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  • Spilling the beans: FTA scientists contribute to new book about sustainable cocoa 

Spilling the beans: FTA scientists contribute to new book about sustainable cocoa 

Cacao produced in Cameroon. Photo by O. Girard/CIFOR
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FTA COMMUNICATIONS TEAM

With a distinguished editor and a variety of international experts as authors, including a number from the CGIAR Research Program on Forests, Trees and Agroforestry (FTA), Burleigh Dodds Science Publishing recently launched the book Achieving sustainable cultivation of cocoa, considered a new standard reference for scientists and producers of cocoa.

Eduardo Somarriba from the Agriculture, Livestock and Agroforestry Program (PRAGA) at CATIE (Tropical Agricultural Research and Higher Education Center) appears as a chapter author, while CATIE’s Rolando Cerda and Wilbert Phillips are coauthors.

Bioversity International’s Stephan Weise, Brigitte Laliberté and Jan Engels also contributed to the book. Meanwhile, the Agricultural Research Centre for International Development (CIRAD) saw a number of contributors across various chapters, namely Philippe Lachenaud, Didier Snoeck, Bernard Dubos, Leïla Bagny Beilhe, Régis Babin, Martijn ten Hoopen, Christian Cilas and Olivier Sounigo.

Read also: Achieving sustainable cultivation of cocoa

According to Francis Dodds, editorial director of Burleigh Dodds Science Publishing, the book discusses the existing challenges standing in the way of making cocoa crops more efficient and sustainable, in order to supply increasing demand, while taking into account the increasing age of plantations, decreasing performance and greater vulnerability to illnesses. At the same time, the authors heed increasing concerns about the environmental impact of cocoa on soil health and biodiversity.

The first part of the book looks at genetic resources and developments in production technologies. The second part discusses the optimization of crop techniques to take maximum advantage of the new varieties, while the third part summarizes recent research about the understanding of and fight against major viral and fungal diseases affecting cocoa. The fourth part covers security and quality issues, and finally the last part of the book analyzes ways to improve sustainability, including the role of agroforestry, organic crops, and ways to support small producers.

Achieving sustainable cultivation of cocoa

Notably, Somarriba and Philips contributed to the first and fifth sections of the book, with Somarriba addressing the issue of the analysis and design of the shade canopy of cocoa in agroforestry systems, and Phillips looking at the main challenges of conservation and exploiting cocoa genetic resources.

Read also: CATIE continues to improve people’s wellbeing across Latin America and Caribbean through education and research

The book was edited by the recognized and cocoa expert, Pathmanathan Umahran, director of the Research Centre for Cocoa and professor of genetic at the University of the Occidental Indies, in Trinidad and Tobago.

Martin Gilmour, Director of Research and Sustainability Development of Cocoa at Mars Global Chocolate, stated in a press release from Burleigh Dodds Science Publishing that the book would be of great interest for researchers, development agencies, governments, specialists in the industry and non-government organizations, as well as anyone interested in improving cocoa crop sustainability.

Adapted from the article by CATIE communicator Karla Salazar Leiva, originally published by CATIE.

For more information, contact Karla Salazar Leiva at [email protected] or Eduardo Somarriba, Leader of CATIE’s Agriculture, Livestock and Agroforestry Program, at [email protected].

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  • Tree plantations could help Peru meet forest restoration goal

Tree plantations could help Peru meet forest restoration goal

A regenerated forest and agroforestry system is seen in the Nueva Ahuaypa indigenous community area in Peru. Photo by Juan Carlos Huayllapuma/CIFOR
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FTA COMMUNICATIONS TEAM

A regenerated forest and agroforestry system is seen in the Nueva Ahuaypa indigenous community area in Peru. Photo by Juan Carlos Huayllapuma/CIFOR

Peru has set a goal of restoring forest on some 3 million hectares of degraded land, but the country still lags behind its neighbors when it comes to scaling up tree plantations to meet both environmental and societal needs.

Although tree plantations could provide ecosystem services, as well as income for communities and businesses, there is a need for more research, training, financial and fiscal incentives, and secure land tenure, according to a new study by the Center for International Forestry Research (CIFOR) that was also supported by the CGIAR Research Program on Forests, Trees and Agroforestry (FTA).

“At present, it is estimated that about one-third of the global demand for sawn timber is satisfied by commercial tree plantations, and this proportion is expected to increase over time,” says Manuel Guariguata, CIFOR principal scientist and leader on forest management and restoration, and the lead author of the study.

Many countries have begun promoting plantation forestry rather than timber from natural forests, and Peru is taking initial steps in the same direction. Some progress has been made in recent years, with simpler regulations for tree plantations and several model projects, but the country still needs a long-range roadmap for realizing the potential of forest plantations in the coming decades, Guariguata says.

Peru’s forestry legislation has historically emphasized timber production from government-sanctioned concessions across its Amazonian natural forests, rather than plantations. But well-managed plantations could yield a greater return than production in natural forests, says Héctor Cisneros, coordinator of the UN Food and Agriculture Organization’s forestry program in Peru.

“Peru has a very rich tropical forest, but it is complicated from the standpoint of forestry production,” he says. “Plantations should be a tool for helping to protect  the natural forest. If the industry is more closely tied to tree plantations, that will reduce pressure on natural forests.”

Plantations can produce a greater volume of timber per hectare because managers can ensure uniformity in growth, diameter at harvest, and timber quality, Cisneros says. But that requires access to high-quality genetic material, adequate soils, and managers and workers trained to manage the entire value chain, from plantation to consumer.

Read also: Farm-forestry in the Peruvian Amazon and the feasibility of its regulation through forest policy reform

RESEARCH NEEDED TO BOOST GROWTH

Although 15 Peruvian universities offer forestry majors, none has a specialty in tree plantation management, and the few courses that are offered are insufficient to meet the need for trained personnel, says Carlos Llerena, dean of the School of Forestry Sciences at La Molina National Agrarian University in Lima.

The limited area under tree plantations in Peru, estimated at just a few tens of thousands of hectares, means there are few jobs for specialists, he says. At the same time, the lack of specialists also slows development of additional plantations.

A forest trail in the Unamat forest, Puerto Maldonado, Madre de Dios, Peru. Photo by Marco Simola/CIFOR

Universities could help break that vicious circle by providing more detailed information about species, helping students obtain fellowships to study with experts abroad and return to Peru to apply their knowledge, and working with sub-national governments that seek to promote tree plantations, Llerena said during a panel discussion at the presentation of the CIFOR study in Lima in June 2017.

