Jul 25
July 25, 2014

Conserving Indonesia’s Forests in 9 Steps


The Katingan Project was created in 2008, as a multi-party collaborative effort to reduce tropical forest degradation in the district of Katingan in the Indonesian part of Borneo. The project is managed by the private sector company PT. Rimba Makmur Utama (RMU), and worked with the Clinton Climate Initiative to develop the carbon-focused project. Below we’ve highlighted 9 steps on how we’ve worked to conserve Indonesia’s forests with our partners. 
1. Understanding the current state of forest resources
Borneo is the third largest island in the world, split between the governance of Malaysia, Brunei, and Indonesia. The Indonesian part, called Kalimantan, comprises the majority of Borneo’s land mass and is home to some of the world’s most expansive and oldest areas of tropical forest. Since the 1950s, these forests have largely been logged for rich timber resources or converted for agricultural use such as palm oil.
2. Identifying key areas for protection
The central Kalimantan district of Katingan still contains large areas of peat swamp forest. In order to convert them into agricultural land, canals are created to lower the water table. The peatlands are then burned to prepare the sites for planting. This process degrades the peatlands, renders them susceptible to further outbreaks of fire and releases significant volumes of carbon dioxide. Protecting these areas from such land use conversion is of vital importance; in 2005, emissions from peatlands amounted to 41% of Indonesia’s total greenhouse gas emissions.
3. Getting international and domestic support
The Katingan Project works within the framework of the UN’s Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Forest Degradation (REDD+) program, which focuses on quantifying carbon stocks while recognizing the need to safeguard local livelihoods and biodiversity. This approach has gained support due to the opportunity to market carbon credits in the future.  The project also takes an inclusive approach to forest conservation that respects the needs and aspirations of forest dependent communities.
4. Assessing the local ecosystem
Conservationists from the NGO OuTrop surveyed the land, and recognised numerous important plant and animal species, such as the globally significant population of the endangered Bornean Orangutan and the critically endangered white-shouldered ibis.
5. Understanding local community livelihoods
The innovative group Photovoices International provided photography training and cameras to thirty villagers to document their daily life. The resulting 15,000 photos local of day-to-day life provided vivid insight into the diversity of local knowledge and helped to inform the villagers’ socio-economic development needs.
6. Developing relationships with local communities
Local partner and sub-grantee NGO Yayasan Puter laid the groundwork for community development plans by initiating community participatory mapping in 25 local villages. These maps will provide common ground for collective decision making, benefits-sharing, and capacity building of local institutions. 
7. Calculating carbon stocks
Forest inventory teams under Starling Resources conducted deeper research into quantifying the amount of carbon stored within biomass contained both above and below ground in the proposed concession area. The large variability of peat swamp composition means that since 2008, peat depth samples have been measured at over 141 sites in total. Continued sampling at these sites will provide evidence of the project’s impact on changes in carbon stocks.
8.  Spreading the word 
In September 2013, Harrison Ford visited The Katingan Project to shoot the ‘Years of Living Dangerously’ documentary series, executive produced by James Cameron. This series helped bring global attention to the challenges of forest conservation and how these forests contribute to the local communities’ livelihoods.
9.  Working on the ground 
In October 2013, PT.RMU’s application for an Ecosystem Restoration Concession was approved by the Minister of Forestry, who granted the rights to 108,255 ha in Katingan for the next 60 years. This approval marked the beginning of the Katingan Project’s engagements with workers on the ground, including partnerships with community firefighter groups. These will be critical for preventing the spread of forest fires in 2014, a particularly dry year in the El Niño climate cycle. A number of low impact alternative livelihood development options are being promoted, including the harvesting and processing of rattan, fabrication of ornamental furniture from small wood residues left over from timber harvesting, and apiculture.
Last week, President Clinton visited Clinton Foundation projects in India, Vietnam, and Indonesia to see how we're impacting individuals and communities firsthand. On Monday, July 21, President Clinton visited a Clinton Climate Initiative project in Borneo, Indonesia, where we've worked to conserve forest, protect biodiversity, and support local communities through carbon credits. Read more stories from President Clinton’s trip.