Forests have an important role in the carbon cycle, both as terrestrial carbon storage and as atmospheric carbon absorption. The amount of Carbon Dioxide (CO2) stored in forest ecosystems acts as an important buffer against climate change. Unfortunately, the concentration of atmospheric greenhouse gases increases every year while forests continue to disappear.
The main contributor of global emissions (approximately 65%) is fossil fuel combustion, including oil, natural gas, and coal; for motor vehicles, industrial production, and power generation. Agriculture activities (14%), deforestation (18%), domestic activities and organic waste constitute the remaining global emissions. In Indonesia, despite transportation and energy production, the largest contributors of greenhouse gas emissions are forest fires and deforestation. Uncontrolled forest exploitations such as illegal logging, conversion of natural forest and peatland into oil palm plantations, mining, over-issuance of timber licenses, and forest fires are the leading causes of deforestation in Indonesia (FWI/GFW, 2001).
Though forests naturally absorb carbon, deforestation and forest degradation in Indonesia are rapidly lowering the amount of forest cover available to do so. If current deforestation trends continue, the natural role of Indonesian forests to absorb and store carbon will change from a carbon sink to a major source of greenhouse gases. Local Indonesian NGOs such as Perkumpulan Telapak, Indigenous People Alliance of the Archipelago (AMAN), Network for Forest (JAUH) – Sulawesi Tenggara and Forest Watch Indonesia (FWI), therefore propose Community Logging as a viable solution to stop deforestation.
Community Logging as an Alternative Model of Forest Management
Community Logging, or community-based sustainable harvesting of timber and non-timber forest products, is organized by local customs and traditional ecological knowledge, allowing local communities to benefit from their forests on a continual basis. Essential to Community Logging, ‘koperasi’ (collaborative group decision making) is the primary financial management and control mechanism. The aim of Community Logging is to provide a sustainable alternative to forest resource management in Indonesia while providing for local livelihoods within and around the forest. Koperasi Hutan Jaya Lestari (KHJL) in Konawe Selatan district is a great example of local communities cooperating to manage their forests sustainably. Verified by the Forest Stewardship Council (FCS) via its ecolabel certification (at that time facilitated by JAUH and Tropical Forest Trust), KHJL proves that communities can protect existing forests while still providing for local needs. With assistance from KHJL, the communities of Konawe Selatan gained management control of degraded forest land earmarked for conversion to large scale oil palm plantation. Now the Konawe Selatan communities harvest their own crops and forest products, collectively agreeing which forests to harvest in the future. The model established by KHJL is a promising example of how to address present deforestation issues and could be applied to other regions in Indonesia. In addition to the local community benefits, it will conserve existing forests rather than see their conversion to large-scale monoculture plantation.
Community Logging as A Model of Carbon Sink and Storage
KHJL was established on March 18th, 2003 as part of a Social Forestry Program in Konawe Selatan. This program was facilitated by the Network for Forest (JAUH) – Sulawesi Tenggara, Provincial Forestry Agency (Dinas Kehutanan), River Basin Management Unit (BPDAS) – Sampara, Local Government of Konawe Selatan District, Multistakeholder Forestry Programme and Working Group for Social Forestry. The working area of KHJL, including the communities residences is approximately 720 hectares, and includes the Andolo, Padangga, Lainea and Konda sub-districts. The 2007 KHJL inventory registered a planted area of 413 ha of teak (Tectona grandis), while the remaining area is a mix of teak and mahogany (Swietenia sp.). Long life plants, forest trees and agroforestry are all biomes which greatly exceed plantation crops in carbon absorption and storage. Community Logging areas produce a net decline in CO2 and are therefore referred to as a carbon sink. Mature forests with high biodiversity have the highest levels of carbon storage (ICRAF, 2007). Though Community Logging areas are not mature forests, they nevertheless absorb and store considerably more CO2 than monoculture crop plantations. Based on current standing stocks, the KHJL teak forest is a carbon storage site with high absorption capacity.
We can estimate the carbon storage of Community Logging forests managed by KHJL. Preliminary resutls using secondary data from a KHJL forest inventory captured by 100% census method in the working area of a peoples teak forest (50.1 ha or about 12.13% of total area) shows the amount of carbon stored in the teak standing stock to be 13.7 tons/ha. If future Community Logging is respected as an initiative with an important role to sink and store carbon, this will offer added incentives for community forest management as a form of land use.
Community Logging holds much promise. If local people can unite to manage their forests in an equitable and sustainable manner they will provide for themselves and their children. The environment will also be protected, preserving habitat for many animal and plant species. Lastly, intact forests will continue to store and absorb carbon, helping mitigate greenhouse gas concentrations. The Hutan Tanaman Rakyat (community forest plantation) program is a recent Ministry of Forestry initiative that will allow local communities to be actively involved in forest management. In response to this program, KHJL now proposes to manage an adjacent production forest area of 28,116 ha. Satellite image analysis shows that the actual vegetation is previously logged forest; a former government-run teak plantation (69/70 – 81/82) and a former hutan tanaman swakelola (89/90 – 99/2000). If the government were to issue a license permitting KHJL to manage the forest, it would be a victory for climate change mitigation and local families who call the forest home.