Universities can also contribute to improving the quality of timber from plantations, through research to improve both genetic material and timber management techniques. Peru’s National Institute of Agrarian Innovation (INIA) also plays a role, with experimental plots in different types of ecosystems around the country, Eloy Cuellar, who heads INIA’s Agrarian Technological Development Office, said during the panel discussion.

Peru’s varied ecosystems — from the dry desert coast to the Andes Mountains to the Amazonian — offer possibilities for different types of plantations, using both native and introduced species, says Leoncio Ugarte, director of forest studies and research at Peru’s National Forest Service (SERFOR).

While some plantations could produce timber for industrial use, others could meet different needs. In the Andean highlands, where only relicts of native forests remain, plantations of native species could help protect the upper parts of watersheds, providing ecosystem services for water users downstream.

Instead of harvesting the timber, communities or other landowners in those areas could receive payment for the ecosystem services their plantations provide, Ugarte says.

Read also: Reclaiming collective rights: land and forest tenure reforms in Peru (1960-2016)

TENURE, ZONING ARE CRUCIAL

Although Peru has millions of hectares of degraded land that could be used for plantations, some regulatory hurdles hamper the sector’s expansion.

First is the lack of a clear definition of “degraded”, Ugarte says.

SERFOR is currently conducting a detailed calculation of the area suitable for tree plantations. Because different species have different needs and some are better adapted than others to different soil types and climate niches, planners must consider which species are best suited for various areas of the country, Ugarte says.

That implies land-use planning on a broad scale — designating certain areas for agriculture, forestry concessions, protective forest and plantations, for example — as well as more local zoning, to determine which species are most suitable based on soil type, precipitation and other factors.

Most of the area suitable for tree plantations is likely to consist of relatively small fragments, rather than large, continuous expanses suitable for large plantations, he says. Some may be in the hands of smallholders, while others may be located in indigenous communities. In many cases, land ownership may not be clear, which is a disincentive to private investors interested in the tree plantation business.

Ensuring clear tenure is crucial for plantations, where producers require long-range investment over two to four decades, Ugarte says. Lack of clarity about land tenure can lead to social conflicts over plantations. Once tenure is clear, however, financial incentives can be designed for different types of plantations at different scales.

“People who invest in tree plantations seek to diversify their portfolio and make a profit, but they are also committed to climate change mitigation,” says Robert Hereña, general manager of Reforestadora Bánati Bosque S.A.C., a company growing teak in central Peru.

“They also know this can result in social benefits, because tree plantations are often installed in areas where a large percentage of the population lives in poverty or extreme poverty,” Hereña said during the panel discussion.

Small-scale tree producers can also play an important role across the value chain, but they need technical assistance, financing schemes appropriate for local conditions and needs, and access to markets. Private investors could also partner with indigenous communities in the Andean highlands or the Amazon region to develop plantations, although that will require building trust between the private sector and communities, which often distrust each other, the FAO’s Cisneros says.

Read also: Long road ahead to indigenous land and forest rights in Peru

An indigenous woman harvests goods in the Peruvian Amazon. Photo by Juan Carlos Huayllapuma/CIFOR

TARGETING FUTURE MARKET NEEDS

In planning industrial tree plantations at a small or medium scale, investors and operators must consider future market needs, says Jessica Moscoso, executive director of CITE Madera, a government-sponsored technological innovation center that focuses on sustainable timber products and assistance to furniture makers in a Lima industrial park.

Too often, plantation operators focus on the species they could grow, rather than on the species required to manufacture specific products that the market demands—or which it may need in 15 to 30 years, when the trees are ready for harvest, Moscoso said during the panel discussion.

“Plantations allow us to tailor supply to demand,” she says, adding that they also enable growers to project future needs and scale up timber volumes. “It is extremely important that we define what we want to plant, focusing on future demand.”

That implies developing — and training personnel for — the entire market chain, Cisneros says. Most plantations currently produce sawn wood, but Peru could emulate neighboring Brazil and Chile, where the industry also produces wood chips, pulp and even paper, he says.

The CIFOR study concludes that Peru still lacks a clear road map for developing the tree plantation sector so it can contribute to the country’s restoration and climate change mitigation commitments.

Planning must include not just the National Forest Service and Ministry of Agriculture, but also ministries with responsibility for economy and finance, production and trade. And it needs a long-range vision that continues from one government administration to the next.

The country should establish varied pilot initiatives in different ecoregions, which can serve as models, allowing planners to choose the ones with potential for scaling up at the subnational or national levels, Cisneros says.

All of those steps will contribute to the road map, which he says will be constructed “little by little.”

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

For more information on this topic, please contact Manuel R. Guariguata at [email protected].


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

  • Home
  • Tree plantations could help Peru meet forest restoration goal

Tree plantations could help Peru meet forest restoration goal

A regenerated forest and agroforestry system is seen in the Nueva Ahuaypa indigenous community area in Peru. Photo by Juan Carlos Huayllapuma/CIFOR
Posted by

FTA COMMUNICATIONS TEAM

A regenerated forest and agroforestry system is seen in the Nueva Ahuaypa indigenous community area in Peru. Photo by Juan Carlos Huayllapuma/CIFOR

Peru has set a goal of restoring forest on some 3 million hectares of degraded land, but the country still lags behind its neighbors when it comes to scaling up tree plantations to meet both environmental and societal needs.

Although tree plantations could provide ecosystem services, as well as income for communities and businesses, there is a need for more research, training, financial and fiscal incentives, and secure land tenure, according to a new study by the Center for International Forestry Research (CIFOR) that was also supported by the CGIAR Research Program on Forests, Trees and Agroforestry (FTA).

“At present, it is estimated that about one-third of the global demand for sawn timber is satisfied by commercial tree plantations, and this proportion is expected to increase over time,” says Manuel Guariguata, CIFOR principal scientist and leader on forest management and restoration, and the lead author of the study.

Many countries have begun promoting plantation forestry rather than timber from natural forests, and Peru is taking initial steps in the same direction. Some progress has been made in recent years, with simpler regulations for tree plantations and several model projects, but the country still needs a long-range roadmap for realizing the potential of forest plantations in the coming decades, Guariguata says.

Peru’s forestry legislation has historically emphasized timber production from government-sanctioned concessions across its Amazonian natural forests, rather than plantations. But well-managed plantations could yield a greater return than production in natural forests, says Héctor Cisneros, coordinator of the UN Food and Agriculture Organization’s forestry program in Peru.

“Peru has a very rich tropical forest, but it is complicated from the standpoint of forestry production,” he says. “Plantations should be a tool for helping to protect  the natural forest. If the industry is more closely tied to tree plantations, that will reduce pressure on natural forests.”

