A unique collaboration between many stakeholders, including timber company, NGOs, academics, research institutions and local administration in South Sumatra’s Musi Banyuasin district is empowering local communities by providing them the opportunity and the capability to earn revenues by providing tree seedlings for a peatland restoration program there.
The collaboration, that involves the South Sumatra Peat Restoration Team, Research and Development Center of Socio-Economic Policies and Climate Change (P3SEKPI) of the Ministry of Environment and Forestry, The Sustainable Trade Initiative (IDH), the Gadjah Mada University and Asia Pulp & Paper (APP) Sinar Mas, was formed as part of efforts to restore peat forests in Musi Banyuasin following the forest and ground fires there in August of 2020.
A total of 12,087 hectares of peatland located in the concession areas of partners supplying APP Sinar Mas — PT Bumi Persada Permai, PT Tripupa Jaya, PT. Rimba Hutani Mas, dan PT Sumber Hijau Permai — are restored under the collaboration, a written statement released by APP Sinar Mas. Under the restoration program the peatland would be replanted with tree seedlings purchased from local communities.
APP Sinar Mas Chief Sustainability Officer Elim Sritaba, said that the program was involving communities in Musi Banyuasin to contribute in restoring peatland, while also helping to create employment and increase the revenue of communities surrounding the concessions.
“For the supply of seedlings needed for the restoration, APP Sinar Mas is working together with our supply partners to involve surrounding village communities in becoming part of suppliers of seedlings of natural forest tree species,” Sritaba said.
Sritaba said that the aim of the program was to contribute to the protection of High Conservation Value (HCV)- High Carbon Stock (HCS) areas covering 51,193 hectares while also supporting efforts to protect the Berbak Sembilang National Part from illegal activities and forest fires.
To implement the peat restoration program that is also aimed at improving the welfare of local communities and which needed intensive assistance, all participating stakeholders agreed to work with the Gerakan Cinta Desa G-Cinde) Association.
G-Cinde Chairman Eko Waskito, said that in villages bordering industrial timber estates (HTI) there was a need to encourage an agroforestry-based economic development initiative that was integrated at the landscape scale. G-Cinde has opted to use the Integrated Development of Economic Agroforestry Landscape (IDEAL) program for this initiative.
Under the IDEAL program, the communities are provided with trainings to identified forest plants, how to move seedlings from nature to the location of the nursery and how to care and grow them. The seedlings are of specific tree species that could be planted in peat soil.
The program that was started in August 2020 began with the establishment of a Restoration Concerned Society (MPR) which has a membership of 30 residents of the Pancuran hamlet of Muara Merang Village in Musi Banyuasi, eleven of them women. The program also formed a Women Farmer Group (KWT).
Waskito said that the program featured a combination of science and local wisdom that had never practiced elsewhere. He said that for the initial phase, the seedlings to be prepared by the local communities for the peat restoration program included species such as Fragrea sp, locally known as Tembesu Angin, Alstonia angustifolia, Dacryodes rostrata and Combretocarpus rotundatus.
“In peatland, not any seedling can be planted. So, we started the process in August 2020 and by November 2020 we have already sold 1,200 seedlings of Tembesu Angin for the area in the concession fo PT Tripupa Jaya. All the proceed from the sales of the seedlings was for the community. There is also a new contract for the provision of 1,400 Tembesu Angin seedlings for February-March 2021,” Waskito said.
He said that G-Cinde will encourage the establishment of a Village-owned business, in line with the spirit of Law Number 6 of 2014 on Villages to manage the seedling business as well as compost produced by the community.
P3SEKPI Researcher who also heads the Environment and Forestry Management Research Group, Yanto Rochmayanto, said that the restoration of peatland was not only focused to the restoration of the ecosystem to its initial state but should also take into account socio-economic considerations.
Peatland restoration must also take into account the vegetation cover and how damaged the land was. He said there were four strategies that could be taken to restore peatland — replanting, enrichment, natural succession and natural succession support.
“Each have their own criteria. If the number of young seedling there were over 600 trees per hectare, the approach should be a natural succession. If there were between 400 and 600 trees per hectare, then patrols should be conducted, fire buffers build and other efforts taken. If they were below 200 trees per hectare, there must be enrichment efforts conducted,” he said.
The peat restoration program conducted by the multi-stakeholder collaboration, he said, would be for three years, a period which he added was actually too short for restoration. To return a forest ecosystem to its initial state needed decades and its climax could reach 100 to 200 years but short-term efforts were also necessary to be conducted.
“The first three years can be seen as the critical period, the period between the third and fifth year is the period for the growth of the initial planted trees. If extra and participative efforts are taken, involving communities, then the risk of the seedlings to die can be lowered,” he said.
IDH Executive Chairman and CEO Fitrian Ardiansyah said that peatland, forest and land restoration were the core of sustainability efforts and a pro-climate management. “It is really important to continue to conduct these efforts in a measured way and through inclusive business practices and capital investment, and by involving various stakeholders to prevent illegal logging and other illegal activities in and around peat land and forests,” he said.
Ardiansyah also said that IDH understood that APP shared the same values. This, he said, was important for IDH for the business sector to show commitment in attaining a sustainable development. “We hope that the existing collaboration and also those planned for the future, can continue to be enhanced and become a practical model for good forest management for the regions of South Sumatra, West Kalimantan and other areas,” he said.
Peatland in Indonesia stored around 57 gigatons of carbon, or 20 times more compared to low land tropical forests on mineral soil. In South Sumatra, peatland cover some 1.25 million hectares, spread in 12 district/municipalities including more than 250,000 hectares in Musi Banyuasin
Covering three to five percent of the surface of the earth, peatland sequesters more than 30 percent of the carbon stock in the soil across the world.