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  • Tamanu trees making money in arid Wonogiri, new study shows

Tamanu trees making money in arid Wonogiri, new study shows

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Bees gather on organic honeycomb in West Kalimantan. Photo by L. McHugh/CIFOR

The tamanu tree (Calophyllum inophyllum) has been helping humans out since prehistoric times.

Tamanu is native to tropical Asia, and was carried by Austronesians on their migrations to Oceania and Madagascar: the tree was as valuable to these voyagers as oak was to their European counterparts. Also known as mastwood, tamanu has been used by shipbuilders for millennia because it grows tall and strong in sandy, rocky areas.

In Polynesia, indigenous groups affectionately refer to the tamanu tree as “beauty leaf,” as they use the oil from the fruit kernel as a moisturiser and healing balm. They also use it as a hair grease and painkiller. These days, tamanu oil is used internationally in a range of skin and hair-care products.

Now, the fragrant, deep brown oil may serve another purpose: bioenergy. A mature tamanu grove can yield up to 20 tons of crude oil per hectare each year. In Wonogiri district of Central Java, Indonesia, a new study shows that cultivating tamanu for bioenergy on degraded land can achieve multiple benefits for farmers while restoring the land, as well as helping to reduce the country’s reliance on fossil fuels.

Read more: Integrating bioenergy and food production on degraded landscapes in Indonesia for improved socioeconomic and environmental outcomes

Beyond oil palm

Indonesia has pledged to increase its biodiesel and bioethanol consumption to 30 percent and 20 percent respectively, of total energy consumption by 2025. However current levels of biofuel production are far from meeting these targets, and boosting production at the scale required comes with its own environmental challenges.

So far, almost all of the biofuel produced in the country has come from oil palm. But land conversion from food cropping to oil palm for biodiesel has an impact on food security. In many cases oil palm plantations have encroached upon rainforests and peatlands, threatening biodiversity and releasing carbon into the atmosphere.

Fresh palm oil fruit piled up in West Kalimantan, Indonesia. Photo by N. Sujana/CIFOR

This is why researchers have begun exploring alternative bioenergy options, looking at species with multiple uses that can grow on degraded land on which other crops struggle. A recent study showed that there are around 3.5 million hectares of degraded land across Indonesia that would be suitable for growing at least one of five key biodiesel and biomass species, including tamanu. As well as bioenergy, these crops are capable of improving soil function and boosting biodiversity, thus playing an important role in restoring the land.

Infographic: Nyamplung (Calophyllum inophyllum): Alternative bioenergy crop and powerful ally for land restoration

Farmers hit the honeypot

Planting trees on degraded lands is difficult, and the returns are slow. 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), whose work is part of the CGIAR Research Program on Forests, Trees and Agroforestry (FTA), together with the Center for Forest Biotechnology and Tree Improvement Research and Development (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 20 farmers who 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, said CIFOR scientist Syed Rahman. “We were all surprised to see just how profitable it was,” he added.

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 is 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,” said 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, cautioned Rahman. “Because it’s potentially so profitable,” he explained, “the risk is that people will expand this system to forestland, too.” He added that careful constraints must be applied to ensure it is cultivated only on degraded and underutilized lands.

The implications are exciting. As CIFOR senior scientist Himlal Baral noted, 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 said.

Tamanu-based systems may well offer a compelling case for restoration that is worth everybody’s while.

By Monica Evans, 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 the CGIAR Trust Fund.

This research was supported by the CIFOR Bioenergy project funded by NIFoS (National Institute of Forest Science, South Korea).

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  • How can rubber contribute to sustainable development in a context of climate change?

How can rubber contribute to sustainable development in a context of climate change?

Rubber trees grow in rows in South Sumatra, Indonesia. Photo by I. Cooke Vieira/CIFOR
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Developing the rubber sector while meeting environment and social objectives involves both challenges and opportunities.

Lying in the shadow of oil palm in terms of sustainable development issues, the sector needs a combination of measures to progress toward sustainable development. There is now a wealth of knowledge and evidence to make this happen.

“Evolution to Revolution: New Paths for the Rubber Economy” was the theme of the World Rubber Summit held in Singapore on March 18-19, 2019, organized by the International Rubber Study Group (IRSG). The CGIAR Research Program on Forests, Trees and Agroforestry (FTA) participated in the summit and I presented during a session titled Managing sustainability performances in the rubber value chain.

Plantations of all major tropical commodities – especially oil palm, timber, pulp, cocoa and rubber – are expanding quickly, creating opportunities for development while also raising concerns about impacts on the environment, landscapes and livelihoods.

FTA has identified plantations as a research priority. Rubber is a particularly interesting example; plantations are continually expanding with a very concentrated sector downstream (the majority being a small number of tire producers), and a production sector heavily dominated by smallholders.

Read also: Challenges and opportunities for sustainable rubber in Myanmar

Rubber at a crossroads

The sector is confronted with a range of issues when it comes to its impact on and contribution to sustainable development.

