How an illegal logger’s switch to a greener job shows a way to save Indonesia’s forests

CENTRAL KALIMANTAN: He started illegally chopping timber when he was 13 or 14, after finishing elementary faculty.

Central Kalimantan native Alianur had to assist his mother and father out, so he accompanied his father on journeys regardless of the chance of getting caught by the forestry police. Treks into the forest took two hours, he recalled.

The lack of schooling pressured him to proceed on this path. When he had a household of his personal, logging missions meant being away from his spouse and kids for a month at a time.

“Sometimes I worked with friends, but sometimes I was alone, and the risk was quite high,” the 40-year-old instructed the programme Insight. “Inside, the forest was really calm. We could only hear the birds chirping.”

Central Kalimantan native Alianur was an illegal logger for most of his adult life.

Central Kalimantan native Alianur was an illegal logger for many of his grownup life.

Alianur, who goes by one title, might lower 50 items of wooden in a day, with every tree yielding two to three items about 4 metres in size. He mentioned he might promote about eight cubic metres of wooden a month to timber firms, incomes eight million rupiah (S$740).

Three years in the past, he determined to switch to making coconut sugar.

He acquired coaching by a firm known as Rimba Makmur Utama, which manages about 157,000 hectares of land together with peat forests in Central Kalimantan. That is greater than twice the scale of Singapore.

And the corporate has adopted a local weather finance mannequin that might play an vital function in saving Indonesia’s, and the world’s forests.


Forests are the “strongest defence against climate change”, mentioned Kiki Taufik, international head of advocacy group Greenpeace Southeast Asia’s forest marketing campaign.

But between 2001 and 2019, Indonesia misplaced 9.6 million hectares of forests, in accordance to information from the Ministry of Environment and Forestry. About 56 per cent of it occurred in pulp and paper, palm oil and logging concessions, he mentioned.

The nation is now dropping about 0.4 million hectares of forests a yr, famous scientist Herry Purnomo of the Centre for International Forestry Research.

Rimba Makmur Utama, nonetheless, protects and restores the peat forests inside its Ecosystem Restoration Concession granted by the federal government — in a venture known as Katingan Mentaya, named after two rivers that stream there.

Indonesia's natural forest cover was about 113 million ha in 1990, and about 88 million ha in 2019.

Indonesia’s pure forest cowl was about 113 million ha in 1990, and about 88 million ha in 2019.

Peatlands are made up of partially decomposed plant matter and retailer giant quantities of carbon, which is launched into the environment if the land is drained or burned.

Peat fires have brought about a few of Southeast Asia’s worst haze episodes, together with one in 2015 estimated to have brought about over 100,000 untimely deaths in Singapore, Malaysia and Indonesia and US$16 billion (S$21.5 billion) in financial losses in Indonesia alone.

READ: Little smoke this haze season — but fires rage on in Indonesia

Rimba Makmur Utama additionally protects the habitats of species such because the Bornean orangutan and creates sustainable employment for native residents like Alianur.

“We can provide better livelihoods for them, better education, better health,” mentioned chief govt Dharsono Hartono, who co-founded the corporate in 2007.

In doing so, it has averted over 30 million tonnes in carbon emissions.

Peatlands emit large amounts of carbon when drained or burned.

Peatlands emit giant quantities of carbon when drained or burned.

Its local weather finance scheme sees firms equivalent to automaker Volkswagen and vitality big Shell shopping for carbon credit or offsets as a part of their local weather commitments. Each credit score is equal to a tonne of carbon dioxide, and the cash funds Katingan Mentaya’s initiatives.

In normal, forest carbon credit value between US$5 and US$10 every.

Although 2020 was dominated by the COVID-19 pandemic, Dharsono mentioned it was a good yr as purchasers continued to purchase credit, licensed by third events.

“More and more, customers understand the value of protecting nature,” he mentioned. “Of course, we still have a long way to go.”

Dharsono Hartono is the CEO of Rimba Makmur Utama, which manages the Katingan Mentaya project.

Mr Dharsono Hartono is chief govt of Rimba Makmur Utama.

Katingan Mentaya is a part of REDD+ (Reducing emissions from deforestation and forest degradation), a mechanism developed beneath the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change that incentivises forest conservation by creating a monetary worth for the carbon saved.


Ruandha Agung Sugardiman, the Ministry of Environment and Forestry’s director normal of local weather change, mentioned Indonesia goals to additional scale back its annual price of deforestation to 250,000 hectares by 2030.

“This is an extraordinary effort, especially on the part of law enforcement. Our main emphasis is on forest and land fires,” he mentioned.

Spatial know-how has made it simpler to establish areas which were illegally logged.

“Based on satellite images, we’d send our team and conduct an investigation on the ground. We’d know the size of the areas affected by illegal logging, the amount of wood and we can immediately calculate the damage,” he mentioned.

“Big companies won’t be able to escape because of the extremely heavy sanctions. It could be administrative sanctions or criminal sanctions.”

Peat and plantation fires have caused record levels of haze in the region in recent years.

Peat and plantation fires have brought about report ranges of haze within the area in recent times.

Indonesia additionally goals to rehabilitate 12 million hectares of degraded land by 2030 utilizing funds from its state price range and worldwide supporters, mentioned Ruandha. In addition, it goals to restore two million hectares of peatland by 2030.

Environmentalists mentioned the authorities are not off course, however challenges equivalent to transparency in land permits, enforcement and enterprise pursuits persist.

The Omnibus Law handed final yr goals to create jobs, however will weaken environmental safety, mentioned Greenpeace’s Kiki. The constructing of the Trans-Papua Highway in Indonesia’s easternmost area threatens the Papuan forests, Indonesia’s “last forest frontier”, he added.

READ: Indonesia’s jobs law endangers environment, say activists and investors

The lack of transparency and public entry to Indonesia’s land concession maps additionally make it tough to know the place precisely numerous concessions lie — coal mining or oil palm, for example — the place they overlap and the place neighborhood areas are, he cited.

WATCH: Indonesia’s vanishing forests — too little, too late for Asia’s largest rainforest? (48:50)

In the meantime, tasks equivalent to Katingan Mentaya are making a distinction.

Citrus farmer Aliansyah, 55, used to clear land utilizing the slash-and-burn method, however stopped 5 years in the past after he acquired coaching in various land-clearing strategies.

“If you clear the land by burning it, the plants can only grow once. If we do it organically, the trees would grow well,” he mentioned. “I support that approach.”

These days, Alianur will get to spend extra time together with his household in Sampit district and not has to fear about getting caught by the police.

In his former life, he was nabbed twice and mentioned he had to pay bribes of round 500,000 rupiah every time to keep away from jail.

Once an illegal logger, Alianur no longer has to fear getting caught by the forestry police.

Once an illegal logger, Alianur not has to worry getting caught by the forestry police.

Amid the pandemic, he can earn round 4 million rupiah a month — demand for coconut sugar, produced in Katingan Mentaya’s buffer zone and utilized in cooking and baking, has held up.

“If forests vanish, maybe people in Kalimantan will vanish too,” he mentioned.

Watch this episode of Insight here. The programme airs on Thursdays at 9pm.


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