towards practising eco-friendly farming and more efficient water consumption.

Leimona explained how it works. “In this scheme, there are three parties: those who act as sellers of ecosystem services (e.g. farmers who manage land and water conservation), those who buy ecosystem services (e.g. those who enjoy the availability of clean water), and finally intermediary parties, which are usually consortiums or mutually agreed forums to manage programmes such as identifying and verifying land, measuring achievement indicators, monitoring performance, as well as distributing conservation funds.”

The Rejoso Kita programme is unique in its successful implementation of an effective solution to the watershed problem. “By ‘effective’ we mean that Rejoso Kita is able to identify and map environmental damage scientifically in all segments of the watershed contextually – upstream, midstream and downstream,” said Leimona. “By knowing the drivers and hotspots of environmental damage, we can also find more on-target solutions.” The programme also provides optimal cost efficiency.

Heru Hendrayana, a senior researcher at Gadjah Mada University, said that the scientific and academic success of implementing the Rejoso watershed ecosystem service payment scheme must be continued. “However, to ensure its sustainability, the scheme needs to be included in government programmes,” he said, adding that conditions at the Umbulan Spring are very critical and strong action is needed to stop water loss.

   Farmers participating in the payment for ecosystem services scheme are required to plant erosion-retaining grass strips on their agriculture land. Photo by Sidiq Pambudi

Business and government support

Realizing that massive development can result in environmental damage, Pasuruan District Government acknowledges the importance of balancing development activities with integrated ecosystem conservation. Rachmat Syarifuddin, Assistant II to the Pasuruan District Secretary, said that Pasuruan District emphasizes conservation efforts by private companies, especially in relation to water use, by including tree planting requirements in their environmental documents, in accordance with the amount of water discharge taken and in practice.

Through a recent Bupati (District Head) decree, the local government formed the Pasuruan Watershed Forum (Forum Koordinasi Pengelolaan DAS Kabupaten Pasuruan, or FDP, which is  mandated to encourage stakeholder involvement in the management and use of nine watersheds in Pasuruan District that are actively involved in participatory and performance-based financing.

A District Regulation is currently being drafted specifically to provide guidelines for the implementation of a conservation strategy in the nine watersheds in the District through payments for ecosystem services. This will help acknowledge farmers as conservation actors and, in the long run, raise their standard of living through conservation efforts and green commodities. For businesses, the regulation should ensure continuity and improve company branding and image.

The initiative is supported by the national government. Erik Teguh Primiantoro, the Director of Environmental Impact Prevention for Regional and Sector Policies at the Ministry of Environment and Forestry, said that the ministry has much research-based data and information that can be used for integrated watershed management. “Discussions of ecosystem services should consider not only greening the environment but also creating new community based businesses,” he said.

   Farmers are to protect and maintain 300–500 trees per hectare. Each tree is barcoded for monitoring. Photo by Aunul Fauzi
   A total of 174 farmers from 12 farmer groups managing 106.6 hectares of land participated in the payments for ecosystem services scheme in 2016-2018. Photo by Aunul Fauzi

Danone-AQUA, which led the consortium of buyers of ecosystem services in the payment for ecosystem services pilot scheme in Rejoso watershed, supports the science-based approach of Rejoso Kita in determining the location and type of water conservation chosen.

Representing the private sector, Karyanto Wibowo, Director of Sustainable Development at Danone Indonesia, said: “We are all water users. Therefore, we believe that corporations can play an important role in being part of a collective action in conserving water resources, because water sustainability is our shared responsibility and future.”

For more information on this topic, please contact Beria Leimona at or Ni’matul Khasanah at
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