Land-use change: Rubber is the most rapidly expanding tree crop within mainland Southeast Asia. Additional land will be required to meet future rubber demand, which could be in forested areas or on mosaic landscapes, swidden agriculture and agroforest, though there is also potential to reduce land-use change and deforestation through more intensive systems – both in terms of rubber and other associated production depending on situations.

Biodiversity: In many areas rubber expansion has been on former natural forest, including sometimes in protected areas. The effects of converting primary and secondary forests to rubber monoculture are well understood – it decreases species richness and changes species composition. However, the biodiversity value of swidden agriculture and of mosaic landscapes is less well known and the effects of their conversion to rubber plantations has been assessed in less detail.

Climate change mitigation: The potential contribution of rubber to climate change mitigation depends on what it replaces and the way it is conducted. The impact is generally negative when rubber replaces primary or secondary forests, but positive when planted on very degraded land. The impact can be neutral or slightly positive when rubber replaces swidden systems with a short fallow period, but negative when it displaces swidden systems that will then encroach on forest.

Water and erosion: Effects again depend on what rubber replaces. For instance, there can be less fog interception relative to complex canopies. Conversion to rubber can increase evapotranspiration relative to native vegetation. Rubber risks depleting deep-soil moisture during the dry season with effects on groundwater and streamflow. In mountainous areas of mainland Southeast Asia, plantations on steep slopes have negative impacts on soil erosion, landslide risk and water quality. There are also indications of impacts from rubber plantation runoff on water quality and aquatic biodiversity.

A hevea tree is seen in Ngazi, DRC. Photo by A. Fassio/CIFOR

Social issues: Production is still dominated by smallholders in most countries, especially in “traditional” production areas. The establishment of rubber replacing swidden agriculture has substantially increased smallholder income in Southwest China and Northern Thailand. In non-traditional areas, such as Laos, Cambodia, Myanmar and some African countries, the expansion of rubber often takes the form of larger-scale plantations – which could disadvantage rural communities, with some reports of evictions and of poor labor conditions in large-scale plantations.

Resilience to price fluctuations: Rubber prices can be volatile, which is a concern for long-term investment and has consequences for the sustainability of economic and production models. Smallholders who are purely engaged in rubber are very exposed, especially if they are not supported by public policies. Smallholders with diversified systems are the most resilient. Paradoxically, large estates may be more exposed due to monoculture and having to pay a workforce.

Climate change adaptation: Until recently it was difficult to predict the incidence of climate change on violent precipitation and winds, to which plantations are vulnerable. There is also a need for more research on the impacts of climate change on the distribution of pests and diseases. Diversified systems are more resilient to shocks of any kind, including from climate change, and can contribute to adaptation at a landscape level.

Read also: Challenges and opportunities for sustainable rubber in the Lao People’s Democratic Republic

Ways forward 

Given these challenges, the potential impacts of rubber expansion and the contribution to the Sustainable Development Goals and the Paris Agreement ultimately depend on three factors. First is where expansion occurs, and the land use or land cover that rubber replaces. Second, it involves production systems, yield and overall efficiency, including the use of rubber wood, as well as impacts on water and biodiversity. The third factor is benefits for smallholders and local populations, contributing to economic and social resilience.

A range of objectives could pave the way forward for sustainable development.

  • Limiting negative impacts of land-use change
  • Regulating land concessions and contract farming
  • Supporting smallholders and farmer groups
  • Promoting and improving diversified systems

To meet these objectives, it would be necessary to see a combination of measures.

  • Research in development
  • Extension services aiming for high yields and quality, as well as diversified production systems
  • Land-use zoning and planning
  • Enabling regulatory environment on concessions and contracts
  • Recognition of sustainable practices, including through corporate social and environmental responsibility and certification
  • Support and incentives for smallholders when engaging in sustainable development, such as secure tenure, technology transfer, economic risk mitigation, payment for environmental services

The rubber sector needs measures connecting downstream with upstream, involving various stakeholders, building on science and knowledge and promoting transfer in a practical way. The newly launched Global Platform for Sustainable Natural Rubber (GPSNR) will hopefully address this.

Knowledge and evidence could enable the transition in a proactive way, contributing to sustainable development outcomes. FTA stands ready to work with the GPSNR and to help support the sector move toward sustainable development, “from evolution to revolution”.

By Vincent Gitz, FTA Director


The CGIAR Research Program on Forests, Trees and Agroforestry (FTA) is supported by contributors to the CGIAR Trust Fund.

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  • How can rubber contribute to sustainable development in a context of climate change?

How can rubber contribute to sustainable development in a context of climate change?

Posted by

FTA COMMUNICATIONS TEAM

Rubber trees grow in rows in South Sumatra, Indonesia. Photo by I. Cooke Vieira/CIFOR

Developing the rubber sector while meeting environment and social objectives involves both challenges and opportunities.

