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  • Why peatlands, and why now?

Why peatlands, and why now?

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Peatlands are increasingly playing a bigger role in forest conservation thanks to their extraordinary proficiency at carbon sequestration.

In November the Center for International Forestry Research’s (CIFOR) Forests News reported that the ‘bogs’ had finally been given the spotlight. The newly established International Tropical Peatlands Center (ITPC) is set to open its doors in 2019, to bring ‘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’.

Here, three scientists from CIFOR – a coordinating partner of the ITPC and longtime peatlands analysist – explain ‘why peatlands, and why now.’

Answers have been written in sic, though minor amendments have been made for easy reading.

Why are peatlands important for biofuel and bioenergy?

Himlal Baral: Peatlands provide a wide range of ecosystem goods and services- for example, climate regulation and water cycling. And they are a great source of biodiversity, as well as ecosystem goods- such as timber and nontimber products, including bioenergy. The biomass produced peatlands can be converted into sustainable energy production. That’s why it’s getting attention as bioenergy.

What are you working on right now?

HB: We are doing quite a few and different projects- but one of the projects is about bioenergy production potential in a variety of landscapes, including peatlands. We are looking at how peatlands can be utilized for sustainable biomass production without damaging their nature and characteristics. The technique is called paludiculture. It involves growing trees or growing things on wetlands conditions, it is an excellent example to utilize peatlands. We are currently developing, testing a wide variety of tree species that can produce bioenergy from peatlands.

Why is the study of peatlands important?

HB: Peatlands are extremely important to ecosystems. They are home to endangered species, rare species, such as orangutans. They are great sequesters of carbon and they provide livelihood opportunities for millions of people living on and around peatlands. So, they are not only for people, but also for nature.

Can you tell us what you’re working on right now?

Dede Rohadi: In leading this project I work with local partners, and our main focus is to understand how the community is using and managing the peatlands. We are trying to identify what other options there are in developing livelihoods other than oil palm, because the problem is it seems that everybody goes into the oil palm business, and we understand there are a lot of negative impacts to the environment because of this expansion. So, we’re trying to develop what are the other options that are more in line with peatland conservation strategies.

What is the relationship between humans and peatlands?

DR: I think it is interesting to understand the behavior of people, especially the farmers who are living around the area. For example, we can understand why the people are interested in expanding the oil palm plantations. Previously they used the peatland for growing paddy, silviculture, lots of fruits on their lands- but it seems because of the market, they turn to oil palm plantations.

Also, some people are selling their lands to other people for oil palm expansion. There is a lot of industry there and the market is good, so people are dragged in because they feel comfortable with oil palm as they have secure income from it. But actually, there are a lot of other commodities that may be prospective for them to develop. But, there are some questions. For example, we need to provide the market channel and also we need to provide them with the knowledge and the skills on how to use or develop these alternative products. That’s what my project is doing.

What are some alternatives?

DR: For example, we can develop on farm-based and off-farm-based options. On farm-based, for example, some commodities such as pineapple. Pineapples grow well in the peatlands and the peatlands don’t need to be drained. In fact some of the people also now plant them, and they have a good market. But, the question is if more people grow this pineapple what will be the market? If the market is saturated then that is an important question for us to develop. And coconut, for example. In one village coconut has been planted by people and up until now they’re still planting coconuts and it has been the main source of their livelihoods. And betel nuts too.

We can also develop off-farm activities such as honeybees, because the people in the area are still collecting wild honey. It’s a good product, and the market is there, but they need to improve the market channel. They need to improve, for example, the quality of the honey and how to also not only collect the honey but also cultivate the honey in the home garden. Because there are different honeys- we can provide them with the knowledge.

Another product is fish, for example. A lot of people are living around the river, which has a high potential for fish industry. Up until now it has not been used optimally- so we can provide the technology for example, on how to process fish into fish products, and add value to their products.

Why did you get into forestry?

Herry Purnomo: I got into forestry first, because I love nature and lots of things related to nature I would like to contribute to. Secondly, forests and forestry matter to our lives, to the sustainability of this planet. Forests can contribute to the economy of this country [Indonesia]. For example, timber production, as well as ecosystem services such as ecotourism, as well as providing lots of benefits to people and local communities.

Can you tell us about your peatlands work?

HP: Now I’m working on a community-based fire prevention and peatland restoration in Riau province in Indonesia. We call this ‘participatory action research’. We try to work with the local community to understand the behavior of peatlands, to reduce the fire evidence, as well as to restore the degraded land.

So the community is not only the object of our work, but also the subject of restoring peatlands. It’s a 15-month project and very interesting actually to understand the peatlands, as well as transforming the local livelihood into more peatland-friendly. We use the theory of change for the current situation – in which people are likely to use fire fir agriculture and peatland, to reduce the fire as well as improve the livelihood of the people there. We’re funded by Temasak and the Singapore Cooperation Enterprise from Singapore.

Why is the study of peatlands important?

HP: Firstly, the fire in 2015- let’s call it a disaster because it produced a lot of toxic haze and people in Indonesia, Malaysia and Singapore in particular suffered from the burning of the peatlands and forests.

So now we try to do research and science enquiry to provide more sustainable livelihoods by not only investigating, but by providing evidence and an action arena that communities as well as government can do – peatland management without fire. It’s not easy because using fire is common for local communities, but we provide evidence that a community can get benefits by not using fire, but more sustainable agriculture. We believe that good peatland management will happen in Riau in this way.

By Christi Hang, originally published at CIFOR’s Forests News.


This research forms part of the CGIAR Research Program on Forests, Trees and Agroforestry (FTA), which is supported by the CGIAR Trust Fund.

This research was supported by Temasak and the Singapore Cooperation Enterprise.

