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“This means it can be done”: Perspectives on the latest State of the World’s Forests report in the Indonesian context

Scientists share insights on national success in reducing deforestation, and key areas for future focus
, Thursday, 25 Aug 2022
View of forests near Honitetu village. West Seram Regency, Maluku, Indonesia. Photo by Aris Sanjaya/CIFOR

A rare bright spot in the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO)’s 2022 ‘State of the World’s Forests’ (SOFO) report, which was launched during the XV World Forestry Congress in Seoul this month, was Indonesia’s successful efforts to bring down deforestation.

After suffering the consequences of widespread, destructive forest fires in 2015, the country has introduced a series of policies to protect and restore forests, as well as scaling up monitoring for seasonal fires, whilst the palm oil industry has made significant efforts to become more sustainable. As a result, the country’s primary forest losses have declined for the fifth year in a row – down 25% from 2020.

Forests News (FN) spoke to Center for International Forestry Research–World Agroforestry Center (CIFOR-ICRAF) senior scientists Herry Purnomo (HP) and Sonya Dewi (SD) about their reactions to the SOFO 2022 report, and their hopes for the country’s trajectory going forward.

FN: How have the interlinked crises of climate change, biodiversity loss and the emergence of new diseases made their presence felt in Indonesia over the past year?

HP: Climate change impacts, such as extreme weather and long dry seasons, are increasing the incidence of natural and man-made disasters, such as floods and fires on land and forests. This can directly reduce biodiversity and cause habitat loss, and it can also do so indirectly, through increasing poverty. Poverty may also increase people’s exposure to wildlife if they spend more time hunting in the forest for their food, which can lead to the emergence of new zoonotic diseases. The climate crisis and biodiversity loss also cause ecosystem imbalances that can lead to locust plagues, with big impacts for food security.

SD: I agree with the above and do not want to repeat. An additional point is that some climate-related impacts such as floods can magnify the prevalence and intensity of endemic diseases (such as diarrhoea), and temperature increases can enlarge the areas and endemicity of diseases with mosquitoes as vectors (such as dengue and malaria).

FN: The report outlines several pathways for supporting economic and environmental recovery simultaneously. How best might this be done in the Indonesian context? What specific challenges exist for supporting ‘green recovery’ there? 

HP: The pathways of halting deforestation and maintaining forests, restoring degraded lands and expanding agroforestry, and sustainably using forests and building green value chains can be done simultaneously within the Indonesian context at the appropriate scale. Indonesia has already been doing this with different degree of success in different regions, and this means it can be done.

The country has been able to reduce net deforestation, from about 462,000 hectares to about 115,000 hectares per year, but has not yet been able to reduce this to zero. Through its different attempts and projects, Indonesia can learn which approaches do and do not work.

We have found that private sector representatives and smallholders are eager to participate when the right incentives are present. The remaining challenges lie in improving good governance and strengthen law enforcement as a commitment for all stakeholders.

SD: Indonesia is an archipelago with diverse climates, ecosystems and socio-economic conditions. A one-size-fits-all formula for green recovery throughout the country does not exist. Decentralized governance is necessary for making sub-national stakeholders accountable for economic growth and ecosystem health. Two other major challenges include siloed government policies and programs, and lack of capacities in public-private-people partnerships in green investment.

   The Sumatran elephant which has been separated from its mother since its childhood due to forest and land fires. Photo by Rifky/CIFOR
   Landscape of Sabintulung village, Muara Kaman District, Kutai Kartanegara, East Kalimantan. Photo by Ricky Martin/CIFOR

FN: How do the key messages in SOFO2022 align with the situation in Indonesia more generally? Is there anything that, from your perspective, deserves more emphasis?

HP: The key messages align what all stakeholders have been doing. Different provinces require different emphases: Sumatra should focus more on restoring degraded land and ecosystem including peatland and mangrove, while Kalimantan and the Papua/West Papua provinces should give their attention to halting deforestation, sustainable use of forests, and greening value chains.

SD: The blue economy, and integration between landscape and seascape management – in which mangrove forest is pivotal – is necessary for Indonesia, which is the country with the longest coastline in the world.

FN: Looking forward to COP27, what are your hopes in terms of what will be in place in Indonesia by then?

HP: I hope there will be more binding green investment from the global community for Indonesia’s forest and trees, including a simplified carbon trade that is accessible for smallholders and communities.

SD: I hope for more integration in addressing climate change mitigation and adaptation through nature-based solutions, including financing for integrated actions. Water resources and watershed management deserve to be highlighted more.

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