Lying in the shadow of oil palm in terms of sustainable development issues, the sector needs a combination of measures to progress toward sustainable development. There is now a wealth of knowledge and evidence to make this happen.

“Evolution to Revolution: New Paths for the Rubber Economy” was the theme of the World Rubber Summit held in Singapore on March 18-19, 2019, organized by the International Rubber Study Group (IRSG). The CGIAR Research Program on Forests, Trees and Agroforestry (FTA) participated in the summit and I presented during a session titled Managing sustainability performances in the rubber value chain.

Plantations of all major tropical commodities – especially oil palm, timber, pulp, cocoa and rubber – are expanding quickly, creating opportunities for development while also raising concerns about impacts on the environment, landscapes and livelihoods.

FTA has identified plantations as a research priority. Rubber is a particularly interesting example; plantations are continually expanding with a very concentrated sector downstream (the majority being a small number of tire producers), and a production sector heavily dominated by smallholders.

Read also: Challenges and opportunities for sustainable rubber in Myanmar

Rubber at a crossroads

The sector is confronted with a range of issues when it comes to its impact on and contribution to sustainable development.

Land-use change: Rubber is the most rapidly expanding tree crop within mainland Southeast Asia. Additional land will be required to meet future rubber demand, which could be in forested areas or on mosaic landscapes, swidden agriculture and agroforest, though there is also potential to reduce land-use change and deforestation through more intensive systems – both in terms of rubber and other associated production depending on situations.

Biodiversity: In many areas rubber expansion has been on former natural forest, including sometimes in protected areas. The effects of converting primary and secondary forests to rubber monoculture are well understood – it decreases species richness and changes species composition. However, the biodiversity value of swidden agriculture and of mosaic landscapes is less well known and the effects of their conversion to rubber plantations has been assessed in less detail.

Climate change mitigation: The potential contribution of rubber to climate change mitigation depends on what it replaces and the way it is conducted. The impact is generally negative when rubber replaces primary or secondary forests, but positive when planted on very degraded land. The impact can be neutral or slightly positive when rubber replaces swidden systems with a short fallow period, but negative when it displaces swidden systems that will then encroach on forest.

Water and erosion: Effects again depend on what rubber replaces. For instance, there can be less fog interception relative to complex canopies. Conversion to rubber can increase evapotranspiration relative to native vegetation. Rubber risks depleting deep-soil moisture during the dry season with effects on groundwater and streamflow. In mountainous areas of mainland Southeast Asia, plantations on steep slopes have negative impacts on soil erosion, landslide risk and water quality. There are also indications of impacts from rubber plantation runoff on water quality and aquatic biodiversity.

A hevea tree is seen in Ngazi, DRC. Photo by A. Fassio/CIFOR

Social issues: Production is still dominated by smallholders in most countries, especially in “traditional” production areas. The establishment of rubber replacing swidden agriculture has substantially increased smallholder income in Southwest China and Northern Thailand. In non-traditional areas, such as Laos, Cambodia, Myanmar and some African countries, the expansion of rubber often takes the form of larger-scale plantations – which could disadvantage rural communities, with some reports of evictions and of poor labor conditions in large-scale plantations.

Resilience to price fluctuations: Rubber prices can be volatile, which is a concern for long-term investment and has consequences for the sustainability of economic and production models. Smallholders who are purely engaged in rubber are very exposed, especially if they are not supported by public policies. Smallholders with diversified systems are the most resilient. Paradoxically, large estates may be more exposed due to monoculture and having to pay a workforce.

Climate change adaptation: Until recently it was difficult to predict the incidence of climate change on violent precipitation and winds, to which plantations are vulnerable. There is also a need for more research on the impacts of climate change on the distribution of pests and diseases. Diversified systems are more resilient to shocks of any kind, including from climate change, and can contribute to adaptation at a landscape level.

Read also: Challenges and opportunities for sustainable rubber in the Lao People’s Democratic Republic

Ways forward 

Given these challenges, the potential impacts of rubber expansion and the contribution to the Sustainable Development Goals and the Paris Agreement ultimately depend on three factors. First is where expansion occurs, and the land use or land cover that rubber replaces. Second, it involves production systems, yield and overall efficiency, including the use of rubber wood, as well as impacts on water and biodiversity. The third factor is benefits for smallholders and local populations, contributing to economic and social resilience.

A range of objectives could pave the way forward for sustainable development.

  • Limiting negative impacts of land-use change
  • Regulating land concessions and contract farming
  • Supporting smallholders and farmer groups
  • Promoting and improving diversified systems

To meet these objectives, it would be necessary to see a combination of measures.

  • Research in development
  • Extension services aiming for high yields and quality, as well as diversified production systems
  • Land-use zoning and planning
  • Enabling regulatory environment on concessions and contracts
  • Recognition of sustainable practices, including through corporate social and environmental responsibility and certification
  • Support and incentives for smallholders when engaging in sustainable development, such as secure tenure, technology transfer, economic risk mitigation, payment for environmental services

The rubber sector needs measures connecting downstream with upstream, involving various stakeholders, building on science and knowledge and promoting transfer in a practical way. The newly launched Global Platform for Sustainable Natural Rubber (GPSNR) will hopefully address this.

