Licences for the restoration of ecosystems in Indonesia

Two men standing on a tree trunk that lies above a forest river

Picture: RSPB

A significant proportion of the world’s remaining tropical forests can be found in Indonesia. Although they are considered to be a globally important carbon store and habitat, two thirds of the area is classified as production forest. On the islands of Sumatra and Borneo, in particular, huge swathes of forest disappear every day as a result of logging, fires or conversion to palm oil plantations. According to estimates from the Indonesian Government, if this pattern of use continues, about 14 million hectares of forest could be destroyed or suffer lasting damage within the next 20 years. This would lead to the emission of 2.8 billion tonnes of CO2. Furthermore, numerous endemic species of flora and fauna, such as the endangered Sumatran tiger, are losing their habitat.

In 2004, the Indonesian Government laid the foundation for protecting the forests: in addition to conventional forest concessions, it then became possible to grant new types of licences known as ecosystem restoration licences. The holders of these licences are required to conserve and restore the forest ecosystem. Since 2007, private organisations have been able to acquire licences for areas of forest that were used for commercial logging in the past. 

Rainforest reforestation and sustainable use

Through the acquisition of the licences, the KfW Entwicklungsbank project, supported by funds from the International Climate Initiative (ICI), contributes to the preservation of the Harapan Rainforest. This is a forest area of around 100,000 hectares on the Indonesian island of Sumatra. The project partners are the Nature and Biodiversity Conservation Union (NABU) from Germany, the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds (RSPB) from the United Kingdom, BirdLife International and Burung Indonesia. They jointly established the non-profit foundation Yayasan KEHI, which manages the concession area in the Harapan Rainforest. The project partners establish tree nurseries, restore tracts of forest and support sustainable management of the concession areas. In 2011, 1.7 million seedlings were planted at four community nurseries and an area of over 500 hectares was reforested. To combat forest fires and illegal tree felling, the project has monitoring systems in place, such as early warning systems and patrols. It works closely with the local population living within the territory of the concession and in its immediate vicinity. In consultation with the residents, the project creates new sources of income through reforestation work, the use of non-timber products, sustainable agriculture in the buffer zone and ecotourism. Together with the local authorities, Yayasan KEHI engages in an ongoing dialogue with new settlers to keep them informed of the current geographical boundaries and to enter into agreements on sustainable use of the forest. Tree-planting campaigns, photography prizes and environmental competitions involving local schools and youth organisations raise awareness of forest conservation among young people. The project also supports the government's efforts to build its capacity to reduce emissions from deforestation and forest degradation (REDD+) and restore ecosystems.

The Harapan Rainforest project is the first one to apply the country’s new licence law. Within 30 years, sustainable management of the Harapan Rainforest will enable roughly 10 to 15 million tonnes of CO2 to be stored. The project is also having a much wider impact in Indonesia as a model project for successful rainforest protection, climate change mitigation and biodiversity conservation: applications for a further 41 licences for ecosystem restoration have now been submitted to the Ministry of Forestry.