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  • Drivers of CO2 along a mangrove-seagrass transect in a tropical bay: Delayed groundwater seepage and seagrass uptake

Drivers of CO2 along a mangrove-seagrass transect in a tropical bay: Delayed groundwater seepage and seagrass uptake

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FTA COMMUNICATIONS TEAM

Water-to-air carbon dioxide fluxes from tropical coastal waters are an important but understudied component of the marine carbon budget. Here, we investigate drivers of carbon dioxide partial pressure (pCO2) in a relatively pristine mangrove-seagrass embayment on a tropical island (Bali, Indonesia). Observations were performed over eight underway seasonal surveys and a fixed location time series for 55 h. There was a large spatial variability of pCO2 across the continuum of mangrove forests, seagrass meadows and the coastal ocean. Overall, the embayment waters surrounded by mangroves released CO2 to the atmosphere with a net flux rate of 18.1 ± 5.8 mmol m-2 d-1. Seagrass beds produced an overall CO2 net flux rate of 2.5 ± 3.4 mmol m-2 d-1, although 2 out of 8 surveys revealed a sink of CO2 in the seagrass area. The mouth of the bay where coral calcification occurs was a minor source of CO2 (0.3 ± 0.4 mmol m-2 d-1). The overall average CO2 flux to the atmosphere along the transect was 9.8 ± 6.0 mmol m-2 d-1, or 3.6 × 103 mol d-1 CO2 when upscaled to the entire embayment area. There were no clear seasonal patterns in contrast to better studied temperate systems. pCO2 significantly correlated with antecedent rainfall and the natural groundwater tracer radon (222Rn) during each survey. We suggest that the CO2 source in the mangrove dominated upper bay was associated with delayed groundwater inputs, and a shifting CO2 source-sink in the lower bay was driven by the uptake of CO2 by seagrass and mixing with oceanic waters. This differs from modified landscapes where potential uptake of CO2 is weakened due to the degradation of seagrass beds, or emissions are increased due to drainage of coastal wetlands.

View publication here: https://doi.org/10.1016/j.csr.2018.10.008

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  • Creating blue carbon opportunities in the maritime archipelago Indonesia

Creating blue carbon opportunities in the maritime archipelago Indonesia

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FTA COMMUNICATIONS TEAM

Key messages

  • Preserving intact ecosystems is financially more effective than restoring degraded ones. We therefore propose a moratorium on further conversion of mangroves. By doing so, there is the potential to generate $3 billion (USD) in abatement costs annually.
  • A science-backed plan, including mapping, for restoring priority degraded blue carbon ecosystems will build climate change resilience and improve livelihoods.
  • Activating the existing regulatory framework and its governance at provincial level is essential to meet national low carbon development goals and align with global agenda.
  • Opportunities for funding restoration include public and private partnerships, and new innovative finance solutions. Income from the blue economy (fishing, shipping and eco-tourism) in productive zones could also contribute to restoration.
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  • Governing sustainable palm oil supply: Disconnects, complementarities, and antagonisms between state regulations and private standards

Governing sustainable palm oil supply: Disconnects, complementarities, and antagonisms between state regulations and private standards

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FTA COMMUNICATIONS TEAM

The global palm oil value chain has grown in complexity; stakeholder relationships and linkages are increasingly shaped by new public and private standards that aim to ameliorate social and environmental costs while harnessing economic gains. Regulatory initiatives in the emerging policy regime complex struggle to resolve sector-wide structural performance issues: pervasive land conflicts, yield differences between companies and smallholders, and carbon emissions arising from deforestation and peatland conversion. Identifying opportunities for more effective governance of the palm oil value chain and supply landscapes, this paper explores disconnects, complementarities, and antagonisms between public regulations and private standards, looking at the global, national, and subnational policy domains shaping chain actors’ conduct. Greater complementarities have emerged among transnational instruments, but state regulation disconnects persist and antagonisms prevail between national state regulations and transnational private standards. Emerging experimental approaches, particularly at subnational level, aim to improve coordination to both enhance complementarities and resolve disconnects.

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  • Peatlands: From marginal lands to essential ecosystem

Peatlands: From marginal lands to essential ecosystem

Birds perch among mangroves in North Sumatra, Indonesia. Photo by M. Edliadi/CIFOR
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FTA COMMUNICATIONS TEAM

If climate change is a global issue, then peatlands are too.

Peatlands, natural areas of the accumulated decayed plant material known as peat, have huge importance as carbon sinks, making them key in limiting global warming. Given this corresponding significance for climate targets, preserving intact peatland and restoring degraded areas are increasingly being recognized as international issues.

A new International Tropical Peatland Center (ITPC) is aiming to become a one-stop shop for countries that encompass tropical peatlands, providing research and knowledge to enable informed decisions on sustainable management of the areas. Its interim secretariat is to be based in Bogor, Indonesia, ahead of the formation of the center itself in the coming year.

“Tropical peatlands are found in more than 80 countries, yet they remain among the least understood and monitored ecosystems in the world, storing 30-40% of global soil carbon deposits, on only 3% of the world’s land surface,” Indonesia’s Minister of Environment and Forestry, Siti Nurbaya Bakar, said during the center’s launch event on Oct. 30, adding that it was crucial to preserve them from destruction and degradation given their importance in mitigating climate change.

Representatives of the Republic of the Congo and the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) – both home to extensive areas of tropical peatland – joined together with Indonesia at the event to push forward a sustainable peatland agenda.

Throughout the day’s discussions, several speakers from government, international organizations and research institutions – including the ITPC’s coordinating partners the Indonesian Environment and Forestry Ministry, the Center for International Forestry Research (CIFOR), UN Environment Programme, and the Food and Agriculture of the United Nations – addressed the importance of international collaboration and mutual learning, particularly between countries in the global South.

Speakers also raised capacity strengthening at all levels, as well as community engagement and alternative livelihoods among people currently living on peatland, as key points in implementing sustainable peatland management.

