Protecting Forests in a Complex World

4 areas benefit from the SECO Sustainable Landscapes Program Indonesia (SLPI).

October 24, 2023


Protecting intact ecosystems

According to the latest IPCC Climate Change[1] report, “reduced conversion of natural ecosystems” offers a potential to combat global heating second only to changing over to solar power – meaning efforts to protect intact natural ecosystems are recognized even more as essential to the future of the planet. In Indonesia, the Swiss Secretariat for Economic Affairs SECO is supporting four projects in the Kalimantan and Sumatra islands which aim to protect natural ecosystems, improve agricultural production and boost the livelihoods of islanders. 

SECO’s support to SLPI is fully in line with Switzerland’s Foreign Economic Policy Strategy and its longstanding commitment to the promotion of sustainable commodity production. SLPI follows the entry into force of the Comprehensive Economic Partnership Agreement (CEPA) between EFTA States and Indonesia, which includes a provision for preferential treatment of sustainable palm oil exports to Switzerland. 

"The aim of SLPI is to contribute to better stakeholder governance and more sustainable agricultural production in different landscapes. We believe that this will lead to additional income opportunities for the population and more intact natural ecosystems", said Violette Ruppanner, Head of Swiss Economic Development Cooperation (SECO) at the Swiss Embassy in Jakarta. "It is a complex issue, which is why Switzerland supports this type of initiative. The sustainable landscape approach looks at social, environmental and economic concerns in an integrated way, recognising that issues such as deforestation, land rights and sustainable procurement practices are best addressed holistically. This means working across regions and involving key stakeholders, especially local authorities, rather than tackling issues at individual sites or within a single supply chain or commodity sector."

The four projects cover Central and West Kalimantan, led by Kaleka; Riau Province, led by Daemeter; East Kalimantan, led by GIZ; and Aceh province, led by Swisscontact. As the projects get under way, UNDP brought together the leaders of each project to compare the challenges they face and share their hopes for the future. The Sustainable Landscapes Program Indonesia focuses on working with the district governments and the private sector in these areas, building up good governance and sustainable management through inclusive multi-stakeholder collaborative action that will eventually result in reducing rural poverty and greenhouse gas emissions. Applying a landscape approach means concretely bringing together all stakeholders within a given region to work towards common goals for a more sustainable agriculture production, with the potential of driving large-scale, lasting improvement. 

The global significance of Indonesia

Indonesia is not only a global biodiversity hotspot, hosting between 10 and 17 percent of all known plants, mammals, and birds on the planet, but it also faces climate-related challenges. Rare and endangered species such as orangutans, Sumatran tigers, Maleo birds, and Javan rhinoceros contribute to the country's rich biodiversity. At the same time, the expansion of small and large-scale oil palm plantations, if not properly regulated, threatens the ecosystems that support those species, further exacerbating climate issues. As palm oil accounts for 3.5% of the country's GDP and supports 2.6 million smallholder farmers, it is crucial nonetheless, to strike the right balance, emphasizing the importance of sustainable practices for both conservation and climate resilience efforts.

Working with all stakeholders

“If you want to change, change smallholders” said Ade Cayhat, who leads the GIZ project in Kutai Timur District, East Kalimantan. “And it’s not only smallholders, you need to work with the local communities, the supply chain and the district government, which has the authority to govern land use in the region. So we work at two scales, at the district level to create the conditions for the district to transform into a sustainable region, and we work on the ground directly with the producers, protecting nature on one hand but also increasing productivity.”

Working with all commodities

Although palm oil is the dominant commodity crop nationwide – Indonesia is the world’s largest producer – that’s not true for every district. Christina Rini, leading the Swisscontact project in Aceh Singkil, Subulussalam and Aceh Tenggarah districts, pointed out that cocoa is the main commodity in Aceh Tenggarah. “We must produce ideas that work for cocoa as well as palm oil – so it’s a multi-sectoral as well as a multi-stakeholder forum, helping the district government to develop its plan for sustainable land use. The good thing is we’ve had 8 years of working with them on cocoa, so we have a track record.” 

Working with firm foundations

Michael Padmanaba leads the Kaleka project in Seruyan, Kotawaringin Barat, Sukamara and Ketapang  districts in Central and West Kalimantan. For him, it’s important to continue building on what has gone before, a key principle of the SECO program. “Our project is about strengthening and scaling, implementing the principles and criteria for sustainability according to the Roundtable for Sustainable Palm Oil (RSPO). What is new is that we’re working hard to include all stakeholders – in the past the private sector tended to miss out. As with Swisscontact’s work in Aceh, we think about sustainability for other commodities in addition to palm oil, so we want to promote sustainability certification for rubber, cocoa, apricot and timber. The more certified commodities we have, the better we can protect high conservation value land and empower the local community, including indigenous farmers.” Kaleka’s projects cover 6 million hectares including the Centre for Orangutan Conservation.

Working farther and wider

The fourth SLPI area is Riau Province, led by Daemeter’s Jimmy Wilopo. “We are starting with 8 companies in the upstream and downstream parts of the palm oil supply chain, and looking to ‘Scale Up Sustainable Pelawan’. But just working in the supply chain we cannot reach very far or reach very wide, which is why we are also working with other actors outside the supply chain such as the district government. I’m excited by the opportunity to learn from the other 3 projects, we are all trying to make systemic change and a little bit of an alternative perspective from a colleague doing the same work will be valuable”.

For the future, the SECO SLPI leaders look forward to sustainable palm oil being a mainstream choice, not only for consumers but also for investors, governments and producers.

Working to become mainstream

“With this new constellation of partners and a strong private sector connection, we hope that companies will tell their suppliers to engage in sustainability and that this effect will be strengthened by the suppliers of finance” said Ade Cayhat of GIZ. Christina Rini of Swisscontact agrees; “It’s all about creating one vision among all the stakeholders to reach our goal – if landscape financing is firmly in place, the positive impact of our projects will continue even after the formal end date.”     

For Jimmy Wilopo of Daemeter, technology offers a way forward. “We should be able to get instantaneous deforestation alerts – as soon as land clearance is detected, we will know and can protect our natural ecosystems in real time. From that comes increased confidence in sustainable palm oil, and an increased willingness in the market to pay a premium price for it.”

Michael Padmanaba of Kaleka looks to a certified future; “District-level jurisdictional certification will ensure sustainable palm oil because the forest is being valued by everyone, and everyone can share in the value of the forest.”

Working as 4 projects together

The 4 SLPI projects are linked by a support structure provided by UNDP. The UNDP Food and Agricultural Commodity Systems (FACS) team is working to enhance connectivity between different parts of the Indonesian government; link the SLPI projects to the country’s National Action Plan for Sustainable Palm Oil (NAP-SPO); coordinate between SLPI and other programs in Indonesia supported by other funders; and create a Community of Practice for knowledge sharing and learning.

The team has also started a direct capacity-building programme on Effective Collaborative Action for project implementation teams and landscape stakeholders – the SLPI ECA Learning Lab – which is run in Bahasa and English. The first session, of the 5 part series, kicked off in July with over 60 participants from across the four landscapes.  Themes include complexity- from working with power, building trust and inclusion, to systems scale work that includes building practical facilitation tools to apply directly back to the landscape levels. 

According to the latest Global Forest Watch data, Indonesia is already moving in the right direction in reining in deforestation. The SLPI projects aim to add to that momentum, and help create a world where, as GIZ’s Ade Cayhat puts it:

“Because the foundational elements and co-operation mechanisms are there, it will no longer be about a trade-off between economic growth and ecological protection because the realization will be that each contributes to the other, so both go forward together.”