Plantations can produce a greater volume of timber per hectare because managers can ensure uniformity in growth, diameter at harvest, and timber quality, Cisneros says. But that requires access to high-quality genetic material, adequate soils, and managers and workers trained to manage the entire value chain, from plantation to consumer.

Read also: Farm-forestry in the Peruvian Amazon and the feasibility of its regulation through forest policy reform

RESEARCH NEEDED TO BOOST GROWTH

Although 15 Peruvian universities offer forestry majors, none has a specialty in tree plantation management, and the few courses that are offered are insufficient to meet the need for trained personnel, says Carlos Llerena, dean of the School of Forestry Sciences at La Molina National Agrarian University in Lima.

The limited area under tree plantations in Peru, estimated at just a few tens of thousands of hectares, means there are few jobs for specialists, he says. At the same time, the lack of specialists also slows development of additional plantations.

A forest trail in the Unamat forest, Puerto Maldonado, Madre de Dios, Peru. Photo by Marco Simola/CIFOR

Universities could help break that vicious circle by providing more detailed information about species, helping students obtain fellowships to study with experts abroad and return to Peru to apply their knowledge, and working with sub-national governments that seek to promote tree plantations, Llerena said during a panel discussion at the presentation of the CIFOR study in Lima in June 2017.

Universities can also contribute to improving the quality of timber from plantations, through research to improve both genetic material and timber management techniques. Peru’s National Institute of Agrarian Innovation (INIA) also plays a role, with experimental plots in different types of ecosystems around the country, Eloy Cuellar, who heads INIA’s Agrarian Technological Development Office, said during the panel discussion.

Peru’s varied ecosystems — from the dry desert coast to the Andes Mountains to the Amazonian — offer possibilities for different types of plantations, using both native and introduced species, says Leoncio Ugarte, director of forest studies and research at Peru’s National Forest Service (SERFOR).

While some plantations could produce timber for industrial use, others could meet different needs. In the Andean highlands, where only relicts of native forests remain, plantations of native species could help protect the upper parts of watersheds, providing ecosystem services for water users downstream.

Instead of harvesting the timber, communities or other landowners in those areas could receive payment for the ecosystem services their plantations provide, Ugarte says.

Read also: Reclaiming collective rights: land and forest tenure reforms in Peru (1960-2016)

TENURE, ZONING ARE CRUCIAL

Although Peru has millions of hectares of degraded land that could be used for plantations, some regulatory hurdles hamper the sector’s expansion.

First is the lack of a clear definition of “degraded”, Ugarte says.

SERFOR is currently conducting a detailed calculation of the area suitable for tree plantations. Because different species have different needs and some are better adapted than others to different soil types and climate niches, planners must consider which species are best suited for various areas of the country, Ugarte says.

That implies land-use planning on a broad scale — designating certain areas for agriculture, forestry concessions, protective forest and plantations, for example — as well as more local zoning, to determine which species are most suitable based on soil type, precipitation and other factors.

Most of the area suitable for tree plantations is likely to consist of relatively small fragments, rather than large, continuous expanses suitable for large plantations, he says. Some may be in the hands of smallholders, while others may be located in indigenous communities. In many cases, land ownership may not be clear, which is a disincentive to private investors interested in the tree plantation business.

Ensuring clear tenure is crucial for plantations, where producers require long-range investment over two to four decades, Ugarte says. Lack of clarity about land tenure can lead to social conflicts over plantations. Once tenure is clear, however, financial incentives can be designed for different types of plantations at different scales.

“People who invest in tree plantations seek to diversify their portfolio and make a profit, but they are also committed to climate change mitigation,” says Robert Hereña, general manager of Reforestadora Bánati Bosque S.A.C., a company growing teak in central Peru.

“They also know this can result in social benefits, because tree plantations are often installed in areas where a large percentage of the population lives in poverty or extreme poverty,” Hereña said during the panel discussion.

Small-scale tree producers can also play an important role across the value chain, but they need technical assistance, financing schemes appropriate for local conditions and needs, and access to markets. Private investors could also partner with indigenous communities in the Andean highlands or the Amazon region to develop plantations, although that will require building trust between the private sector and communities, which often distrust each other, the FAO’s Cisneros says.

Read also: Long road ahead to indigenous land and forest rights in Peru

An indigenous woman harvests goods in the Peruvian Amazon. Photo by Juan Carlos Huayllapuma/CIFOR

TARGETING FUTURE MARKET NEEDS

In planning industrial tree plantations at a small or medium scale, investors and operators must consider future market needs, says Jessica Moscoso, executive director of CITE Madera, a government-sponsored technological innovation center that focuses on sustainable timber products and assistance to furniture makers in a Lima industrial park.

Too often, plantation operators focus on the species they could grow, rather than on the species required to manufacture specific products that the market demands—or which it may need in 15 to 30 years, when the trees are ready for harvest, Moscoso said during the panel discussion.

“Plantations allow us to tailor supply to demand,” she says, adding that they also enable growers to project future needs and scale up timber volumes. “It is extremely important that we define what we want to plant, focusing on future demand.”

That implies developing — and training personnel for — the entire market chain, Cisneros says. Most plantations currently produce sawn wood, but Peru could emulate neighboring Brazil and Chile, where the industry also produces wood chips, pulp and even paper, he says.

The CIFOR study concludes that Peru still lacks a clear road map for developing the tree plantation sector so it can contribute to the country’s restoration and climate change mitigation commitments.

Planning must include not just the National Forest Service and Ministry of Agriculture, but also ministries with responsibility for economy and finance, production and trade. And it needs a long-range vision that continues from one government administration to the next.

The country should establish varied pilot initiatives in different ecoregions, which can serve as models, allowing planners to choose the ones with potential for scaling up at the subnational or national levels, Cisneros says.

All of those steps will contribute to the road map, which he says will be constructed “little by little.”

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

For more information on this topic, please contact Manuel R. Guariguata at [email protected].


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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  • New map helps track palm-oil supply chains in Borneo

New map helps track palm-oil supply chains in Borneo

A woman begin to harvest oil palm fruit in Kalimantan. Photo by I. Cooke Vieira/CIFOR
Posted by

FTA COMMUNICATIONS TEAM

A woman begin to harvest oil palm fruit in Kalimantan. Photo by I. Cooke Vieira/CIFOR

The updated Borneo Atlas offers new data to measure the impact of mills and plantations on forests.

