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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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  • Is bamboo a sustainable alternative for bioenergy production in Indonesia?

Is bamboo a sustainable alternative for bioenergy production in Indonesia?

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For thousands of years, people in Indonesia have used bamboo for a huge range of purposes. It is a ready source of food, fibre, firewood and construction material, and its abundance and availability has earned it the moniker of “timber of the poor.”

Now, scientists are exploring its potential in another critical realm: energy production and restoration of degraded land.

Energy demand in Indonesia has increased significantly in recent years, as a result of population growth, urbanization and economic development. The government is also working to up its energy provision from renewable sources, in line with its commitments to reducing greenhouse gas emissions under the international Paris Agreement on climate change. As a country with a rich biomass base, bioenergy seems an obvious port of call.

Watch: Integrating bioenergy and landscape restoration in the tropics: the key to a sustainable future

However, growing crops for bioenergy is not without its risks and tradeoffs. At present, Indonesia’s biofuel comes chiefly from oil palm, which has spurred widespread deforestation, peatland drainage and many other grave social and environmental impacts. So, say researchers from Australia’s RMIT University and the Center for International Forestry Research (CIFOR), it is crucial to start looking for other species that can provide sustainable supplies of biomass for energy production, without compromising food security or unduly affecting the wider landscape.

And that is where bamboo comes in, said RMIT and CIFOR researcher Roshan Sharma in a just-published opinion piece for the journal Sustainability. The fast-growing, perennial plant grows well on degraded land with minimal water or fertilizer input, and also thrives when planted in combination with other crops in forestry and agroforestry systems. What is more, there’s no need to chop the whole stand down and start again when it’s time to harvest: once mature (after around three to four years), the crop can be systematically thinned every year, and this may actually increase its productivity over time.

Bamboo cultivation can also be a “powerful ally” in restoration processes, say the co-authors. Its extensive root systems help to control erosion and retain water, while its copious leaf litter contributes significantly to soil fertility. Because it grows fast, it quickly creates habitats for enhanced biodiversity, and sequesters carbon in the process. What’s more, points out CIFOR scientist and contributing author Himlal Baral, the financial benefits of cultivating bamboo for bioenergy make restoration a much more economically viable prospect, which will be crucial for scaling it up.

Read more: Integrating bioenergy and landscape restoration in the tropics: the key to a sustainable future

Villagers transport bamboo with a small boat in Selimbau, Lake Sentarum, West Kalimantan, Indonesia. CIFOR/Ramadian Bachtiar

POWER TO THE PEOPLE

Another advantage of generating bioenergy from bamboo is that it allows for decentralized energy production, say the scientists. Indonesia is made up of thousands of islands, many of which are not connected to the national power grid: according to Jaya Wahono, co-author  and chief executive of Clean Power Indonesia (CPI), there are around 12,500 villages across the country that don’t have reliable power. Diesel is imported in drums to many of these places and used to power generators, but it’s expensive and unreliable, which limits options for economic development, says Wahono.

As such, CPI has set up pilot bamboo power plants on the remote Mentawai islands, with considerable success: they’ve brought reliable electricity to 1,200 households in three villages, each of which has their own power plant. Bamboo harvesting provides jobs, and also allows farmers to diversify their income streams, reducing their vulnerability to crop failure and helping them adapt to climate change.

Wahono says CPI is now keen to replicate the model across Indonesia. Since bamboo cultivation and use is already a familiar aspect of everyday life, they hope that locals will be willing and able to participate in bamboo-based bioenergy production right across the archipelago.

Bamboo plantations will need to be carefully managed, notes Baral, as they can pose a threat as an invasive species which can displace surrounding vegetation. It will also be important to ensure bamboo is cultivated on degraded and under-utilized land, so it doesn’t displace food crops or cause clear-felling of native vegetation while reducing the risk of invasiveness.

According to Sharma, the research team’s next step will be “to explore how much local bamboo is available in Indonesia, identify sites for possible bamboo plantations, and study the economic feasibility of producing bamboo by farmers and the economics of land restoration using bamboo.”

Read more: FTA at GLF Bonn

By Monica Evans, originally published at CIFOR’s Forests News.


This research is part of the CIFOR Bioenergy project funded by NIFoS (National Institute of Forest Science, South Korea) and the CGIAR Research Program on Forests, Trees and Agroforestry (FTA) with financial support from the CGIAR Trust Fund.

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  • Honey industry enhances sustainable peatland management in Indonesia

Honey industry enhances sustainable peatland management in Indonesia

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Bees are transforming the livelihoods of residents in the Indonesian province of Riau where honey production is on the rise.

Indonesia is intensifying efforts to ban the use of fire to clear land as part of broader efforts to conserve peatland areas through its Ministry of Environment and Forestry in collaboration with the Center for International Forestry Research (CIFOR), which is the lead center of the CGIAR Research Program on Forests, Trees and Agroforestry (FTA).