Knowledge and evidence could enable the transition in a proactive way, contributing to sustainable development outcomes. FTA stands ready to work with the GPSNR and to help support the sector move toward sustainable development, “from evolution to revolution”.

By Vincent Gitz, FTA Director


The CGIAR Research Program on Forests, Trees and Agroforestry (FTA) is supported by contributors to the CGIAR Trust Fund.

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  • Getting to the bottom of illegal plantations on Indonesia’s state-owned forests

Getting to the bottom of illegal plantations on Indonesia’s state-owned forests

A man examines oil palm fruit at a research site in Indonesia. Photo by D. Ramsay/CIFOR
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Palm oil is used locally in cooking, and internationally in commercial food and personal care products. Photo by M. Pinheiro/CIFOR

In an ideal world, palm oil production would cause no deforestation, and have a transparent and fair supply chain. In reality, the impacts of the sector have been the cause of ethical concerns worldwide.

Palm oil is Indonesia’s most important commodity. In 2017 the country produced 37.8 million tonnes of crude palm oil (CPO) and exported over 80 percent of it, with a value of $31.8 billion. Indonesia is the world’s biggest palm oil producer, and its biggest exporter too.

The strong market demand of palm oil has led to a vast expansion of plantations. Currently smallholders make up around 40 percent of the production market, and around one-third of these do not have the correct land tenure permits. In some cases, the smallholders have moved into state-owned forest areas and in many cases, this occupancy creates conflict.

In 2017, the Ministry of Agriculture’s Directorate General of Plantations found that of the 2.5 million hectares of oil palm plantations on state-owned forests, 70 percent of these were controlled by smallholders.

To get to the bottom of why oil palm plantations continue to encroach into state forest areas, Center for International Forestry Research (CIFOR) organized a workshop in collaboration with Center for Research and Development on Social, Economics, Policy and Climate Change (P3SEPKI): ‘Linking science to policy: the role of research in the effort to accelerate solution of tenurial problems in oil palm plantation in forest areas.’

Read also: Comparative study of local nutrition and diet examines expansion of oil palm plantations into forest areas

Solving conflicts by understanding the underlying cause

In his presentation, Ismatul Hakim,  senior researcher at P3SEPKI, says that complex tenure conflicts can’t be resolved without understanding why oil palm plantations are encroaching into state forest areas. He believes assessing how different types of farmers take control of lands, what strategies they use, and most importantly, the motivations of the farmers, is needed before long-lasting resolution is achieved.

According to Hakim’s research, this can be segregated into four categories:

The first is maladministration, where a lack of coordination leads to disputes as it is unclear who legally manages the forest areas – is it the Ministry of Environment and Forestry or the local government?

Second, incomplete forest area gazettements- a legal declaration that announces state ownership- coupled with a lack of clarity and communication on where the gazetted boundaries lay, have caused local people, in need for income, to expand their plantations into unmarked forest areas.

Third, inequality of power and land ownership has caused people to encroach. Local people have watched big investors and corporations take control of and transform their ancestral land, and store land for the future (known as ‘landbanking’).

And finally, the ineffective implementation of policies for forest area release and land swap- where the government gives areas of new land to plantations in exchange for restoring degraded land. To add, he says, this is further hampered by the slow pace of conflict resolution.

Drawing from his research, Bayu Eka Yulian from Bogor Agricultural University (IPB) added “Oil palm plantations have expanded rapidly in East Kalimantan, particularly those smallholders in a silence mode.” He argued while corporations might generally adhere to tighter regulations, small holder farmers, including those with access to more capital and information, appear to expand their plantations at a scale from 0.5 to 3 hectares of land or even more, without restraint.

The attendees agreed that the situation  will keep perpetuating itself without intervention. Rapid expansion is causing damaging changes to the landscape, but farmers are also becoming trapped- as they become highly dependent on a monoculture crop, and get trapped on a single source of income.

Read also: The long and winding road to sustainable palm oil

A man examines oil palm fruit at a research site in Indonesia. Photo by D. Ramsay/CIFOR

Solving tenure issues through better governance

In September 2018, the Indonesian government issued a three-year moratorium on new oil palm plantation permits and devised attempts to increase productivity, expressed in Presidential Instruction (Inpres) No. 8/2018. Along with other prevailing policies, this moratorium offers an excellent opportunity to resolve tenure issues.

However, it was feared that the temporary halt might simply not be enough.

“It was generally agreed by the workshop participants that regulations should be clear and not create legal uncertainties,” said CIFOR scientist Heru Komarudin, adding that plantations that are currently operating on state forests should be given enough time to either relocate or have their land status legally changed to non-forest areas.

He similarly believes that smallholder plantations already illegally on state forests should be given the chance to confirm their land status through agrarian reform or social forestry schemes that are already in place.

