Indonesia’s community forests: learning from the past to improve the future
Community forests play an important role within Indonesia. While they cover just 2.3 million hectares (in a country with roughly 90 million hectares of forest), they support the livelihoods of more than 3.4 million households. But the certification of these community forests continues to be a challenge.
In the last decade, the quantity of timber harvested by communities has increased dramatically, reaching more than five million square meters annually. As these numbers continue to grow, it is more important than ever that these community forests are managed sustainably, ensuring they continue to benefit the local economy and ecosystem.
However, while forest certification has been promoted in the region for more than two decades, it has yet to take hold in the country’s community forests.
Internal constraints, such as weak economies of scale and lack of marketing opportunities, have meant that certification has been prohibitively expensive. Furthermore, the complexities of existing certification systems and procedures have also hindered uptake of certification in community forests.
PEFC and community forests
In response, the 2015 PEFC Collaboration Fund supported a project led by the Indonesian Forest Certification Cooperation (IFCC) to make forest certification more accessible within community forests.
With over two decades of experience in forest certification in the country, there was already a wealth of information available regarding best practices, as well as what has not been successful. The project began with in-depth research into past and current certification procedures, including the gathering of local knowledge and wisdom within the forest communities.
Once the information was gathered, the findings were used to inform the development of a new community forestry standard and group certification procedures. These were then pilot tested and further refined through the input and feedback from communities and other expert partners involved in the project.
Following this work, the new IFCC Sustainable Community Forest Management Certification – Requirements were finalized and submitted to PEFC for endorsement. They are currently going through the PEFC endorsement process, before being voted on by the PEFC General Assembly.
Project partners also held awareness raising and training activities within the forest communities. Booklets, leaflets and a selection of other printed and online materials were produced to introduce local communities to the demands of international markets, alongside technical training to improve forest management practices.
This project is just the first step in the development of sustainable community forestry in Indonesia. IFCC and PEFC will also continue to work together to improve the access of the products originating in the community forests to both national and international markets.