Some estimates are that Indonesia has lost almost half its original forest cover in the past century. The country’s efforts to address the crisis include encouraging sustainable community-based forestry.

In Probolinggo, in some areas where forests are community owned, farmers work together in a cooperative, KSU Alas Mandari KTI (KAM KTI), which they set up in 2007.

Socialization of nursery

KAM KTI empowers farmers with knowledge to practice sustainable management of their forests. Through its tree nursery, farmers access seeds and seedlings. Farmers plant trees – mainly sengon – for timber, as well as crops, such as grains, fruit, coffee and bamboo.

The co-op sells roundwood – 12,000 cubic metres each year – to the company, PT Kutai Timber Indonesia (PT KTI), on behalf of its members. The company, which manufactures plywood, facilitated the co-op’s establishment as it wished to secure a supply of legal wood from well-managed community forests for its export and domestic markets.

From the start, KAM KTI aimed for the highest global bar, FSC certification. It achieved this in December 2008 for 152.60 hectares, covering 265 members in 10 villages in two districts.

Today, KAM KTI has 1,296 members in 21 villages in three districts (Krucil,Tiris,Maron), covering close to 1,005 hectares of community-owned forests. FSC certification has been extended to 2018.

The cooperative also gained SVLK certification in September 2014. In Indonesian, SVLK stands for the Timber Legality Assurance System, which the government uses to brand legal timber and assure export markets that timber being sold is ethically grown.

“We are very proud that KAM KTI met the 10 basic principles of FSC to obtain certification. It is not easy for forest-based communities to meet these requirements,” KAM KTI advisor Mr H Suhardjono says.

Training - Forest fire evacuation

“For example, given the spread of the communities, monitoring and communication is hard to do. So we divided members into groups, with each group represented regionally by one person,” he says.

“Today, there are 30 groups. This way, we are able to reach all the farmers.” Group members meet regularly with their representatives.

KAM KTI provides training for each group in line with what members ask for. Depending on need, training could be for planting, thinning, plant care, control of pests and plant diseases, crop inventories, harvesting, and composting.

KAM KTI is now helping establish cooperatives in the Sukapura and Lumajang districts, which will also supply logs to the company.

Meeting members of the cooperative

There are always farmers keen to join the cooperative. They see that members get higher prices for timber from FSC-certified forests.

Members therefore have more income than before, and “that can be used for education savings and to improve the welfare of the members”, Mr Suhardjono explains.

Mr H Yusuf, a community leader in Kertosuko, Krucil, agrees. “We have the economic advantage that has come from higher timber prices,” he says.

“And communities benefit from environmental conservation measures, such as the protection of water sources,” Mr Yusuf adds.

Much of the steep land in the co-op areas is prone to landslides. So trees on slopes are cut selectively to keep the soil stable. Between the trees, further stabilization comes from planting grass and small crops for animal feed.

Birds and other wildlife thrive in long-rotation trees, such as jabon, planted on boundaries of plots. These trees are harvested after at least 15 years of growth; sengon is cut every six to seven years.

Naturally, the farmers are motivated to plant more trees, and forest coverage in the co-op areas continues to grow. They are also motivated to continue practising responsible management of their forests.

Also, Mr Suhardjono says, the co-op “involved traditional leaders, religious leaders and community leaders so that preservation of the environment can be maintained in the longer term”.