“Priority should be given to those committed to practising ethical agriculture – by preventing further deforestation and promoting fair trade working rights,” said Komarudin. To create policies that work, the “heterogeneous typology” of smallholders, and the impact of plantations on local people need to be taken into account, he adds.

Furthermore, there is opportunity to raise state funds by getting tenure issues right. Legislating and governing the use and rental of state forest can then be further propped up by compensation payments by companies who have illegally encroached. While strict law enforcement could be used to police the tenure issues, granting land amnesty to those that depend heavily on these lands may be a breakthrough.

Internationally, the European Union Renewable Energy Directive which plans to phase out the use of palm oil for biofuel by 2030, has put pressure on the Indonesian palm producers. In responding to this development, workshop attendees agreed that foreign diplomacy should be strengthened by consolidating the national position, which in turn would make the Indonesian Sustainable Palm Oil (ISPO) certification credible.

“Building solidarity with other producing countries to promote best practices and a sustainable and legal palm oil industry is essential,” says Maharani Hapsari, PhD and lecturer of international relations at Gadjah Mada University. “Indonesia should focus its diplomacy on palm oil global trade not only to strengthen authority, but also to enhance legitimacy of forest and oil palm governance by the broadest possible range of stakeholders.”

By Nabiha Shahab and Dominique Lyons, originally published at CIFOR’s Forests News.

For more information on this topic, please contact Heru Komarudin at [email protected].


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 is part of the Governing Oil Palm Landscapes for Sustainability (GOLS) project, which is supported by the United States Agency for International Development (USAID). The GOLS project supports effective and equitable implementation of the New York Declaration on Forests commitments by helping to align public and private policies and actions, and by delivering targeted, research-based evidence to key stakeholders and practitioners.

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  • Making the grade: Challenges and prospects for sustainable smallholder oil palm in Indonesia

Making the grade: Challenges and prospects for sustainable smallholder oil palm in Indonesia

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“Making the Grade” looks at challenges and prospects for sustainable smallholder oil palm in Indonesia.

This video was first published by CIFOR.

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  • Multiple actors need to perform together on governing sustainable palm oil in Indonesia

Multiple actors need to perform together on governing sustainable palm oil in Indonesia

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Key players are seeing a moratorium on new oil palm concession permits in Indonesia as a significant step forward in improving governance in the sector.

During the three-year freeze, following Indonesian President Joko Widodo’s recent signing of the moratorium, the government will undertake a comprehensive nationwide review of oil palm licenses and develop efforts to enhance productivity – particularly for smallholders.

However, it remains to be seen whether the existing palm oil supply can be sustainable, and whether negative impacts on the environment can be reduced while the performance of smallholders linked to palm oil supply chains – who depend on the commodity for their livelihoods – is also improved.

Oil palms edge the forest in Sentabai, West Kalimantan, Indonesia. Photo by Nanang Sujana/CIFOR

Research conducted at the Center for International Forestry Research (CIFOR) led by senior associate Pablo Pacheco is examining how public regulations and private standards can address major performance gaps affecting the palm oil sector. The study was focused on the world’s largest palm oil producer, Indonesia.

“We looked at how the current policy regime complex can address three major gaps, specifically land conflicts and yield differences between companies and smallholders and carbon emissions arising from deforestation and peatland conversion,” Pacheco said.

“We identified opportunities for more effective governance of the palm oil value chain and supply landscapes by analyzing disconnects, complementarities and antagonisms between public regulations and private standards across global, national and subnational levels,” he added.

The scientists concluded that greater complementarities have emerged among transnational mechanisms, but found also that disconnects persist and antagonisms prevail between national state regulations and transnational private standards.

To improve the sector’s governance and address performance gaps, there is a need to overcome these disconnects and take steps to reconcile the antagonisms.

“The solutions for addressing the performance gaps need to be looked at in an integrated way and through adopting a multi-level approach,” Pacheco said. “In addition, the solutions have to involve both public regulations and private initiatives and efforts.”

Read also: Implementing sustainability commitments for palm oil in Indonesia: Governance arrangements of sustainability initiatives involving public and private actors

Oil palm fruit is numbered after harvesting. Photo by Icaro Cooke Vieira/CIFOR

GROWING SECTOR, GROWING ISSUES

Palm oil is used in thousands of products from food to cosmetics, cleaning products and biodiesel. This has created a growing global demand for the golden liquid.

“There is not a single sector that has grown as rapidly as palm oil,” Pacheco said. “However, these unresolved performance issues continue to follow this expansion.”

One of the key issues is the land used to grow oil palm. Land conflicts are difficult to solve and despite efforts to formalize tenure rights, encroachment on public lands continues to grow. Smallholders often rely on informal transactions to access land.

Smallholders produce around 40 percent of Indonesia’s oil palm, but yields are still less than they could be due to limited access to finance and services.

“Smallholders are unable to adopt best management practices and the use of substandard planting material remains widespread,” said Pacheco.