Read also: Hanging in the balance: Preservation, restoration and sustainable management in Indonesian peatlands

Peatland is pictured in Peru. Photo by Rupesh Bhomia/CIFOR

Speaking during a high-level panel on national forest policy and peatland management, Robert Nasi, the Director General of CIFOR – which is the lead center of the CGIAR Research Program on Forests, Trees and Agroforestry (FTA) – emphasized the importance of bringing economics into peatland preservation and restoration, stating: “We have absolutely to conserve the peatlands that have been so far preserved […] because it is much more costly to restore than to conserve.”

“What we have now in Indonesia is a result of a decision that was taken 40 years ago to open the peatlands for industrial exploitation,” Nasi added.

Separately, Minister Siti spoke in more detail about Indonesia’s peatland management experience, for which it has enjoyed international recognition in recent years. According to Minister Siti, the country’s experience in managing its over 15 million hectares of peatlands began early last century, when local tribes such as those in Kalimantan managed peatlands in a sustainable manner. Following that was the period of extensive peatland utilization beginning in the 1970s, which saw timber plantations, large-scale agriculture and draining that degraded significant areas.

The present was a “corrective era”, Minister Siti said. Since severe fires and haze in 2015 that focused the world’s gaze on the region’s peatlands, Indonesia has enacted a peatland restoration agency, strengthened a moratorium on new licenses, improved primary forest, and overseen strict enforcement of its policies. It is now also instrumental in the establishment of the ITPC.

A researcher measures tree diameter in a tropical peat swamp forest. Photo by Sigit Deni Sasmito/CIFOR

It is this experience that could benefit countries such as the Republic of the Congo and the DRC, following the discovery in recent years of the world’s biggest single area of peatland in the Congo Basin.

Following a panel discussion on best practices in Indonesian peatlands, including lessons learned, opportunities and challenges, CIFOR Senior Scientist Daniel Murdiyarso – whose work also forms part of FTA – moderated the day’s final panel on international collaboration and experience in peatlands.

Read also: New map reveals more peat in the tropics

During the session, in a pertinent description of community engagement, CIFOR researcher Dede Rohadi outlined the Haze-Free Sustainable Livelihoods project, which is also part of CIFOR’s work on peatlands that links to FTA. The project itself is designed by the International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD), and complements a bigger project on the sustainable management of peatland ecosystems in Indonesia, led by the Environment and Forestry Ministry.

A major objective of Haze-Free Sustainable Livelihoods, an action-research project in Riau province, is to find a way to involve communities in peat conservation, Rohadi said. This would help to improve community members’ livelihoods while also remaining in line with peatland conservation strategies.

Communities are an important actor in peatland management, he emphasized, and policies or interventions could fail if the constraints and objectives of communities were ignored. Researchers and decisionmakers must understand community behavior when designing interventions and writing regulations, he added.

In Riau, some communities historically used fire for clearing land, but this did not result in wildfire because at that time the peatland was still wet. Coconut, betel nut and pineapple are among possible alternatives to the oil palm that is often associated with peatland draining, if they can be made adequately financially attractive.

In addition to this action research, CIFOR is also carrying out biophysical research in five of the seven Indonesian provinces currently targeted for restoration efforts, Murdiyarso said, adding that a special issue on peatland challenges containing 12 papers was set to be published soon.

In the past, Indonesia’s peatlands were described as marginal lands, Murdiyarso said. However, they are now considered to be an essential ecosystem. “Now there is a lot of hope when we are talking about peatlands and sustainable development of peatlands,” he added.

From local community livelihoods to global emissions targets, the launch of the ITPC looks set to place peatlands at the forefront of climate discussions.

Read also: Peat fires and toxic haze: The power of perception

By Hannah Maddison-Harris, FTA Communication and Editorial Coordinator.

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  • Hanging in the balance: Preservation, restoration and sustainable management in Indonesian peatlands

Hanging in the balance: Preservation, restoration and sustainable management in Indonesian peatlands

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FTA COMMUNICATIONS TEAM

A boat travels along a river in Kalimantan during the 2015 fire and haze crisis. Photo by A. Erlangga/CIFOR

The protection of peatland ecosystems, which store “disproportionate” amounts of carbon, is vital to achieving Indonesia’s emission reduction targets and climate goals.

The need to protect remaining peatlands while restoring degraded lands resounded throughout the Tropical Peatlands Exchange, held at the Center for International Forestry Research (CIFOR) headquarters on Aug. 8, 2018.

Peatland ecosystems are critical for biodiversity, ecosystem services, water regulation and pollution control, in addition to their “disproportionate importance in terms of carbon storage,” said CIFOR Director General Robert Nasi. Because of this, peat swamps, along with mangroves, have the greatest potentials of any ecosystems to affect greenhouse gas emissions if they are degraded or destroyed.

Though only 3% of the world’s land area is covered by peatlands, these areas hold 30 to 40% of global carbon, a density that underscores their importance and the vested interest in their preservation. With Indonesia being home to some of the world’s largest peatland areas, the country can significantly impact both regional and global environments, markets and livelihoods through its peatland management decisions.

A case in point concerns the 18th Asian Games ongoing this month, for which Indonesia appears to be going to great measures to ensure that host cities Jakarta and Palembang will not be marred by haze from the country’s perennial forest and land fires. With new and concerted efforts to avoid anything akin to a repeat of the country’s catastrophic fire period in 2015, the coming weeks will put fire prevention and mitigation strategies – many focused on peatlands – to the test.

Watch: Peatlands and ecosystem services

CIFOR Principal Scientist Daniel Murdiyarso speaks at the event. Photo by A. Erlangga/CIFOR

STAYING ON TARGET

The event aimed to provide recommendations and data to support Indonesia’s policies and goals related to its peatland ecosystems. The country’s nationally determined contribution (NDC) to the Paris Agreement targets a 29% reduction in carbon emissions by 2030, or 41% if provided with external assistance, which some have described as ambitious.

