May 17, 2018

Social forestry viewed as APP strategy for expansion

(foresthints.news) - A key member of the peat monitoring team from the Indonesian Environment and Forestry Ministry, Professor San Afri Awang, has criticized Asia Pulp and Paper (APP) for neglecting its obligations by not prioritizing the acceleration of an agroforestry program and creating new rice fields in the first year of the implementation of its forestry partnership with the community in the village of Riding in South Sumatra’s OKI regency.

Awang expressed his deep regret that APP has instead prioritized the expansion of its acacia plantations by draining the peat ecosystem in the forestry partnership’s site, an area that includes a peat protection zone and targeted peat restoration areas.

“APP has exploited this community-based forestry partnership as part of its new strategy for its new acacia expansion,” he told foresthints.news  (May 8) at the ministry building.

The following photographic evidence, taken during a ground-check by the foresthints.news team in early May this year, shows examples of new canal development in the forestry partnership’s site which lies within the peat ecosystem in part of PT BMH’s concession. PT BMH is the specific APP-controlled company implicated in the peat violations.

APP’s response

As previously reported by foresthints.news (May 15), the key findings of its ground inspection indicated that APP’s priority in this case is to extend its new acacia plantations in the local peat ecosystem, as opposed to nurturing its partnership with the community of Riding village.

In a written response (May 16) to foresthints.news concerning the news report, APP emphasized that it requires two days to investigate and look into the matter, particularly as it relates to its Forest Conservation Policy

“We will give a full response this Friday (May 18),” wrote Elim Sritaba, APP’s Sustainability and Stakeholder Engagement Director.

Manipulative partnership 

Professor Awang, meanwhile, explained that the APP-community forestry partnership should have yielded some good lessons learned or best practices, which would have been valuable to share, from its first year of implementation.

On the contrary, he bemoaned the results as unsatisfactory. “The only thing achieved at this point are extremely disappointing lessons learned.”

The photos below depict the new acacia plantations in the forestry partnership’s location which, according to Awang, are the result of APP’s strategy of focusing only on its own business interests by prioritizing new acacia expansion, rather than building and strengthening the social forestry program on the ground level.

Professor Awang stressed that best practices in the implementation of community forestry partnerships are essential at present as these partnerships constitute one of President Joko Widodo’s priority programs.

Nevertheless, he asked that community forestry partnerships not be adopted by other pulpwood companies in the same way as the APP forestry partnership as this has merely led to the continuing destruction of the peat ecosystem, while local community interests and rights have largely been ignored.  

“When we see that the implementation of a social forestry program by a giant of APP’s stature has only delivered such weak lessons learned, this of course sends a bad signal to other potential social forestry programs,” he lamented.

There is no other choice for APP, Professor Awang pointed out, but to expedite the delivery of best practices from its one-year old social forestry program by immediately starting to prioritize agroforestry and the establishment of new rice fields in the community-based forestry partnership site.