In 2013, a number of major palm-oil buyers, traders and producers promised to stop clearing natural forests. The global multi-billion-dollar business of palm oil is among the world’s most controversial agro-industries. It has been implicated in numerous cases where species- and carbon-rich forests have been cleared, yet it also contributes to the elimination of poverty in producer countries.

Indonesia and Malaysia are the world’s top two producers of palm oil. Their area of industrial plantations more than quadrupled in extent from 1990 to 2015. Over the same period, regional rates of forest loss rose to among the world’s highest. Forest clearance is driven by a number of factors — establishing plantations is one factor. The development of mills and associated infrastructure to extract and transport palm oil also impacts forests.

The latest version of the Atlas of Deforestation and Industrial Plantations in Borneo, or what we call the Borneo Atlas, part of the work of the CGIAR Research Program on Forests, Trees and Agroforestry (FTA) launched this week allows users to verify the location and ownership of 467 palm-oil mills in Borneo, the island shared by Indonesia, Malaysia and Brunei Darussalam. It includes a new tool called Analyze Land Use near Mills to provide verified information on the location of palm-oil mills, and the deforested area within a 10-kilometer radius, as detected annually by satellites.

The new tool can be used together with an earlier tool called Analyze Land Use in Concessions, to track the footprint of palm-oil growers on forests. It links the company-driven forest loss (i.e. the forest area converted each year to industrial plantations) detected annually using satellites with publicly available concession maps. Combined, these two tools are useful for the increasing number of palm-oil buyers, traders and government officials who have begun tracing supply chains to mills and plantations. Buyers are currently focusing their attention on traceability to mills, because the location of a mill is a good indicator of the approximate location of its supplier.

Understanding where mills and plantations are is also useful to better understand the overall impact of industrial palm-oil developments on tropical rainforests.

Try it: Atlas of Deforestation and Industrial Plantations in Borneo

ADDED FEATURES

Via the interactive map, users can zoom in on a 10-kilometer radius of each mill — the distance fresh palm fruit can travel without spoiling. The actual distance that fruit has travelled to reach the mill in fact vary depending on commercial agreements, road networks and terrain, and does not fall into a perfect disc around the mill.

However, this simplified added feature does offer a more complete view of the impacts of industry on forests. Users can rank concessions and mills by recent clearing, and access statistics on forest health and land use. They can visualize poorest and best performing mills and concessions by company, soil type (peat and non-peat), by remaining forest area, and by type of certification.

The idea is to offer the opportunity to investigate to what extent plantation companies have cleared forests in Borneo, and to what extent they have avoided forest loss by planting on non-forested lands. Understanding where companies practice sustainable planting is key to engaging and promoting positive actions by companies.

We developed this dataset by reviewing online documentation on company dashboards, NGO websites, certification agencies (RSPO and ISPO), mapping websites and social media. The source documents for these data are linked in the results of each search so they can be consulted by users. A link to the mills’ location on high-resolution imagery from Google Maps and ArcGIS World Imagery is also provided for each search, to prove that the mill exists.

Future developments will include linking mills to supplier plantations, to ports and refineries, and incorporating time-lapses to reveal how industrial oil palm has expanded.

Read more: What a difference 4 decades make: Deforestation in Borneo since 1973

Individual oil palm fruits are seen in Kalimantan. Photo by I. Cooke Vieira/CIFOR

AN INDUSTRIAL-SCALE ISSUE

Palm oil is produced by industrial means. It is in everything from cosmetics to processed food, and biofuels to drive cars. It requires extensive infrastructure, including processing mills and refineries. Ultimately, huge tankers ship the oil to every corner of the globe.

Oil palm isn’t the only industrial crop. Today, most of the world’s food production and supply is done by industrial means. Industrial agriculture is a system of chemically intensive food production, featuring gigantic single-crop farms and production facilities, controlled by large conglomerates.

Intensive monoculture depletes soil and leaves it vulnerable to erosion. Herbicides and insecticides harm wildlife and people. Biodiversity in and near monoculture fields takes a hit, as populations of birds and beneficial insects decline. In fact, the abundance of flying insects has plunged by three-quarters over the past 25 years in the European countryside because of industrial agriculture, according to a new study.

In the humid tropics, industrial production of palm oil, soy, pulpwood and beef depletes biodiversity by being responsible for between 35% and 68% of all tropical forest loss.

Rates of forest loss and oil-palm developments are particularly marked on Borneo. Forest losses averaged 350,000 hectares annually from 2001 to 2016, while by 2016 the area of industrial oil palm plantations reached 8.3 million hectares (Mha) — about half of the estimated global planted area of 18 Mha. From 2005 to 2015, the expansion of industrial oil palm plantations was responsible for 50 percent (2.1 Mha) of all of Borneo’s old-growth forest area loss (4.2 Mha).

Tools like the Borneo Atlas, and its new feature to assess the impact of mills, aim to equip governments, NGOS and companies with the capacity to see the full impact of industrial agriculture on forests, and to act accordingly to bring the rate of forest loss in their supply chains down to zero.

Read more: For a better Borneo, new map reveals how much terrain has changed

By David Gaveau and Mohammad Agus Salim, originally published at CIFOR’s Forests News


For more information on this topic, please contact David Gaveau at [email protected] or Mohammad A. Salim 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 UK aid from the UK government and the United States Agency for International Development (USAID).

  • Home
  • New map helps track palm-oil supply chains in Borneo

New map helps track palm-oil supply chains in Borneo

A woman begin to harvest oil palm fruit in Kalimantan. Photo by I. Cooke Vieira/CIFOR
Posted by

FTA COMMUNICATIONS TEAM

A woman begin to harvest oil palm fruit in Kalimantan. Photo by I. Cooke Vieira/CIFOR

The updated Borneo Atlas offers new data to measure the impact of mills and plantations on forests.

In 2013, a number of major palm-oil buyers, traders and producers promised to stop clearing natural forests. The global multi-billion-dollar business of palm oil is among the world’s most controversial agro-industries. It has been implicated in numerous cases where species- and carbon-rich forests have been cleared, yet it also contributes to the elimination of poverty in producer countries.

Indonesia and Malaysia are the world’s top two producers of palm oil. Their area of industrial plantations more than quadrupled in extent from 1990 to 2015. Over the same period, regional rates of forest loss rose to among the world’s highest. Forest clearance is driven by a number of factors — establishing plantations is one factor. The development of mills and associated infrastructure to extract and transport palm oil also impacts forests.