The Indonesian Ministry of Environment and Forestry’s Climate Change Mitigation Director Emma Rachmawaty said that Indonesia’s NDCs could be achieved by implementing mitigation actions across four areas – reducing deforestation; reducing degradation; rehabilitation of forest and land; and peatland restoration. If all stakeholders complied with existing government regulations, Rachmawaty posited, the country could be confident about achieving its targets by 2030.

Several speakers recalled the forest fires of 2015 – an El Niño year – which caused haze that blew across a number of Indonesian provinces as well as Singapore and Malaysia, prompting a global conversation on the effect of peatland fires on human health, economies and the environment. Because peatlands are not specifically accounted for in carbon budgets, CIFOR Principal Scientist Christopher Martius said, “climate change amplification” could also result from such peat destruction.

In a session on peatlands and climate change, Solichin Manuri, Senior Advisor at consulting firm Daemeter, said that the 2015 events pushed Indonesia to commit to reducing the impact of recurrent peat fires and restoring degraded peatlands, leading to numerous efforts including the release of a new government regulation in 2016. Nevertheless, this takes time, and Manuri stated that almost 40% of emissions from Indonesia’s forestry sector still come from peatlands. This figure excludes emissions from peat fires, which would make peatlands an even more significant emissions source.

Watch: Peatlands and climate change

DOLLAR VALUE

Panels throughout the day covered topics ranging from policymaking to ecosystem services. Photo by A. Erlangga/CIFOR

Siak district in Riau province, which is home to one of the last large peatland forests on the island of Sumatra, was identified in 2016 as a target area for establishing an exemplar green strategy.

Siak is “a district that encourages sustainability and sustainable principles in the utilization of natural resources and economic empowerment of the community,” said Arif Budiman of Winrock International, affirming a thread that ran throughout the Exchange of the need to balance preservation and restoration with sustainable management approaches.

This involves changing people’s behaviors, said Nyoman Iswarayoga of Restorasi Ekosistem Riau (RER), which initiates field schools to educate communities to move away from slash-and-burn techniques in areas where this has been the traditional mode of land-clearing.

Such efforts, of course, cost money, and there remains a need to synchronize national plans at regional levels, to help to attract investment. This was addressed in the second plenary of the day, which looked at subnational peatland initiatives, raising the gaps between national mandates and subnational implementation capacity. The speakers called for more ways for Indonesia to take advantage of global agreements that bring in resources that can help the country overcome these hurdles of jurisdiction, among others.

Watch: Peatlands and ecosystem services

COMMUNITY BUSINESS

Local communities need support to sustainably generate value from peatland resources – and capture this value – CIFOR Scientist Herry Purnomo emphasized during a session on community engagement in peatlands conservation and restoration. However, policies pertinent to this issue remain weak. Communities currently continue to use fire for agriculture in Riau, South Sumatra and Central Kalimantan, showing the need for business models that promote sustainable, peatland-based livelihoods.

“Humans are an integral part of peatland ecosystems, so community engagement in the process of peatland restoration is necessary,” concurred Hesti Lestari Tata, Senior Researcher at the Ministry of Environment and Forestry’s Research, Development and Innovation Agency, while raising the ‘3R approach’ of rewetting, revegetation and community revitalization.

To optimize benefits for locals, peatland restoration and livelihoods must ultimately be combined. In reference to this, Purnomo raised his research in Riau on common peatland commodities, including sweet corn, spinach, pineapple, betel nut, oil palm, coconut and rubber. The results indicated that certain alternative uses of peatlands – barring oil palm plantations – can create sustainable business opportunities for communities.

Concluding the event, CIFOR Principal Scientist Daniel Murdiyarso highlighted stakeholders’ common objectives for emissions reduction targets and peatlands’ role therein. He outlined opportunities for collaboration on peatlands work, highlighting the new global peatlands center expected to be established in Indonesia in the near future.

In the case of the Asian Games, it indeed appears that both governments and the private sector are concerned about the possible effects of peatland fires on the event – as well as about peatland destruction and degradation more broadly.

“We need to provide evidence – science-based evidence – to make proper policy on how to avoid and improve situations like degraded peat,” Murdiyarso said, expressing his hope that the Exchange had provided a platform to improve the communication of scientific progress, inform decision-making processes, and enhance public- and private-sector cooperation. Now, when looking at how Indonesia will meet its emissions reduction targets at a national level, the question is whether a dedicated peatland restoration agenda will be part of it.

Read also: Focus on peatlands and research results

By Hannah Maddison-Harris, originally published at CIFOR’s Forests News


This research forms part of the CGIAR Research Program on Forests, Trees and Agroforestry, which is supported by CGIAR Fund Donors.

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  • Hanging in the balance: Preservation, restoration and sustainable management in Indonesian peatlands

Hanging in the balance: Preservation, restoration and sustainable management in Indonesian peatlands

Posted by

FTA COMMUNICATIONS TEAM

A boat travels along a river in Kalimantan during the 2015 fire and haze crisis. Photo by A. Erlangga/CIFOR

The protection of peatland ecosystems, which store “disproportionate” amounts of carbon, is vital to achieving Indonesia’s emission reduction targets and climate goals.

The need to protect remaining peatlands while restoring degraded lands resounded throughout the Tropical Peatlands Exchange, held at the Center for International Forestry Research (CIFOR) headquarters on Aug. 8, 2018.

Peatland ecosystems are critical for biodiversity, ecosystem services, water regulation and pollution control, in addition to their “disproportionate importance in terms of carbon storage,” said CIFOR Director General Robert Nasi. Because of this, peat swamps, along with mangroves, have the greatest potentials of any ecosystems to affect greenhouse gas emissions if they are degraded or destroyed.