Reducing carbon emissions in the oil palm sector has been hampered by current regulations that allow the use of forested or high carbon stock areas for plantations, combined with poor use of degraded and less productive areas.

“Many companies prefer to establish their plantations in peatlands and forestland because of the reduced likelihood of land conflicts and the potential to cover the cost of establishing a plantation by selling timber cleared for these plantations,” Pacheco said.

“The result has been a significant carbon debt,” he added.

Read also: The long and winding road to sustainable palm oil

MIND THE GAPS

In an effort to overcome the palm oil sector’s performance gaps, a very complex governance architecture has emerged that brings together governments and the private sector, as well as multistakeholder platforms.

The Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil (RSPO) is perhaps the best-known sustainability standard, and has been embraced by European Union-related sustainability initiatives. This is the most relevant complementarity which has helped to reach some agreed sustainability criteria.

Yet Indonesia and Malaysia have also devised their own sustainability standards – known as ISPO and MSPO – to counteract the influence of external players. Despite efforts to strengthen these mandatory standards, the scientists say it remains to be seen whether they are going to support zero-deforestation commitments embraced by main corporate groups.

Additionally, they say that greater impact could likely be achieved by building a process to harmonize the RSPO with these national standards.

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

A woman fertilizes soil in an oil palm plantation. Photo by Icaro Cooke Vieira/CIFOR

FOLLOW THE DISCONNECTS

Pacheco says for the palm oil sector to improve its performance, it is crucial to look at the implications and opportunities associated with the national fiscal incentives system, including those related to the use of the crude CPO Fund.

“For example, these funds should more actively link incentives for companies engaging in biodiesel supply with purchases from smallholders on condition they adhere to sustainability criteria,” he said, adding that this approach would help improve the environmental performance of smallholders while supporting the sustainable supply of palm oil for the domestic biodiesel market.

Another major disconnect is related to the fact that land regularization initiatives do not necessarily go hand-by-hand with those aiming at support sustainable palm oil supply, and improve the wellbeing of smallholders. This is a major bottleneck to overcome.

“Government efforts to implement agrarian reform along with social forestry to benefit local communities have not been fully effective in resolving these issues,” said Heru Komarudin, a researcher with CIFOR.

Another disconnect is linked to land use regulations. More and more buyers are looking for No Deforestation, No Peat, No Exploitation (NDPE) – suppliers, but critics say that although companies may have the policy in place, they do not always put those policies into action.

In some cases, laws and regulations do not support companies that opt to conserve areas with high carbon stock or high conservation value, Komarudin said.

“These areas are often seen as unused lands and are at risk of being taken over by the government, and used for new plantations, instead of being protected from local people who may try to encroach on these areas,” he added.

More and more local governments are also adopting policies to protect high conservation value forests, and governments have started to adopt essential ecosystem area principles although no legally-binding rules are in place yet.

MOVING FORWARD

The researchers note that different “experimentalist approaches” are emerging that address disconnects and antagonisms, while further exploiting existing complementarities.

These approaches are increasingly orchestrated by provincial level governors and facilitated by non-governmental organizations, which often tend to operate as intermediaries.

“There’s no silver bullet, no single solution. It’s clear we need an integrated approach to effectively govern the palm oil sector, one where all actors play key roles,” Pacheco said.

 

By Suzanna Dayne, originally published at CIFOR’s Forests News.

For more information on this topic, please contact Pablo Pacheco at [email protected] or Heru Komarudin at [email protected].


This research is supported by the United States Agency for International Development and Deutsche Gesellschaft für Internationale Zusammenarbeit (GIZ) GmbH.

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

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  • Comparative study of local nutrition and diet examines expansion of oil palm plantations into forest areas

Comparative study of local nutrition and diet examines expansion of oil palm plantations into forest areas

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When Rosalina Heni is not working in the rice paddy fields in Ribang Kadeng village in the Indonesian province of West Kalimantan, she gathers vegetables in the surrounding forest for her family to eat.

By contrast, in nearby Sekadu Village, local resident Maria Ludiana can no longer collect enough ferns, bamboo shoots and other vegetables to feed her family because an oil palm plantation has supplanted the natural growth forest.

“Right now, we buy more,” Ludiana says in a new video produced by the Center for International Forestry Research (CIFOR). “The difference is that before, everything was natural – natural foods, spices. The types of meat we eat have started to change.”

Watch: Expansion of oil palm plantations into forests appears to be changing local diets in Indonesia

The subsistence livelihoods of more than 150 million residents of rural areas in Indonesia are at risk from oil palm expansion, according to scientists studying impact on nutritional status and diets as part of a research project funded by the Drivers of Food Choice (DFC) Competitive Grants Programs, which is funded by the UK Government’s Department for International Development and the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, and managed by the University of South Carolina, Arnold School of Public Health, USA.

In some circumstances the scientists have already observed traditional diets being abandoned.