The latest version of the Atlas of Deforestation and Industrial Plantations in Borneo, or what we call the Borneo Atlas, part of the work of the CGIAR Research Program on Forests, Trees and Agroforestry (FTA) launched this week allows users to verify the location and ownership of 467 palm-oil mills in Borneo, the island shared by Indonesia, Malaysia and Brunei Darussalam. It includes a new tool called Analyze Land Use near Mills to provide verified information on the location of palm-oil mills, and the deforested area within a 10-kilometer radius, as detected annually by satellites.

The new tool can be used together with an earlier tool called Analyze Land Use in Concessions, to track the footprint of palm-oil growers on forests. It links the company-driven forest loss (i.e. the forest area converted each year to industrial plantations) detected annually using satellites with publicly available concession maps. Combined, these two tools are useful for the increasing number of palm-oil buyers, traders and government officials who have begun tracing supply chains to mills and plantations. Buyers are currently focusing their attention on traceability to mills, because the location of a mill is a good indicator of the approximate location of its supplier.

Understanding where mills and plantations are is also useful to better understand the overall impact of industrial palm-oil developments on tropical rainforests.

Try it: Atlas of Deforestation and Industrial Plantations in Borneo

ADDED FEATURES

Via the interactive map, users can zoom in on a 10-kilometer radius of each mill — the distance fresh palm fruit can travel without spoiling. The actual distance that fruit has travelled to reach the mill in fact vary depending on commercial agreements, road networks and terrain, and does not fall into a perfect disc around the mill.

However, this simplified added feature does offer a more complete view of the impacts of industry on forests. Users can rank concessions and mills by recent clearing, and access statistics on forest health and land use. They can visualize poorest and best performing mills and concessions by company, soil type (peat and non-peat), by remaining forest area, and by type of certification.

The idea is to offer the opportunity to investigate to what extent plantation companies have cleared forests in Borneo, and to what extent they have avoided forest loss by planting on non-forested lands. Understanding where companies practice sustainable planting is key to engaging and promoting positive actions by companies.

We developed this dataset by reviewing online documentation on company dashboards, NGO websites, certification agencies (RSPO and ISPO), mapping websites and social media. The source documents for these data are linked in the results of each search so they can be consulted by users. A link to the mills’ location on high-resolution imagery from Google Maps and ArcGIS World Imagery is also provided for each search, to prove that the mill exists.

Future developments will include linking mills to supplier plantations, to ports and refineries, and incorporating time-lapses to reveal how industrial oil palm has expanded.

Read more: What a difference 4 decades make: Deforestation in Borneo since 1973

Individual oil palm fruits are seen in Kalimantan. Photo by I. Cooke Vieira/CIFOR

AN INDUSTRIAL-SCALE ISSUE

Palm oil is produced by industrial means. It is in everything from cosmetics to processed food, and biofuels to drive cars. It requires extensive infrastructure, including processing mills and refineries. Ultimately, huge tankers ship the oil to every corner of the globe.

Oil palm isn’t the only industrial crop. Today, most of the world’s food production and supply is done by industrial means. Industrial agriculture is a system of chemically intensive food production, featuring gigantic single-crop farms and production facilities, controlled by large conglomerates.

Intensive monoculture depletes soil and leaves it vulnerable to erosion. Herbicides and insecticides harm wildlife and people. Biodiversity in and near monoculture fields takes a hit, as populations of birds and beneficial insects decline. In fact, the abundance of flying insects has plunged by three-quarters over the past 25 years in the European countryside because of industrial agriculture, according to a new study.

In the humid tropics, industrial production of palm oil, soy, pulpwood and beef depletes biodiversity by being responsible for between 35% and 68% of all tropical forest loss.

Rates of forest loss and oil-palm developments are particularly marked on Borneo. Forest losses averaged 350,000 hectares annually from 2001 to 2016, while by 2016 the area of industrial oil palm plantations reached 8.3 million hectares (Mha) — about half of the estimated global planted area of 18 Mha. From 2005 to 2015, the expansion of industrial oil palm plantations was responsible for 50 percent (2.1 Mha) of all of Borneo’s old-growth forest area loss (4.2 Mha).

Tools like the Borneo Atlas, and its new feature to assess the impact of mills, aim to equip governments, NGOS and companies with the capacity to see the full impact of industrial agriculture on forests, and to act accordingly to bring the rate of forest loss in their supply chains down to zero.

Read more: For a better Borneo, new map reveals how much terrain has changed

By David Gaveau and Mohammad Agus Salim, originally published at CIFOR’s Forests News


For more information on this topic, please contact David Gaveau at [email protected] or Mohammad A. Salim 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 UK aid from the UK government and the United States Agency for International Development (USAID).

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  • CIRAD research featured in new book on corporate governance

CIRAD research featured in new book on corporate governance

At a sustainably certified sawmill in Jepara, men carefully cut logs of wood that are then measured and marked. Photo by D. Ramsay/CIFOR
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A sustainably certified sawmill in Jepara, Indonesia. Photo by D. Ramsay/CIFOR

How does the complex pattern of shareholdings and subsidiaries – entangled, hierarchical and pyramidal – influence actions, decisions, policies and strategies? It could be said that the behavior of conglomerates and mega corporations is influenced by their ownership structure.

A new book, Minister of Finance Incorporated: Ownership and control of corporate Malaysia, looks at quantitative methods to decipher corporate governance, from biomass, forest and plantations to Malaysia’s corporate finance.

How the structure of commodity corporates could impact the sustainability of agricultural landscapes is of direct interest to the French Agricultural Research Centre for International Development (CIRAD), one of the CGIAR Research Program on Forests, Trees and Agroforestry’s (FTA) partner institutions.

Jean-Marc Roda speaks about the new book. Photo by IDEAS

Read more: Sustainable value chains and investments to support forest conservation and equitable development

This is because many activities linked to deforestation; forest management; the sustainability of palm oil, rubber and timber plantations; biomass and biofuel strategies are driven by the choices of international finance and mega corporations.

CIRAD’s activities concern the life sciences, social sciences and engineering sciences, applied to agriculture, the environment and territorial management. Its work centers on food security, climate change, natural resource management, the reduction of inequalities and poverty alleviation.

In particular, in Southeast Asian countries such as Malaysia and Indonesia, research by CIRAD and its public- and private-sector partners focuses on natural resource management, food security, biodiversity studies and the sustainability of tree crop-based systems, paying particular attention to island agro-ecosystems, which are particularly sensitive to climate change.

ET Gomez presents during the book launch. Photo by IDEAS

In 2010, CIRAD’s Jean-Marc Roda and his Malaysian team at Universiti Putra Malaysia started to develop methodologies aimed at deciphering corporate governance and their environmental commitments among Southeast Asian transnationals. Deciphering corporate governance and environmental commitments among Southeast Asian transnationals: Uptake of sustainability certification was subsequently published in 2015.