A project known as “Haze Free Sustainable Livelihoods” aims to empower local communities in nine villages across three districts in Riau province through retraining.

Researchers are exploring the potential for new livelihood options in the villages, providing capacity building to support local people. Information gathered will be funneled into the Sustainable Management of Peatland Ecosystem in Indonesia project, led by the ministry.

Read also: Peatlands: From marginal lands to essential ecosystem

Honey production already plays a significant role in the local economy, according to a study conducted between 2016 and 2018 in the districts of Pelalawan, Indragiri Hulu and Indragiri Hilir in Riau, where many people regularly gather wild honey from sialang trees (Koompassia excels).

“We can get 1.2 tons of honey from a hundred nests on one tree that we can sell at IDR 75,000 [$5] per kilogram,” said Fahrudin, head of Teluk Kabung village in Indragiri Hilir district.

A man creates smoke in order to harvest organic honey in Kalimantan, Indonesia. Photo by Lucy McHugh/CIFOR

Honey gatherers, who export most of their product to Malaysia, earn approximately IDR 90 million from each harvest.  However, potential is limited because only some people are willing and able to climb the 50-meter trees.

Experts from the Haze Free Sustainable Livelihoods project provide training on how to harvest safely and effectively. Those who are keen are also trained to develop honey-bee farms, using a stingless bee species, Trigona, which is native to the peatlands in Riau.

“A lot more people can benefit from it since they can develop honey bee farms in the backyard,” said Dede Rohadi, project leader and a scientist affiliated with Indonesia’s Forestry and Environmental Research Development and Innovation Agency (FOERDIA) and CIFOR.

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

The Haze Free Sustainable Livelihoods project is also training community members to generate income from several other local industries. In Teluk Meranti in Pelalawan district, fisheries and tourism industries are being developed.

The tidal bore in the Kampar River, as an attraction for the international surfing community, is helping to expand tourism jobs. Fish swept in on the tidal bore flood into the waterways in local villages, offering the potential to improve livelihoods through fish processing and sales.

In addition to the Haze-Free Sustainable Livelihoods project, CIFOR is leading a Community-based Fire Prevention and Peatland Restoration project with Riau University, which involves local governments, communities and the private sector.

“The residents are willing to switch gears if there are better options to support their livelihood,” said Herry Purnomo, the CIFOR scientist who is leading the project.

By Anggrita Cahyaningtyas, 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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  • 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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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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  • Bioenergy development in Central Kalimantan: Current research findings and potential areas for future study

Bioenergy development in Central Kalimantan: Current research findings and potential areas for future study

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  • Stable, robust policies and governmental support at both national and local levels, are needed to promote successful bioenergy research and its application, and avoid repeating past failures in developing bioenergy crops. The potential of local tree species should be considered in bioenergy project development; in particular, consideration should be given to the ability of each species to adapt to typical environments such as highly acidic peatlands, nutrient-poor soils and soils with high levels of organic matter.
  • The participation of local communities is of paramount importance, as well as the consideration of local preferences and context; by introducing community-relevant species, familiarity with such species and their potential uses is also increased.
  • Further study is necessary on local bioenergy species that are suitable for peatland restoration to answer the following questions: What concrete actions would allow a provincial government-driven working group to further develop sustainable bioenergy within Central Kalimantan? What would an appropriate business model for bioenergy production look like? and which agroforestry systems have the potential to combine bioenergy crops with other-purpose crops (e.g. food, aromatics and medicines).
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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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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

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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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  • Peatlands and ecosystem services at the Tropical Peatlands Exchange 2018

Peatlands and ecosystem services at the Tropical Peatlands Exchange 2018

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The Center for International Forestry Research (CIFOR), with support from the government of Indonesia and participation of the private sector, organized a one-day event, the Tropical Peatlands Exchange 2018, to provide a platform for exchanges of information between stakeholders concerned with the sustainability of tropical peatlands in Indonesia. The outputs of the exchange can be scaled up to explore the possibility of engaging a broader range of partners and countries for a more effective south-south cooperation to tackle challenges around peatland conservation and restoration.

This is the recording of a session titled “Peatlands and ecosystem services”, in addition to the summary of the event, which took place on Aug. 8, 2018, in Bogor, Indonesia.

Originally published by CIFOR.

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  • Good governance and sustainability incentives can provide alternatives to land conversion fires

Good governance and sustainability incentives can provide alternatives to land conversion fires

During land burning, haze blankets the landscape in Riau Province, Indonesia. Photo by Aulia Erlangga/CIFOR
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During land burning, haze blankets the landscape in Riau Province, Indonesia. Photo by Aulia Erlangga/CIFOR

In Indonesia, palm oil is a hot industry in more ways than one. In 2015 alone, it contributed USD 20.75 billion to the country’s export revenue. Oil palm plantations cover more than 14 million hectares of the country and, together with Malaysia’s, dominate the global market.