Though only 3% of the world’s land area is covered by peatlands, these areas hold 30 to 40% of global carbon, a density that underscores their importance and the vested interest in their preservation. With Indonesia being home to some of the world’s largest peatland areas, the country can significantly impact both regional and global environments, markets and livelihoods through its peatland management decisions.

A case in point concerns the 18th Asian Games ongoing this month, for which Indonesia appears to be going to great measures to ensure that host cities Jakarta and Palembang will not be marred by haze from the country’s perennial forest and land fires. With new and concerted efforts to avoid anything akin to a repeat of the country’s catastrophic fire period in 2015, the coming weeks will put fire prevention and mitigation strategies – many focused on peatlands – to the test.

Watch: Peatlands and ecosystem services

CIFOR Principal Scientist Daniel Murdiyarso speaks at the event. Photo by A. Erlangga/CIFOR

STAYING ON TARGET

The event aimed to provide recommendations and data to support Indonesia’s policies and goals related to its peatland ecosystems. The country’s nationally determined contribution (NDC) to the Paris Agreement targets a 29% reduction in carbon emissions by 2030, or 41% if provided with external assistance, which some have described as ambitious.

The Indonesian Ministry of Environment and Forestry’s Climate Change Mitigation Director Emma Rachmawaty said that Indonesia’s NDCs could be achieved by implementing mitigation actions across four areas – reducing deforestation; reducing degradation; rehabilitation of forest and land; and peatland restoration. If all stakeholders complied with existing government regulations, Rachmawaty posited, the country could be confident about achieving its targets by 2030.

Several speakers recalled the forest fires of 2015 – an El Niño year – which caused haze that blew across a number of Indonesian provinces as well as Singapore and Malaysia, prompting a global conversation on the effect of peatland fires on human health, economies and the environment. Because peatlands are not specifically accounted for in carbon budgets, CIFOR Principal Scientist Christopher Martius said, “climate change amplification” could also result from such peat destruction.

In a session on peatlands and climate change, Solichin Manuri, Senior Advisor at consulting firm Daemeter, said that the 2015 events pushed Indonesia to commit to reducing the impact of recurrent peat fires and restoring degraded peatlands, leading to numerous efforts including the release of a new government regulation in 2016. Nevertheless, this takes time, and Manuri stated that almost 40% of emissions from Indonesia’s forestry sector still come from peatlands. This figure excludes emissions from peat fires, which would make peatlands an even more significant emissions source.

Watch: Peatlands and climate change

DOLLAR VALUE

Panels throughout the day covered topics ranging from policymaking to ecosystem services. Photo by A. Erlangga/CIFOR

Siak district in Riau province, which is home to one of the last large peatland forests on the island of Sumatra, was identified in 2016 as a target area for establishing an exemplar green strategy.

Siak is “a district that encourages sustainability and sustainable principles in the utilization of natural resources and economic empowerment of the community,” said Arif Budiman of Winrock International, affirming a thread that ran throughout the Exchange of the need to balance preservation and restoration with sustainable management approaches.

This involves changing people’s behaviors, said Nyoman Iswarayoga of Restorasi Ekosistem Riau (RER), which initiates field schools to educate communities to move away from slash-and-burn techniques in areas where this has been the traditional mode of land-clearing.

Such efforts, of course, cost money, and there remains a need to synchronize national plans at regional levels, to help to attract investment. This was addressed in the second plenary of the day, which looked at subnational peatland initiatives, raising the gaps between national mandates and subnational implementation capacity. The speakers called for more ways for Indonesia to take advantage of global agreements that bring in resources that can help the country overcome these hurdles of jurisdiction, among others.

Watch: Peatlands and ecosystem services

COMMUNITY BUSINESS

Local communities need support to sustainably generate value from peatland resources – and capture this value – CIFOR Scientist Herry Purnomo emphasized during a session on community engagement in peatlands conservation and restoration. However, policies pertinent to this issue remain weak. Communities currently continue to use fire for agriculture in Riau, South Sumatra and Central Kalimantan, showing the need for business models that promote sustainable, peatland-based livelihoods.

“Humans are an integral part of peatland ecosystems, so community engagement in the process of peatland restoration is necessary,” concurred Hesti Lestari Tata, Senior Researcher at the Ministry of Environment and Forestry’s Research, Development and Innovation Agency, while raising the ‘3R approach’ of rewetting, revegetation and community revitalization.

To optimize benefits for locals, peatland restoration and livelihoods must ultimately be combined. In reference to this, Purnomo raised his research in Riau on common peatland commodities, including sweet corn, spinach, pineapple, betel nut, oil palm, coconut and rubber. The results indicated that certain alternative uses of peatlands – barring oil palm plantations – can create sustainable business opportunities for communities.

Concluding the event, CIFOR Principal Scientist Daniel Murdiyarso highlighted stakeholders’ common objectives for emissions reduction targets and peatlands’ role therein. He outlined opportunities for collaboration on peatlands work, highlighting the new global peatlands center expected to be established in Indonesia in the near future.

In the case of the Asian Games, it indeed appears that both governments and the private sector are concerned about the possible effects of peatland fires on the event – as well as about peatland destruction and degradation more broadly.

“We need to provide evidence – science-based evidence – to make proper policy on how to avoid and improve situations like degraded peat,” Murdiyarso said, expressing his hope that the Exchange had provided a platform to improve the communication of scientific progress, inform decision-making processes, and enhance public- and private-sector cooperation. Now, when looking at how Indonesia will meet its emissions reduction targets at a national level, the question is whether a dedicated peatland restoration agenda will be part of it.

Read also: Focus on peatlands and research results

By Hannah Maddison-Harris, originally published at CIFOR’s Forests News


This research forms part of the CGIAR Research Program on Forests, Trees and Agroforestry, which is supported by CGIAR Fund Donors.