The paper’s coauthor Norfaryanti Kamaruddin, who also contributed to the recently launched book, previously completed a PhD that was partially supported by FTA.

An important debate on global trade and sustainability relates to the role that corporate governance has on the uptake of sustainability standards. The paper suggests that financial factors, such as ownership structure and flexibility in decision-making, may have a fundamental role in understanding the adoption of sustainable standard systems in the corporate sector. This is based on the analysis of four major Asian agribusiness transnationals comprising about 931 companies.

In addition, this paper explores as a way forward the convergence of environmental sustainability with long-term family business sustainability.

Read more: Soils, governance, big data and 99 tropical countries: Best reads in forests, trees and agroforestry

The new book looks at corporate ownership and control in Malaysia.

Research tools developed throughout the project proved extremely accurate for deciphering any kind of corporate financial structure. Such quantitative methods of ownership structure analysis, initially designed for the analysis of the forest and agriculture financial sectors, were successfully employed to independently confirm and illustrate previously published results from ET Gomez.

Roda and his team were able to demonstrate how a core of 26 corporations controlled the Malaysian corporate sector and to provide details on how that control spread throughout the financial network, leading to the chapter “Understanding the network typology of the seven government-linked investment companies (GLICs)”.

The book was launched by the Institute for Democracy and Economic Affairs (IDEAS) in August 2017. It covers all Malaysian financial sectors, with Chapter 4 focusing on the plantation sector and on quantitative methods used for comparison and validation.

Adapted from the article by Jean-Marc Roda, originally published by CIRAD.


This work is linked to the CGIAR Research Program on Forests, Trees and Agroforestry (FTA), which is supported by CGIAR Fund Donors.

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  • Smallholder finance in the oil palm sector: Analyzing the gaps between existing credit schemes and smallholder realities

Smallholder finance in the oil palm sector: Analyzing the gaps between existing credit schemes and smallholder realities

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There are about 2 million smallholders cultivating 40% of Indonesia’s oil palm area. They require significant financing to establish, maintain and replant their oil palm plantations, in order to both increase productivity and improve the quality of the fresh fruit bunches. Their capacity to self-finance their plantation is limited. However, most of them are credit-constrained.

Since the late 1970s, the Government of Indonesia has introduced a number of credit schemes for oil palm smallholders. Banks and other formal institutions have also been offering various credit schemes in terms of the amount, grace period and requirements for smallholders, both individually or in groups.

Through interviews and focus group discussions in two districts, each in South Sumatra and Central Kalimantan, we found four gaps: (1) demand–-supply gaps; (2) maturity gaps; (3) risk-sharing gaps; and (4) legal gaps. Demand-–supply gaps exist where credit applications by oil palm smallholders were not approved because of issues related to collateral requirements, credit amounts, and crop gestation periods. Maturity gaps exist when only few financing schemes consider a grace period for smallholders to wait for the first harvest. Risk-sharing gaps refer to the volatility in production costs and palm oil prices that smallholders have to bear. Many smallholders do not hold proper documentation, which leads to the legal gaps that prevent them from using their land as collateral to access credit from banks.

These gaps reduce the possibility of smallholders accessing credit from formal institutions, which drives an informal local lending market with limited credit amounts and higher interest rates. The government and financial institutions must address these gaps in order to improve formal credit access for smallholder oil palm farmers.

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  • The long and winding road to sustainable palm oil

The long and winding road to sustainable palm oil

A worker collects oil palm fruit. Photo by I. Cooke Vieira/CIFOR
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A worker collects oil palm fruit. Photo by I. Cooke Vieira/CIFOR

Finding a way forward for profits, people and the planet.

The polemic around the expansion of oil palm plantations in the tropics continues, and increasingly involves consumers concerned with sustainability. At the core of the debate is the matter of hard trade-offs between conservation and development. Reconciling such trade-offs is still the major challenge facing governments and companies.

Available evidence suggests that palm oil production has contradictory impacts. It has positive impacts on both local and national economic growth, and in alleviating rural poverty. Yet plantations also drive social conflict in their development, and bring detriment to forests and peatlands as they expand, leading to negative impacts due to biodiversity loss and greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions.

The palm oil sector suffers from three performance issues, namely: land conflicts between local villagers and companies as well as immigrants, differences in yields between independent smallholders and industrial plantations, and a large carbon debt resulting from oil palm expansion into forestlands and peatlands. The challenge now is to find a way to ensure sustainable palm oil supply chains, in order to sustain economic gains while supporting conservation and climate action.

Employees drive to work on a plantation. Photo by I. Cooke Vieira/CIFOR

AIMING FOR CHANGE

Efforts are being made by governments, companies and civil society organizations on different fronts and at different levels to enhance the palm oil sector’s performance. Commitments to sustainability made by major palm oil companies have been accompanied by a more aggressive sustainability discourse by governments, and many civil society organizations have begun to play a new role as facilitators in the implementation of standards by companies, or as intermediaries between private and public actors.

In Indonesia, the previous government made important efforts to respond to the global climate change agenda, resulting in a moratorium on new licenses to develop primary forest or peatlands, which unfortunately in practice had limited impacts on reducing deforestation. The major corporate groups, through the Indonesian Palm Oil Pledge (IPOP) brought some new perspectives to halting deforestation through supply chain interventions, yet interestingly that triggered a strong political response from the government on the primacy of state regulations.

Two new fronts have since emerged. On one front, efforts are being made to enhance mandatory standards for sustainability by strengthening Indonesian Sustainable Palm Oil (ISPO) certification, accompanied by regulations on peatland intervention and restoration. On another front are efforts to safeguard the economic performance of the palm oil sector by expanding the domestic biodiesel market and applying subsidies to incentivize less competitive biodiesel production. In spite of strong arguments being made in favor of a social agenda, investments to support smallholders remain minimal.

An interesting turn of events has been the approval of an EU resolution suggesting that stronger constraints should apply to palm oil imports. This is not necessarily an opinion shared by some actors in Indonesia, who emphasize the importance of relying on national regulations. Signals have emerged that the government will be making the necessary steps to more fully embrace a sustainability framework. So far, the instrument for that seems to be a strengthened ISPO, with independent oversight. However, questions remain over the likely implementation costs, and institutional readiness at the local level.

Read also: Sustainable Palm Oil Production project synthesis: Understanding and anticipating global challenges

A young woman carries a bucket of harvested oil palm fruit. Photo by I. Cooke Vieira/CIFOR

WHOSE SUSTAINABILITY?