However, fire is still widely used in the development and planting of oil palm, including in carbon-rich peatlands. Resulting smoke and toxic haze have impacted the economy, the health and the environment of Indonesia and other Southeast Asian countries. In 2015, Indonesia’s peatland fires contributed to an economic loss of at least USD 16.1 billion and more than 100,000 premature deaths around the region.

In light of this, a new study led by Center for International Forestry Research (CIFOR) scientist Herry Purnomo, which also forms part of the CGIAR Research Program on Forests, Trees and Agroforestry (FTA), looks at the extent to which good governance principles are applied to Indonesia’s palm oil value chain and analyzes options to help reduce the use of forest and land fires in the industry.

“Palm oil is one of Indonesia’s main commodity exports, surpassing oil and gas,” says Purnomo. “But if we do not manage its sustainability, this sector can fail.

The research focuses on Indonesia’s Riau Province, which experienced massive forest conversion to have the largest area of oil palm plantations in the country. Now, it has the highest domestic frequency of fires too.

“We know that 20% of fire incidences happen in oil palm plantation areas, so we tried to find out what caused the fires and how to reduce them.”

Read more: Towards responsible and inclusive financing of the palm oil sector

WHO’S GOT THE POWER?

In theory, the central government has power to influence the oil palm supply chain through law and policies; district-level governments have the most jurisdiction for law enforcement and information-spreading; and village governments are closest to plantation developers, thus having the responsibility of dealing directly with them.

However, good governance for the industry is not as simple as a top-down approach. From consumers to mills, refineries and developers, players in palm oil influence governance processes in different, sometimes unexpected ways.

“With the governance analysis, we looked at how existing powers contest,” says Purnomo. “Along the value chain, power is not at the landscape level but at the consumer level, or at the mills and refineries. The central government can only function through the district government, but mills can influence local government using incentives and coercion.

“Sometimes the Ministry of Environment and Forestry and the Ministry of Agriculture get the blame for forest and land fire incidences. While potentially, the problem starts from the Investment Coordinating Board (BKPM) welcoming investment for refineries without considering whether there is enough capacity to supply them from legal sources.”

Furthermore, the study found that illegal oil palm developers can hold a lot of influence at local levels and force village governments to support them, often through deceptive use of a Certificate of Land (SKT).

This imbalance between governance and supply chain capacity can drive actors at the landscape level to meet the mill demands in ways detrimental to landscapes.

“Now there are mills everywhere, even in national park areas. People respond by developing plantations everywhere. The fastest and cheapest way is by burning.”

Scientists observe a drone flying over burning peat outside Palangkaraya, Indonesia. Photo by Aulia Erlangga/CIFOR

ALT OPTIONS

When demand is high and burning has long been practiced, what reason do farmers and developers have to change their habits to more arduous land-clearing methods?

“We calculated whether existing incentives in the market are enough to change the situation on the ground,” says Purnomo. “The analysis looks at benefits distrubuted from oil palm plantation development using fire, who benefits, and what alternatives can be adopted to compensate.”

The first step is for the market to support certified producers, incentivizing them not to burn as well as to employ value-added farmers. This, however, raises production costs, as well as the cost of fresh fruit bunches (FFB) of oil palm fruits. As this price margin grows, the next step is to make sure that the financial benefits go back into the hands of the farmers, to incentivize their good practices as well.

“Intermediaries have taken the benefit from this margin until now. Farmers should unite to gain more bargaining power, so once they receive a delivery order, they can cut the middleman and go straight to the mill. This will increase their value added. It is important that palm oil businesses are not only certified but also fair.”

Another key step to fire reduction is agrarian reform. While many farmers possess an SKT, the land is still legally part of a state-owned forest area. The unclarity of land status dissuades farmers from investing resrources in land.

“Why should they spend money, when the government can take their land away at any time? The farmers should be guaranteed land legality at least for 25 years, so they can invest safely.”

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

CHANGING HEADLINES

Recently on the international stage, the European Union in January approved draft measures to ban the use of palm oil in motor fuels by 2020. While this sent Southeast Asian governments reeling, Indonesia’s included, Purnomo believes that this boycott will change little. Instead, he says the EU market should give incentives for sustainable production, and Indonesia should create an environment in which that can be done.

“Incentives can change the situation. The government of Indonesia should be more transparent with environmental problems faced by the palm oil industry, show real progress in improving the industry’s sustainability, draw a clear roadmap to meet international standards in three to five years and invite the EU to participate in palm oil in more constructive ways.”

Cleaning up supply chains will come at a cost, but market incentives combined with strengthened national policies and international regulators (namely the Indonesian Sustianable Palm Oil system and Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil) can together compensate to make this effort viable – and cool things down.

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

For more information on this topic, please contact Herry Purnomo 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 Department for International Development United Kingdom (DFID UK) and the United States Agency for International Development (USAID).

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Why care about peatlands?

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