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  • Sharing the risk of blue carbon investment in 'era of SDGs'

Sharing the risk of blue carbon investment in ‘era of SDGs’

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FTA COMMUNICATIONS TEAM

The public and private sectors must join forces to finance blue carbon, in order to reap social, environmental and economic returns from the ecosystems. 

The Blue Carbon Summit on July 16-17 in Jakarta, Indonesia, clarified the importance of learning and disseminating more about coastal ecosystems. During the event, one of the discussion forums honed in on these at-risk ecosystems, looking in particular at the payment mechanisms needed to keep blue carbon intact.

Financing blue carbon development addressed how to best use the available funding; no matter what kind of payments are on offer, the discussion explored why blue carbon should be accounted for among stakeholders.

Medrilzam, Director for Environmental Affairs at Indonesia’s National Development Planning Agency (Bappenas), highlighted the importance of incorporating blue carbon into efforts to achieve to the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), describing the current environment as “the era of SDGs”.

Watch: Financing blue carbon development

SDG 13 on climate action, he said, was the anchor for several other goals, including sustainable cities and communities; life below water; and life on land. Bappenas had never before included blue carbon as an aspect of discussions at national or regional levels, he explained, but is now factoring it in when measuring emission reductions, as Indonesia moves towards its targets of cutting greenhouse gas emissions (GHG) 26% by 2020 and 29% by 2030.

In particular, he highlighted Bappenas’ low carbon development plan, a new development platform aimed at sustaining economic and social growth through low GHG emissions and minimizing the exploitation of natural resources. However, he stressed the need to consider interlinkages, saying that blue carbon related to the economy or the population, and vice versa.

“We cannot just rely on government financing. We know we have limited capacity,” he said, adding that development agencies needed to be imaginative about dealing with emerging forms of innovative finance.

Felia Salim, from the Board of Directors at &Green Fund and Sail Ventures, explained that &Green Fund related to land use, but its model could be replicated for blue carbon by looking at the concept of blended finance.

Mangroves grow along the water’s edge in Sumatra, Indonesia. Photo by M. Edliadi/CIFOR

“We need to understand, when we talk about finance, that this is really about linking it to the market,” she said. “We are trying to correct the market forces.”

In terms of blended finance, Salim suggested that the conventional financial sector may not yet fully understand how to mitigate risks related to blue carbon, and therefore has a low appetite for them. Thus, it is all about “absorbing some of the risks that cannot be absorbed by the conventional financial sector.”

“This is the blended part. It’s really sharing the risk,” she said. “Basically the public fund is taking up a portion of the risk — that’s the basic principle of blended finance.”

According to Salim, climate risk and strategy must be incorporated into planning, and such strategies should not only account for economic return, but also environmental returns such as the number of hectares of forest that have been conserved, and social inclusion factors such as jobs created or improvements for smallholder suppliers.

“If you don’t involve stakeholders in the area, it won’t be sustainable,” she stressed, adding that companies which had seriously implemented environmental, social and governance (ESG) risk into their strategies have shown to be performing better as a result.

“The social and environmental returns make economic sense,” she said, “because what you want is […] business that is sustainable, that lasts,” reiterating that &Green Fund is trying to finance a gap that the conventional financial sector cannot absorb.

Read also: Failure to manage blue carbon ecosystems could break the internet 

Mangroves and sandbanks protect the shore in Sumatra, Indonesia. Photo by M. Edliadi/CIFOR

Ecotourism is another route to preserving nature while also providing incomes, as outlined by Bustar Maitar, Director of Kurabesi Nusantara Indonesia, a social enterprise offering liveaboard diving tours in eastern Indonesia.

Despite hundreds of comparable boats operating in the archipelago, Maitar said only 12 were Indonesian owned, representing a big growth opportunity for Indonesian investment.

Continuing the investment conversation, Fitrian Adriansyah, chairman of the executive board of IDH (Sustainable Trade Initiative) Indonesia, discussed how IDH invests in collaboration with the private sector.

“We believe sustainable production and trade can transform markets for the benefit of people and the planet,” he said. There is a need to promote greater understanding between the public and private sectors, he added, which “cannot be done if we cannot bridge the gap in terms of understanding the risk when it comes to investment in blue carbon.”

IDH, which invests in commodities, including aquaculture and mangroves, purports to seek impact rather than financial return. Responding to concerns that aquaculture is seen as an “enemy” of blue carbon efforts, Adriansyah said IDH’s criteria in selecting investment opportunities comprised improved productivity; protecting remaining forests; and the inclusion of villagers, smallholders or the community.

Finally, Muhammad Senang Semibiring, a Senior Advisor to the Indonesian Biodiversity Foundation (KEHATI), outlined private financing through a community-based coastal carbon corridor initiative. KEHATI, the first and largest biodiversity conservation trust fund in Indonesia, was begun 25 years ago and makes use of public-private partnerships toward the achievement of SDG 17.

By investing in natural solutions, many elements of coastal areas can be protected. There can be economic benefits in doing so, including for the lives of community members. In identifying the challenges facing the financing of blue carbon initiatives, stakeholders can assess these returns and – as evidenced by the discussions at the Blue Carbon Summit – achieve social and economic benefits as well as environmental advantages.

Read also: Seagrass meadows: Underutilized and over-damaged carbon sinks

By Hannah Maddison-Harris, FTA Communications and Editorial Coordinator. 

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  • Sharing the risk of blue carbon investment in 'era of SDGs'

Sharing the risk of blue carbon investment in ‘era of SDGs’

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FTA COMMUNICATIONS TEAM

The public and private sectors must join forces to finance blue carbon, in order to reap social, environmental and economic returns from the ecosystems. 