“So far, we’ve seen that the people who live in the forest rely on nature – nature becomes their main way to get food,” says Yusuf Habibie, lecturer in the Department of Nutrition in the Faculty of Medicine at the University of Brawijaya in the city of Malang in East Java province. “Then, when land is converted to oil palm plantations, with no forests, people lose access to wild food from the forest. Instead they start to purchase more food, including packaged foods.”

Forests and agroforestry systems which combine trees and crops play important roles in food security and nutrition, says CIFOR Scientist Amy Ickowitz, observing that communities in West Kalimantan eating forest foods, including fruit, vegetables, fish and meat, are getting all nutritional components found in healthy diets.

“Forests can play an important role in making our global food system more sustainable and more environmentally friendly, while making an important contribution to healthy diets ,” Ickowitz says, adding that improving food security and nutrition is not always as simple as raising incomes in rural communities; oil palm companies, governments, and researchers need to work together to find ways to make sure that landscape change does not harm health and nutrition while improving incomes.

If there are no plants, where are we going to be if not dead, queries Bandi, a respected elder living in the village of Sungai Utik.

“Nature is our supermarket,” he says. “If there is no forest, where can we get this variety of food? We will be forced to buy.”

Scientists are continuing their research into the impact of plantations on local forests in Indonesia. As yet, they have not compared oil palm with rubber plantations, which may not have the same impact on local diets.

For more information on this topic, please contact Amy Ickowitz at [email protected].

By Julie Mollins, 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 the CGIAR Trust Fund.
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  • Implementing sustainability commitments for palm oil in Indonesia: Governance arrangements of sustainability initiatives involving public and private actors

Implementing sustainability commitments for palm oil in Indonesia: Governance arrangements of sustainability initiatives involving public and private actors

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The palm oil sector in Indonesia has seen the adoption of zero deforestation commitments by the larger companies in the form of various pledges around No Deforestation, No Peat, and No Exploitation (NDPE). At the same time, at the national and sub-national level, new governance arrangements are emerging for sustainability initiatives involving government, the private sector and other non-state actors. These initiatives have created new forms of governance relationships, most notably a shift in the types of function that were once the sole domain of the state. Some initiatives are independent and formulated outside of the state, but others interact with, and support, state actions. This paper explores the interactions between public and private sectors in the palm oil arena in Indonesia. It examines tensions and complementarities between these sectors, the degree to which, and manner in which, private standards are pushing the sustainability debate and implementation, and the likely outcomes in relation to their design.

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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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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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  • Interactive map provides tools for corporate accountability and land-use planning in Papua

Interactive map provides tools for corporate accountability and land-use planning in Papua

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The contrast between oil palm plantation and forest is seen in Papua, Indonesia. Photo by Agus Andrianto/CIFOR

Scientists hope a new interactive atlas that tracks deforestation annually will enable local governments to plan for change and avert widespread destruction of the forests on which indigenous people depend for food and livelihoods.

Due to its remote location and sparse population, Papua, Indonesia, harbors one of the Pacific’s last remaining expanses of pristine tropical forest. However, recent spikes in deforestation rates, accompanied by the expansion of industrial oil palm plantations, are signs that rapid change is on the horizon.

“The Papua Atlas will show where forest is being cleared on the island and who is responsible for the deforestation,” said David Gaveau, a research associate with the Center for International Forestry Research (CIFOR), who demonstrated a prototype of the atlas at the International Conference on Biodiversity, Ecotourism and Creative Economy (ICBE) in Manokwari, Papua, on Oct. 7 to 11, 2018.

The platform, due to launch in mid-2019, will track deforestation on a monthly basis over the long-term.

Local government officials in charge of spatial planning welcome the development of the atlas, which they can use to help plan land use as the local population grows and demand for roads and other services increases in tandem. For example, the annual data provided by the atlas will provide insight into the dynamics of forest loss and the expansion of industrial oil palm concessions, and roads into forested areas.

Old-growth forest in Indonesian Papua shrank by 2 percent, a loss of 600,000 hectares, between 2000 and 2017 (Fig. 1).

Annual forest loss in Indonesian Papua has accelerated gradually since 2000, reaching a peak in both provinces in 2015 and 2016, with 98,000 hectares and 85,000 hectares lost, respectively, before dropping markedly in 2017 (Fig. 1b & c).

Meanwhile, industrial plantations, mainly for oil palm, have nearly quadrupled since 2000, with the largest expansion in Papua province. Gaveau’s studies indicate that about 30 percent of all forest loss since 2000 has been due to clearing for industrial plantations.

Fig 1. Annual loss of forest area from 2001 to 2017 in (a) Indonesian Papua, (b) Papua province (b) and (c) West Papua province.

“The island of New Guinea is perhaps the last large equatorial island that is still pristine,” Gaveau says. “It is still 90 percent natural forest, and it is sparsely populated.”

