The Forest Scribe

Multi-purpose usage, a likely solution to halt deforestation and forest degradation

Photograph by Jason Houston for USAID

Despite the massive conversion of Indonesia’s forests in the past decades, the economic returns of forests remain low, further encouraging more deforestation but the multi-purpose usage of existing forest concessions may provide a solution, experts said.

For Dodik Ridho Nurrochmad, a professor of the Forestry Faculty of IPB University in Bogor, the multi-purpose usage of forests was the answer to the problem of deforestation and land conversion.

“This an economic argument, actually a solution to social and environmental problems,” Nurrochmad told a webinar on the multi-purpose use of forests held by the Forest Digest Monday (7/9.)

He said that the main root cause of deforestation and forest conversion was because the real economic benefit from forested land was much lower than other usage, such as for plantations, settlements, and agriculture. This low yield was also reflected in the contribution of the forest sector to the country’s Gross Domestic Product, which only stood at around 0.6 percent.

“One of the most effective ways to prevent deforestation, to prevent the conversion of land function, to prevent the conversion of forest land, is by raising the value of forest land so that it can be competitive compared to other uses,” he argued.

He said that the real economic value from a forest land was at Rp 400 per square meter per year. Compare this to rice fields which could yield a value of Rp 1,500 per square meter per year, oil palm plantations at Rp 3,800 per square meter per year, housing at Rp 40,000, and horticulture at Rp 48,000.

The multi-purpose usage of forest is the implementation of a number of operations of management units within a forest concession, a forest business operation, a forest product harvesting permit, a social forestry, and other forms of legally recognized forests. 

The different business operations could bet the usage of forest for activities such as ecotourism or educations, the planting of other crops between the trees of the forests, the harvesting and processing of wood and non-wood products of forests, or the provision of environmental services.

Purwadi Soeprihanto, Executive Director of the Indonesian Forest Entrepreneurs Association (APHI) said that multi-purpose usage of forests will “change the ecosystem and landscape of forest management in Indonesia.”

He said that at the moment, around 99 percent of forestry operation revolved around its timber and wood products.

The multi-purpose usage of forests, Soeprihanto said, was a new forestry business configuration that not only involves timber-based industries but also those dealing with non-wood forestry products, bioprospecting, ecotourism, environmental services, but also biomass and renewable energies.

Nurrochmad said that there were plenty of crops that were also trees that could not only be tall but also could provide a large forest cover. He cited tress like durians, avocado, stinky beans, areca palms as well as highly profitable crops such as coffee, aromatic oil-producing plants and many others.

In Indonesia, forest is defined as a land with an area of over 0.25 hectare that has trees of more than five meters in heights and a canopy coverage of more than 30 percent.

The concept of multi-purpose usage of forest is an effort to optimally make use of forest area while abiding to the principles of sustainability in the social, economic and ecological aspects and maintaining the principal function of the forest remains safeguarded.

Through multi-purpose usage of forest land, Nurrochmad said, “we can protect our forests by raising its economic value and that can also be enjoyed by communities.”

Dharsono Hartono, the CEO of the Katingan-Mentaya Project, currently the world’s largest carbon-based ecosystem restoration project located in Central Kalimantan, said that the company that operates the project had the interest of the local communities in mind and that their participation was crucial to the success of the enterprise.

“We are selling environmental services, but as the license holder, we are committed to conduct our operations together with the communities and the social aspect has become our main paradigm,” Hartono told the same webinar.

He said that by it was only by engaging local communities to help conserve carbon through the planting of various crops of economical values in forested areas without felling trees that forests could be protected and made sustainable.

Soeprihanto said that in the forest multi-usage scheme, the management of forests plots have to assume the greater role of “how to help provide access to forest management to communities through partnership.”

The multi-purpose usage of forest not only allowed an optimizing of the usage of forest resources but also raised accountability and the supervision of forest usage. It also could reduce the potential of conflicts over the usage of forests land because a number of interests could be accommodated in the same land at the same time, Nurrochmad said.

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