The Blue Carbon Summit on July 16-17 in Jakarta, Indonesia, clarified the importance of learning and disseminating more about coastal ecosystems. During the event, one of the discussion forums honed in on these at-risk ecosystems, looking in particular at the payment mechanisms needed to keep blue carbon intact.

Financing blue carbon development addressed how to best use the available funding; no matter what kind of payments are on offer, the discussion explored why blue carbon should be accounted for among stakeholders.

Medrilzam, Director for Environmental Affairs at Indonesia’s National Development Planning Agency (Bappenas), highlighted the importance of incorporating blue carbon into efforts to achieve to the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), describing the current environment as “the era of SDGs”.

Watch: Financing blue carbon development

SDG 13 on climate action, he said, was the anchor for several other goals, including sustainable cities and communities; life below water; and life on land. Bappenas had never before included blue carbon as an aspect of discussions at national or regional levels, he explained, but is now factoring it in when measuring emission reductions, as Indonesia moves towards its targets of cutting greenhouse gas emissions (GHG) 26% by 2020 and 29% by 2030.

In particular, he highlighted Bappenas’ low carbon development plan, a new development platform aimed at sustaining economic and social growth through low GHG emissions and minimizing the exploitation of natural resources. However, he stressed the need to consider interlinkages, saying that blue carbon related to the economy or the population, and vice versa.

“We cannot just rely on government financing. We know we have limited capacity,” he said, adding that development agencies needed to be imaginative about dealing with emerging forms of innovative finance.

Felia Salim, from the Board of Directors at &Green Fund and Sail Ventures, explained that &Green Fund related to land use, but its model could be replicated for blue carbon by looking at the concept of blended finance.

Mangroves grow along the water’s edge in Sumatra, Indonesia. Photo by M. Edliadi/CIFOR

“We need to understand, when we talk about finance, that this is really about linking it to the market,” she said. “We are trying to correct the market forces.”

In terms of blended finance, Salim suggested that the conventional financial sector may not yet fully understand how to mitigate risks related to blue carbon, and therefore has a low appetite for them. Thus, it is all about “absorbing some of the risks that cannot be absorbed by the conventional financial sector.”

“This is the blended part. It’s really sharing the risk,” she said. “Basically the public fund is taking up a portion of the risk — that’s the basic principle of blended finance.”

According to Salim, climate risk and strategy must be incorporated into planning, and such strategies should not only account for economic return, but also environmental returns such as the number of hectares of forest that have been conserved, and social inclusion factors such as jobs created or improvements for smallholder suppliers.

“If you don’t involve stakeholders in the area, it won’t be sustainable,” she stressed, adding that companies which had seriously implemented environmental, social and governance (ESG) risk into their strategies have shown to be performing better as a result.

“The social and environmental returns make economic sense,” she said, “because what you want is […] business that is sustainable, that lasts,” reiterating that &Green Fund is trying to finance a gap that the conventional financial sector cannot absorb.

Read also: Failure to manage blue carbon ecosystems could break the internet 

Mangroves and sandbanks protect the shore in Sumatra, Indonesia. Photo by M. Edliadi/CIFOR

Ecotourism is another route to preserving nature while also providing incomes, as outlined by Bustar Maitar, Director of Kurabesi Nusantara Indonesia, a social enterprise offering liveaboard diving tours in eastern Indonesia.

Despite hundreds of comparable boats operating in the archipelago, Maitar said only 12 were Indonesian owned, representing a big growth opportunity for Indonesian investment.

Continuing the investment conversation, Fitrian Adriansyah, chairman of the executive board of IDH (Sustainable Trade Initiative) Indonesia, discussed how IDH invests in collaboration with the private sector.

“We believe sustainable production and trade can transform markets for the benefit of people and the planet,” he said. There is a need to promote greater understanding between the public and private sectors, he added, which “cannot be done if we cannot bridge the gap in terms of understanding the risk when it comes to investment in blue carbon.”

IDH, which invests in commodities, including aquaculture and mangroves, purports to seek impact rather than financial return. Responding to concerns that aquaculture is seen as an “enemy” of blue carbon efforts, Adriansyah said IDH’s criteria in selecting investment opportunities comprised improved productivity; protecting remaining forests; and the inclusion of villagers, smallholders or the community.

Finally, Muhammad Senang Semibiring, a Senior Advisor to the Indonesian Biodiversity Foundation (KEHATI), outlined private financing through a community-based coastal carbon corridor initiative. KEHATI, the first and largest biodiversity conservation trust fund in Indonesia, was begun 25 years ago and makes use of public-private partnerships toward the achievement of SDG 17.

By investing in natural solutions, many elements of coastal areas can be protected. There can be economic benefits in doing so, including for the lives of community members. In identifying the challenges facing the financing of blue carbon initiatives, stakeholders can assess these returns and – as evidenced by the discussions at the Blue Carbon Summit – achieve social and economic benefits as well as environmental advantages.

Read also: Seagrass meadows: Underutilized and over-damaged carbon sinks

By Hannah Maddison-Harris, FTA Communications and Editorial Coordinator. 

  • Home
  • Optimizing carbon stocks of cocoa landscapes can help conserve Africa’s forests

Optimizing carbon stocks of cocoa landscapes can help conserve Africa’s forests

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FTA COMMUNICATIONS TEAM

A woman holds a cacao bean, which can be processed into butter and cream. Photo by O. Girard/CIFOR

Cocoa is the primary source of income in southern Cameroon, where it represents 48% of total agricultural land use. In this and other tropical regions, the way cocoa agroforests are managed matters immensely to livelihoods, and also to the climate.

Cocoa agroforests vary widely in terms of tree composition and structure, but, until recently, few studies had been conducted to understand how these differences impact carbon stocks.