Because of its distance from key trading routes, Pacific ports and cities, it is expensive to install industrial facilities, such as palm oil refineries in Indonesian Papua. But the island is not immune to the spread of the palm oil industry, which has expanded throughout other islands, such as Borneo.

“As prime land becomes scarce on other islands, companies are turning their eyes to Papua,” Gaveau says.

That’s where the Papua Atlas comes in.

The interactive map is similar to the Atlas of Deforestation and Industrial Plantations in Borneo, also known as the Borneo Atlas, which Gaveau, a landscape ecologist, and Mohammad Agus Salim a Geographic Information Systems expert with CIFOR, developed to monitor deforestation on that island. The Borneo Atlas allows users to verify the location and ownership of more than 460 palm-oil mills on Borneo and monitor deforestation in the surrounding area.

Data about ownership show which companies linked to plantations are encroaching on forests and peat lands.

“The principle of the Papua Atlas is the same,” Gaveau says. “The overarching idea is to hold companies accountable for the deforestation they might have caused, whether or not it is done legally. The idea is that the Indonesian local and national governments can check those deforestation footprints in concessions to review the permits.”

See also: Atlas of deforestation and industrial plantations in Borneo

PLANNING FOR CHANGE

The arrival of industrial plantations is not the only change threatening to transform Papua’s pristine forest landscape. Logging for timber exports is increasing, tailings from a copper mine are destroying mangrove swamps, and people migrating from other islands are swelling urban populations.

As cities and towns expand, residents demand more public services, including better transportation. In planning everything from roads to housing, local government officials will have to assess the many tradeoffs  that inevitably accompany development.

To ensure that the Papua Atlas is especially useful to land-use planners, Gaveau and Salim consulted extensively with local governments.

“New roads are being built to link the provinces of Papua and West Papua, and we know that with roads comes deforestation,” Salim says.

That could jeopardize the livelihoods of the indigenous people who live in the island’s forests and who depend on forest products for food, housing materials, fuel and their livelihoods.

Government officials are taking steps to put the brakes on some undesired impacts.

West Papua was declared a conservation province in October 2015. The government of West Papua has committed to keeping 70 percent of the province’s land under protection.

Only about half the province’s land is currently protected, so the challenge will be to increase that area.

In September 2018, Indonesian President Joko Widodo announced a three-year moratorium on new oil palm concessions on forest land managed by the national government, although the ban does not apply to forest within existing concessions or forest land controlled by local governments.

The Papua Atlas can help observers determine whether the moratorium is being respected, Gaveau says.

Government officials will also be able to use it to analyze land-use patterns and review licenses for agricultural concessions. Knowing which companies hold concessions and how they are using their land will enable government officials to adjust tax rates, Salim says.

“The atlas can be an important tool for conservation and land management,” he adds.

Read also: New map helps track palm-oil supply chains in Borneo

A settlement is seen from the air in Papua, Indonesia. Photo by Agus Andrianto/CIFOR

A LOCAL VIEW OF A GLOBAL

As the use of freely accessible platforms for tracking land use becomes more common, the Papua and Borneo atlases stand out for the degree of detail they offer.

Users can see which companies are clear-cutting old-growth forest, how much newly planted areas companies are adding, and where palm producers are moving into sensitive areas such as peat lands, which are crucial for carbon storage. The database also shows corporate relationships among companies, enabling users to better understand the market forces behind deforestation and to track corporations’ zero-deforestation commitments.

The atlas will provide a view of deforestation over time, with animations that show how plantations and roads have expanded, where land has been burned, where new land has been planted, and where forest and landscape restoration are under way.

“It’s important to be able to see both forest loss and the newly planted area, because you can then measure the conversion of forests to plantations,” Gaveau said “If forest was cleared and a plantation was established all within one year, there’s little question that both were the work of the company located in that place.”

The map can also be used to gauge impacts of those changes. When deforestation and planting occur near a river, for example, increased erosion is likely to affect aquatic life and ecosystems downstream.

Gaveau and Salim also hope it will solve a mystery. Deforestation on the island spiked in 2015 and 2016 even though no new concessions were granted in those years, which puzzles local government officials.

The interactive map can also link to platforms and databases developed locally, placing more useful information at the fingertips of local government officials.

“We are trying to develop ways of looking at the data that are important for analyzing impacts and planning for the future,” Gaveau said.

“These interactive platforms that promote corporate accountability and make it possible to trace products to their place of origin are just a start,” he added. “In a few years, we will have intelligent systems that will provide more detailed information, more frequently.”

Not only will that information provide a record of the past, but it will also give a glimpse of what lies ahead.

“Papua is important — it’s the last frontier of Indonesia, and one of the last in the tropical world,” Salim says. “The question is what do its people want for the future?”

The Papua Atlas will provide guideposts in the search for an answer.

By Barbara Fraser, originally published at CIFOR’s Forests News.

For more information, contact David Gaveau at [email protected] and Mohammad Agus Salim at [email protected].


The Papua Atlas is being developed with financial assistance from Britain’s Department for International Development (DFID).

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


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