The dispute over which rules to follow, whether it be international private sustainability standards and/or methods toward zero deforestation, or mandatory national standards has brought to light competing notions of sustainability, how to achieve progress, and who should be taking the lead.

A policy network analysis of the palm oil sector in Indonesia suggests that standards and initiatives for sustainability have contrasting visibility and impact among stakeholders, for example among governments, the corporate sector and NGOs. The Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil (RSPO), stands as a reference, while efforts by the Indonesian government to promote its own standard with ISPO have yet to gain traction. Hopes remain that it could benefit from an emerging multi-stakeholder group.

Overall, the lack of progress in the uptake of sustainable palm oil practices on the ground, in the view of different stakeholders, appears to be caused more by political and legal barriers than by technical challenges or concerns for economic losses. The fact is that the palm oil sector, particularly in relation to land allocation and regulatory controls, is dominated by a complex and ambiguous layer of regulations. When we add vested local interests in profiting from plantation expansion, we are left with a difficult puzzle indeed.

The situation also calls for increased efforts to enforce regional initiatives on High Conservation Value (HCV) assessments to guide decisions on land-use planning, as well as efforts to support smallholders within wider landscapes. This is all the more important when considering proposals for limiting the expansion of concessions across the country without addressing existing concessions (‘land banks’) that are partially covered by standing natural forests, and placing little regulatory control on the additional pressures of smallholders on forest conversion.

A young man uses a contraption to harvest fruit from the oil palms. Photo by I. Cooke Vieira/CIFOR

Clearly, improvements are needed in communication and transparency among stakeholders, not only to raise the bar of sustainability beyond existing ISPO requirements and to provide a more conducive environment for corporate commitments, but also to enhance the rule of law and improve governance. Legality and law enforcement are absolute prerequisites for cleaning the sector of its worst players and practices.

THE COMPLEXITIES OF PALM OIL GOVERNANCE

Governance of the palm oil sector is becoming more complex over time. In addition to national regulations, it involves a transnational regime in the form of RSPO standards, which are widely accepted by the private sector as the benchmark criteria for sustainability, at least by players downstream the supply chain. Different initiatives by financial institutions and governments in consumer countries, grouped under the Amsterdam Declaration, as well the industry-led European Sustainable Palm Oil initiative (ESPO), are endorsing RSPO as a way to ensure uptake of sustainable practices.

Major corporate groups have also adopted individual and collective commitments to sustainability. Some of these commitments rely on RSPO as the privileged system to demonstrate achievements. Commitments to zero deforestation tend to make explicit their own criteria, targets and timeframes, which in some cases are rather ambiguous. In the palm oil sector, they often make use of High Carbon Stocks (HCS) as the approach to identifying forests to be protected.

As mentioned, the Indonesian government has embarked on a mission of strengthening ISPO, which originally emerged as a bundle of existing public regulations on palm oil production grouped under one instrument. However, doubts over ISPO’s effectiveness and slow implementation have forced the government to put in place a process to improve the scheme’s legitimacy, such as by drawing on a multi-stakeholder group, and conducting an ongoing consultation process to overcome the main design shortcomings. Much of the credibility of ISPO will nonetheless rely on how far it manages to closes the gaps with RSPO, particularly with regards to HCV and FPIC (Free, Prior and Informed Consent).

Due to the growing complexity of palm oil governance, what we have now are three simultaneous processes for moving toward sustainable palm oil that intersect, but in different ways. One is interested in “sustainable supply”, triggered by RSPO, another is interested in “clean supply”, motivated by private commitments to zero deforestation, and the third aims to achieve “legal supply”, supported by government through a strengthened ISPO. This creates some confusion, and it is not clear what the implications are of each on the move toward sustainability.

Read also: What will it take to make sustainable palm oil the norm?

Bunches of oil palm fruit await transportation in a wheelbarrow. Photo by I. Cooke Vieira/CIFOR

THE CHALLENGE OF INCLUDING SMALLHOLDERS

In this order of things, many independent oil palm smallholders are threatened with becoming alienated from formal markets because they lack the technical capacity and/or resources to comply with public and private sustainability standards. Thus, a major challenge is to find ways to improve conditions for smallholders in accessing finance and technical services.

Since resolving compliance barriers will require targeted interventions, it is becoming increasingly important to better understand the types of barriers faced by different types of smallholders. Research conducted in Riau, and in Central and West Kalimantan, highlights the sustainability, legality and productivity challenges arising from independent smallholder oil palm expansion. Gendered impacts of oil palm development also deserve special consideration, given the additional burden on women.

Understanding who smallholders are is important, since it has become the case that frontier expansion is often driven by larger, out-of-province and absentee farmers who engage in oil palm for investment purposes, rather than by smaller farmers (for example, with plots less than three hectares in area) who are dependent primarily on household labor. Some of this expansion is associated with land speculation, as a way to appropriate economic rents under the expectation of a future increase in the commercial value of cleared lands.

Tenure legality issues – faced especially by smallholders whose oil palm operations more closely resemble that of businesses – constitute the most significant compliance challenge. There is an ongoing debate over how to deal with illegality and to channel financial resources and technical support, not only to regulate oil palm expansion, but to enhance the performance of smallholders.

ADDRESSING CRITICAL CHALLENGES

Different and complementary initiatives are emerging to address performance issues in the sector. These embrace three broad objectives, namely: to implement traceability systems while overcoming challenges to involve smallholders; to refine and harmonize sustainability standards and tools; and to reconcile supply chain and landscape management approaches.

Enhancing traceability and smallholder inclusion

Major corporate groups in the palm oil sector are developing traceability systems to monitor and verify their performance with respect to their commitments to zero deforestation. Given the challenges to smallholder inclusion in this context, a number of companies and NGOs are collaborating to develop new business models and value chain strategies to support the inclusion of smallholders and enhance their compliance capacity. This is a work in progress.

Refining and harmonizing sustainability standards and tools

The most relevant process in this regard has been the HCS Convergence Agreement, which harmonizes methodologies to estimate high carbon stocks, and complements HCV with HCS. Other ongoing initiatives include RSPO Next, which is a set of advanced, add-on criteria for palm-oil growers seeking to comply with the aims of “no deforestation, no fire, no planting on peat, reduction of GHGs, and respect for human rights and transparency”, as well as efforts to strengthen ISPO. A major issue is how to implement on-the-ground standards that are increasingly demanding technically, and for which there are no institutional conditions, such as legality.

