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Climate Action Game Changers: The Forest Story from Indonesia

Indonesia Climate Action Heroes

Indonesia's tropical forests are a vital source of food, fuel, shelter, and employment for more than one-fifth of the country's population, and a crucial resource in the fight against climate change.

But many of the communities that rely on the world’s third-largest tropical rainforest for their livelihoods face economic challenges, including elevated poverty rates and limited opportunities to develop surrounding land.

The Indonesian government's Agrarian Reform Program seeks to reduce poverty and promote rural economic development by granting local and indigenous communities legal access to forest areas. The Social Forestry Program, launched in 2015, was a significant step toward these goals.

The Social Forestry Program aims to provide communities with legal access to 12.7 million hectares of state forests, allowing them to sustainably manage these resources for their livelihoods and forest conservation. By the end of 2023, nearly 10,000 Social Forestry permits had been issued nationally, covering 6.4 million hectares, including 251,000 hectares of customary forest (Hutan Adat), referring to forests situated within the lands of indigenous peoples.

This initiative has gradually empowered indigenous peoples and local communities to manage forests sustainably, contributing to both climate protection and improved livelihoods.

Ecotourism in West Sumatera

Visitors of ecotourism area in Taram Nagari, West Sumatra, Indonesia. Photo: Strengthening of Social Forestry (SSF) project

Crafting a Forest-Centered Ecotourism Experience

Muhammad Yahdi, known as Uda Yadi, together with his community in Taram Nagari, West Sumatra, initiated an innovative agroforestry and ecotourism project centered around the surrounding forests after the Nagari Forests Management Unit of Taram Nagari received a social forestry license in 2017. Under this license, indigenous peoples and local communities have been entrusted with the sustainable management of approximately 800 hectares of pristine forest land, which has been utilized for eco-tourism and agroforestry.

The ecotourism initiative in Taram Nagari has thrived with the support of indigenous communities. They developed essential infrastructure such as well-maintained walking paths and food stalls. Offering attractions like pine forests, waterfall bathing, and the tranquility of the forests, the ecotourism area has become a haven for nature enthusiasts. This sustainable approach not only generates income for locals but also preserves the forests.

Through strategic promotion and social media marketing, the ecotourism area generates daily income of around IDR50 million (around US$3,200) during peak season. The success of this venture has led to a significant increase in visitors, rising from 70,000 in 2018 to 260,000 in 2021.

It would be a shame if Taram tourism was not developed as the location is strategic and we could sustainably manage the forests to support the socioeconomic life of communities in Taram Nagari
Fatimetou Mint Mohamed
Uda Yadi
Taram Nagari, West Sumatra
Indonesia forest heroes

Mushroom snack seller. Photo: Strengthening of Social Forestry (SSF) project

With the success of ecotourism, community members previously engaged in illegal logging have transitioned to sustainable livelihoods in the ecotourism sector. Additionally, communities have diversified into agroforestry businesses, exploring various commodities such as cocoa, mushrooms, rubber, coconuts, fruits, rattan, and other non-timber forest products.


Exploring Ginger and Rattan: A Gateway to Sustainable Livelihoods and Forest Conservation

In the North Maluku province of Indonesia, Mancelina Lobby, the Head of Todowongi Village, has led a community-based business model following the acquisition of a social forestry license in December 2021. This license allows the responsible management of a 495-hectare state forest area and has paved the way for ventures such as producing red ginger drinks and rattan-based furniture.

For generations, villagers in Todowongi have cultivated red ginger in the state forested areas, recognizing its health benefits. With the social forestry license and the capacity building to communities, the community modernized production methods, enhancing the value of red ginger and creating a source of income. The license also made it legal to harvest rattan, allowing the communities to begin crafting and selling rattan-based furniture.

Indonesia forest heroes

Making ginger powder product. Photo: Strengthening of Social Forestry (SSF) project

Monthly revenue from powdered ginger sales reached IDR5 million (US$320), supporting daily needs and children's school fees. Requests for rattan-based furniture are also increasing, indicating growing market demand.

Under Lobby's leadership, a production house – a dedicated facility intended for community use in the production of ginger and rattan-based goods – was established, equipped with processing equipment for various products. Lobby also fosters partnerships among village-owned enterprises, utilizes social media platforms for product promotion and allocates village funds to support local community businesses.


Social Forestry as an Innovative Mechanism for Regional Green Economic Development

Social forestry presents an opportunity to reduce emissions – by preserving forest cover – while boosting the local economy, as demonstrated by success stories like those of Uda Yadi and Mancelina Lobby. Provinces have the potential to advance social forestry as a foundation for regional green economic development. In West Sumatra province, the provincial government has launched an initiative known as Integrated Regional Development, which incorporates social forestry into a range of development endeavors. These encompass forestry, agriculture, tourism, creative economy, industry, agrarian and spatial planning, as well as infrastructure.

The World Bank supports Indonesia's efforts through programs such as the Strengthening of Social Forestry (SSF) Project. This project facilitates legal access to and promotes the community-based sustainable management of 300,000 hectares of forests in 11 forest management units in one city and five districts across West Sumatra, Lampung, West Nusa Tenggara, and North Maluku. The project also supports provinces in integrating social forestry principles into their regional development plans.

By 2025, the program is expected to benefit approximately 150,000 people (including around 45,000 women), reduce 9.2 million tons of CO2 emissions, and enhance forest cover by rehabilitating degraded forests that are important for biodiversity conservation.

The SSF has already yielded tangible results, with over 84,000 households gaining legal access to state forest land, learning about sustainable forest management and agroforestry, and participating in community business development. Moreover, the project has contributed to increased forest cover within the 3,700 hectares of state forest land.

Indonesia’s social forestry program shows how governments, local communities and the development community can work together to promote the value of forests, build sustainable livelihoods, and help the fight against climate change. The initiative also creates a template we can use to scale up and replicate such successes.



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