Indonesia’stropical rain forests — the largest and richest in Asia are in crisis.
Theforests are being destroyed at the alarming rate of over two million hectaresper year — or an equivalent of 300 soccer fields per hour. As the forestsdisappear, so do natural resources as a source of income for about 30 million ofthe poorest Indonesians who live in and around the forests.
Thisdeforestation is also disturbing the habitat for protected species such asorangutans, tigers and rhinos. In Indonesia, fires linked to illegal logging andforest clearing, as well as lost tax revenue, cost the economy billions ofdollars annually. About two-thirds of the deforestation is caused by illegallogging activities.
Increasedawareness on the part of producers, consumers and businesspeople, coupled with astrengthening political will, gives us hope of reversing this destructive trend.
GreeningAsia’s wood markets
The mostimportant markets for exported Indonesian timber are within Asia, especiallyChina and Japan. There is an emerging momentum for change in Asian wood marketsdue to shifts in business practices and government policies.
In NorthAmerica and Europe, markets already favor environmentally friendly forestproducts, though these countries continue to import several hundred milliondollars worth of illegally cut wood from Indonesia each year.
Marketchanges have a major impact on suppliers.
Toincrease competitiveness, forest products companies in Indonesia are makingvoluntary investments to improve forest management.
Practicalsteps can also be taken in Indonesia to combat illegal timber exports. Systemsalready exist to separate legal and illegal wood. Progressive companies in Asiaare using third-party verification of responsible forest management todistinguish good wood from bad. Such systems have been used on a large scale inother parts of the world.
Topromote responsible forest management, an alliance was initiated by the NatureConservancy (TNC) and the World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF), with the support ofthe United States Agency for International Development (USAID).
The goalof this alliance is to bring together business, government and environmentalgroups to combat illegal logging and create market links to promote the use ofwood from well-managed forests, with a focus on Indonesia.
Thereare five main objectives of the alliance. First, create market links to combatillegal logging. The alliance promotes products from well-managed forests andaims to reduce the market for illegally cut wood products in Japan, China andother key Indonesian export markets.
Second,increase the supply of Indonesian wood products from well-managed forests byhelping companies and community enterprises in Indonesia to improve theirforestry practices and achieve certification.
Third,demonstrate practical solutions to differentiate legal and illegal supplies innatural forest concessions in East Kalimantan, smallholder teak plantations inJava and industrial pulpwood plantations in Riau.
Fourth,reduce investment in companies engaged in destructive or illegal logging inIndonesia by promoting the use of investment screening tools; and finally, sharelessons learned from this project.
There isalready strong demand for Indonesian wood products from well-managed forests,but the supply of such products is very limited. The TNC-WWF alliance willassist producers in meeting higher standards through several strategies,including technical assistance to companies and communities in East Kalimantanand Riau to identify and manage forests of high conservation value.
Anothereffort is to develop partnerships with communities in Java to assist in theproduction of certified plantation teak. The alliance is also improvingcommunication between “green” foreign buyers and more responsibleIndonesian suppliers.
Part ofthis approach is sharing information on responsible forestry with producers,markets, governments and NGOs in Indonesia, Malaysia, China and Japan throughthe multilingual website www.forestandtradeasia.org.
Thealliance is now in its second year of work. Despite significant obstacles it ismaking progress. Indonesian forest product companies are seeking help from thealliance to improve forest management, and some have even set aside substantialareas for conservation.
Localcommunities in East Kalimantan, Java and Riau are strongly engaged in efforts toimprove their livelihoods and ensure that they get a greater share of thebenefits from forest management and conservation.
And foreign wood buyersare discovering new opportunities to work with the alliance to help protect rain forests.
Story byMarius Gunawan , Communications Manager, TNC-WWF Alliance