Reconciling supply chain interventions and landscape management

The private sector and NGOs are increasingly acknowledging that progress will only be piecemeal if underlying structural issues affecting the palm oil sector are not comprehensively addressed. Supporting efforts in specific jurisdictions to identify and register smallholder lands, and to promote district-level monitoring, reporting and verification of land-use change, are being undertaken as part of wider jurisdictional-based initiatives, emerging as a way to scale up innovations and solutions. These approaches may have potential, but have yet to prove their effectiveness.

Watch: Sustainable development of Cameroon’s palm oil

Workers take before fertilizing the next line of trees. Photo by I. Cooke Vieira/CIFOR

LIKELY FUTURES OF OIL PALM EXPANSION

Different futures are possible for oil palm expansion, with diverse consequences for development and conservation and their trade-offs. All depends on how far the government and the private sector will go in embracing their sustainability policies, and how effectively they are implemented and monitored.

The most likely scenarios are: 1) a business-as-usual scenario, in which oil palm plantations continue to expand at the current rate; 2) a moratorium scenario, in which the government applies increasing constraints to development on primary and secondary forests and peatlands; 3) a zero-deforestation scenario, in which deforestation is completely stopped in oil palm concessions; and 4) a sustainable intensification scenario, in which expansion continues on suitable lands, with greater social inclusion.

Emerging findings from scenario analysis in Central Kalimantan, when looking at the impacts of oil palm expansion on ecosystem services (comprising carbon stock and storage, habitat quality, water yield and palm oil production), suggest that the zero-deforestation scenario is the most desirable option. This scenario, however, requires a review of the forest moratorium that should encompass all forest types, as well as a clear land-use policy, strategy and detailed land-use plan involving all jurisdictions and stakeholders. The next most desirable scenario is sustainable intensification that would avoid the release of carbon, while continuing to contribute to increased palm oil supply resulting from enhanced yields.

When looking at Indonesia as a whole, scenario research suggests that zero-deforestation commitments and the moratorium on large-scale oil palm plantation expansion could reduce deforestation by 25% and 28%, respectively. These measures could also cut GHG emissions from land-use change by 13% and 16%, respectively, over the period 2010–2030. Even under the zero-deforestation and moratorium scenarios, Indonesia is projected to increase palm oil supply between 97% to 124% over 2010–2030, partly due to higher production originating from smallholders. Both measures – zero-deforestation commitments and a moratorium on large-scale expansion – would limit future deforestation in Indonesia, while maintaining the country’s leading role in the global palm oil market.

Foresight analysis is key in the debate on sustainable palm oil development. It can provide data and information to allow for evidence-based policy making. Public and private decision-makers, and multi-stakeholder initiatives should pay more attention to likely futures analysis to guide their decisions on action to reduce deforestation and GHG emissions, while finding options to improve productivity, legality and inclusion in the palm oil sector, with solutions that are acceptable to all stakeholders, and the wider society.

By Pablo Pacheco, originally published at CIFOR’s Forests News

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


This research is supported by USAID funding for CIFOR’s Governing Oil Palm Landscapes for Sustainability (GOLS) project, and this work is partly funded by the United Kingdom’s Department for International Development KNOWFOR Program Grant to CIFOR.

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

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  • Impacts of industrial tree plantations in Indonesia: Exploring local perceptions

Impacts of industrial tree plantations in Indonesia: Exploring local perceptions

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FTA communications

Authors: Pirard, R.

Key messages

  • Based on a survey about perceptions of industrial tree plantations of 606 respondents living in the vicinity of such plantations over three Indonesian islands, we find a clear divide, with evidence of more negative perceptions around acacia (pulp and paper) plantations in Sumatra and Kalimantan compared with those around pine (resin and timber) and teak (timber) in Java.
  • Acacia pulpwood plantations develop in more remote areas, where they contribute to opening up jobs and infrastructure; these facts are only partly acknowledged by local populations, as expectations have not been fully met. The plantations generate manynegative impacts such as deprivation of access to land for locals, environmental damage such as loss of biodiversity, and various annoyances such as dust or noise.
  • Pine and teak plantations are usually found in more developed areas and have a much longer presence in the landscape, dating from before Independence in many cases; they are therefore much less associated to negative changes, and their contributions to local development through the provision of jobs or environmental services are acknowledged.
  • Intermediary institutions have already proved their effectiveness in the Javanese context with pine and teak plantations, and could be mainstreamed with support from the government.
  • We find reasons to hope for better impacts if proper management decisions are made. For instance, companies can adapt rotation periods and involve local people early in the planning process in order to satisfy the most important needs and requests, mitigate risks of conflicts, and eventually improve local impacts.

Series: CIFOR Infobrief no. 152

Publisher: Center for International Forestry Research (CIFOR), Bogor, Indonesia

Publication Year: 2016

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  • Company-community conflict in Indonesia’s industrial plantation sector

Company-community conflict in Indonesia’s industrial plantation sector

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FTA

Authors: Persch-Orth, M.; Mwangi, E.

Key messages

  • Competing land claims are the primary cause of conflict between communities and companies in most industrial tree plantation conflicts.
  • Conflicts manifest in different ways. Communities often conduct physical protests and media campaigns, whereas companies frequently avoid dialogue and enlist the services of security forces to suppress conflict.
  • The involvement of security forces should be regulated. Conflicts where external security personnel were involved had fatalities in 32% of the cases, versus none of the cases where external security personnel were not involved. In cases where violence occurred, the violence was mostly conducted by or directed against security personnel, army and police forces. However, we cannot differentiate between whether they were involved in a conflict already about to escalate, or whether their involvement escalated the conflict into violence.
  • Mediation is widely misinterpreted and poorly implemented. However, efforts are being made by government and non-governmental actors to build capacity in principles and practices of mediation.
  • More effort should be made to support communication between parties in conflict and to offer professional mediation services at an early stage of conflict. For the many conflicts that have already escalated to levels of physical violence, efforts to transform how the conflict is expressed or external intervention to enforce a solution may be most appropriate.
  • While communication between conflicting parties may be supported by government, it should not be mediated by government, as government is in itself an actor in most of the conflicts (as it issues the permits to the land). Ideally, mediation services can be provided by professional mediators who are part of the Impartial Mediators Network or registered under the Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil (RSPO) or the Chamber of Commerce.
  • Concrete actions that signal the parties’ commitment to ending or de-escalating the conflict are critical.
  • Local activists and community members report that companies that are RSPO members are more easily held accountable. They also respond faster to complaints, even without direct intervention of the RSPO. Most conflicts with fatalities (67%) occurred on plantations that were not associated with an international sustainability initiative such as RSPO or FSC.

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