Meanwhile, irresponsible land management practices were not only seeing cocoa plantations fail to contribute to countries’ emissions reductions goals, but also cause massive forest degradation in countries such as the Côte D’Ivoire and Ghana, which are alone responsible for two-thirds of the world’s cocoa production.

This ‘cocoa belt’ had been becoming increasingly prone to deforestation and drought, and cocoa landscapes in other high-producing countries in Asia and Latin America had been following suit.

But when chocolate companies began making deforestation-related commitments at the UNFCCC COP21 in Paris, the tide began to change on the industry’s standards and practices. It also then became imperative for scientists to generate knowledge to help the expected changes transform cocoa forest landscapes in the most beneficial ways.

In response, CGIAR Research Program on Forests, Trees and Agroforestry (FTA) institution the Center for International Forestry Research (CIFOR) and other partner organizations profiled the carbon stocks of cocoa agroforests in three southern Cameroonian ecological areas (Yaoundé, Mbalmayo and Ebolowa) and identified what types of plants and management systems boost carbon storage best.

“This knowledge is important to implement nationally determined contributions [NDCs] to the global climate agenda and its measures to reduce emissions from deforestation and forest degradation [REDD+] by promoting sustainable cocoa value chains,” says lead author and CIFOR senior scientist Denis Sonwa.

Since COP21, the world’s largest chocolate companies – Mars, Nestle and Ferrero to name a few – have come together in a variety of agreements, from an agreement signed by the Prince of Wales to a sectorial “Frameworks for Action” at COP23 in Bonn, Germany. The goal is to see the industry achieve net-zero deforestation and improve local livelihoods, and this research is a crucial step along the way.

Read also: Baseline for assessing the impact of fairtrade certification on cocoa farmers and cooperatives in Côte d’Ivoire

COCOA’S COMRADES

The researchers aimed to answer a string of questions including how carbon stocks of cocoa agroforests varied across ecological zones and management methods, and how carbon storage compared between different types of plants associated with cocoa – and the stocks of some key species, in particular.

“What we found is that agroforests with a high density of high-economic value industrial timber and non-timber forest products stored two to three times the amount captured by other management systems,” explains Sonwa.

A dish of cacao beans awaits processing in Cameroon. Photo by O. Girard/CIFOR

Plantations with a high density of banana plants and oil palm trees came next, and those with cocoa tree densities of 70% or higher came in last. Specifically, the above-ground parts of plants in these varied types of cocoa agroforests stored 147 Mg of carbon per hectare, 49 Mg and 39 Mg, respectively.

Researchers also found that above-ground parts of the other plants accounted for 70% of the carbon storage, while cocoa trees accounted for only 5%.

Across all three ecological zones, high-value timber accounts for 29.7% of the total carbon stored above ground, at 49.9 Mg per hectare; edible species for 15%; and medicinal plants for 6%.

Read also: Unpacking ‘sustainable’ cocoa: do sustainability standards, development projects and policies address producer concerns in Indonesia, Cameroon and Peru?

RICH PICKINGS

Another conclusion of the study is that “the top ten species generally stored more than 50% of carbon held by associated plants,” with Terminalia superba – a tall deciduous tree native to the African tropics – among the species with a higher storage (14 Mg per hectare).

These results “suggest that associated plants not only contribute to shade, but also increase the capacity of farms to store carbon,” notes the study. And the benefits of such plants go well beyond that. Indeed, the higher ecocapacity of cocoa agroforests lead to increases in plant litter fall, soil litter and rainfall, thus upgrading both the agronomic and environmental potential of the landscape. Meanwhile, a plantation solely growing cocoa does threaten overall agro-ecological sustainability.

Sonwa points out that non-cocoa plants provide a structure similar to that of forests, and that their products and services appear as cobenefits of cocoa agroforestry in addition to carbon storage. Timber, non-wood forest products such as fruit, and medicinal plants may all contribute to local livelihoods and to biodiversity conservation.

“Simultaneously obtaining several products and services from the same plantation increases the resilience of farmers,” he says. “That is particularly important as the pressure on natural resources increases.”

Read also: Greater inclusion of women is needed to optimally intensify cocoa value chains, researchers find

BEYOND THE BEANS

In the last few decades, the main goal of cocoa agroforests was to produce cocoa beans, but demographic growth, climate change and loss of forests are changing this approach.

For the researchers, the multiple functions of cocoa agroforests should be at the center of efforts to fight global warming and achieve better outcomes for people and the planet. “This is why our findings are useful to scientists, and also to decision-makers, farmers and the private sector,” says Sonwa.

The findings of the paper can, for example, be useful to certification schemes that want to improve the environmental footprint of the cocoa sector. They also offer key insights to cocoa agroforest managers, particularly given the current context where zero deforestation targets are at the center of many company agendas.

In Sub-Saharan Africa where most of the world’s cocoa originates, the paper is certainly useful in structuring efforts to free the cocoa value chain from deforestation. But going beyond that, in central Africa and the Congo Basin, it sheds light by offering productive agroforestry options that conserve remaining natural forests while providing livelihoods.

“We have examined cocoa agroforests from an ecological perspective, so the next step would be to look at economic and production aspects,” says Sonwa. “For example, does storing more carbon in associated plants affect cocoa production — and how?”

The findings make clear that sustainable cocoa agroforest management in Sub-Saharan African forest landscapes can reconcile cocoa bean production with climate change responses, and big global initiatives, such as the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).

But, it also makes clear how much there is left to learn about chocolate.

By Gloria Pallares, originally published at CIFOR’s Forests News.

For more information on this topic, please contact Denis Sonwa at [email protected].


This research forms part of the CGIAR Research Program on Forests, Trees and Agroforestry, which is supported by CGIAR Fund Donors.

This research was supported by the International Institute of Tropical Agriculture, Sustainable Tree Crops Program (STCP) and Deutscher Akademischer Austauschdienst (DAAD).


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