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Indonesia’s investment in social forestry conserves forests and fights climate change

Blog | Wed, 01 Sep, 2021 · 6 min read
Micro Hydro Development in Alam Village Forest in Semendo, South Sumatra Province. (@ HaKI, Hafid)

Indonesia occupies less than 1% of the earth’s land but is home to the third largest expanse of tropical forest in the world after the Amazon and the Congo Basin. These forests are home to an estimated 10 to 15% of all animal and plant species on the planet, placing Indonesia in the top three countries in the world in terms of biodiversity. These forests are also a massive carbon sink, absorbing CO2 from the atmosphere as they grow.

Despite their unique value, Indonesia’s forests are under threat from conversion to industrial agriculture, illegal logging and forest fires. In addition to being a biodiversity hotspot and presenting huge climate change mitigation potential, Indonesia’s forests also provide the basis for the livelihoods and well-being of some 40 million rural and indigenous people.

Recognizing the threats facing its forests, Indonesia was an early adopter of the REDD+ mechanism under the UNFCCC and since 2008, has established a country-wide programme to address the drivers of deforestation, monitor changes in forest cover and distribute funding to support the conservation and sustainable management of forests and carbon-rich landscapes. This programme includes a moratorium policy that bans clearing primary natural forests and peatlands.

Coffee Harvest in Kibuk Community Forest in Pagar Alam, South Sumatra Province  (@ Aidil baba)


In August, 2020, the Green Climate Fund approved a $103.8 million US results-based payment to Indonesia in recognition of an avoided 20.3 million tons of carbon emissions between 2014 and 2016. The vast majority of this payment will be channeled to support and expand decentralized sustainable forest governance in Indonesia, including its Social Forestry Programme. Under this landmark programme, 12.7 million hectares of Indonesia’s State Forest, or 10 % of total State Forest land, have been designated for Adat (indigenous) or local community management since 2008. The programme formalizes respect for customary or collective tenure rights and provides funding for sustainable forest management, community-based conservation initiatives and forest and landscape restoration activities, among others.

In essence, the Social Forestry Programme aims to alleviate poverty, halt deforestation and end forestland conflicts by giving local communities the opportunity to manage forests themselves and to develop sustainable livelihoods based in and around them. Speaking from the Kibuk Community Forest in Kota Pagar Alam, South Sumatra, community leader Mr. Rosy says: “Since we got the community forest permit, we have forested the area for orange, coffee and avocado crops. Besides, we have started to develop environmental services such as camping grounds and agroforestry tourism. We are also free to build cooperation and ask for support from the government and other parties.”

Drying the Coffee Beans in a Community Forest in Muara Dua, South Sumatra Province.   (@ HaKI, Muhammad Thohir)


The funding through the GCF results-based payment will help Indonesia realize the full potential of its Social Forestry Programme. Indonesia’s achievement represents a significant milestone by an early partner country to the UN-REDD Programme. Indonesia has received National Programme and technical assistance support from UN-REDD Programme partner agencies since 2010, support that has contributed to Indonesia’s completion of the eligibility requirements to receive REDD+ RBPs.

“Social forestry has secured the life of millions of forest people,” said Aidil Fitri, Executive Director HaKl, a local NGO supporting social forestry. “They had lived in uncertain situations for decades, but now their knowledge, cultures, and forests are recognized by the government. They can generate income while keeping their forest.”