text size: smaller reset larger



Investing in environmental services

Serious increases in erosion have occured on the Indonesian island of Sumatra (© Meine van Noordwijk)
Serious increases in erosion have occured on the Indonesian island of Sumatra
© Meine van Noordwijk

In the 1990s, thousands of coffee farmers on the Indonesian island of Sumatra were evicted from their land, blamed for serious increases in erosion through conversion of forest to coffee. However, in 2004 research by the World Agroforestry Centre (ICRAF) revealed that coffee farms not only provided a vital livelihood, but also controlled erosion in a way similar to that of the natural forest. In response, ICRAF's RUPES* programme has been working with local stakeholders in Sumatra's Sumberjaya forest area on projects that reward smallscale farmers for providing environmental services.

Community forestry programme

In 2004, RUPES began to help local communities access the Indonesian Government's Community Forestry Program (HKm), enabling them to gain conditional tenure agreements for community-based forest management. "HKm represents a major success for farmers who are no longer at risk of eviction," says Rachman Pasha from RUPES Indonesia. In exchange for secure land tenure and the right to cultivate protected forest areas, farmers promise to conserve existing patches of natural forest and to adopt environmentally friendly farming activities, such as planting and maintaining 400 trees per hectare and soil conservation activities, including terracing and ridging. So far, the HKm programme has involved nearly 6,400 farmers and covered 13,000 hectares, around 70 per cent of Sumberjaya's protected forest.

Ridging and grass strips were built to reduce surface run-off (© Rachman Pasha)
Ridging and grass strips were built to reduce surface run-off
© Rachman Pasha

A recent study carried out by researchers from RUPES, Michigan State University and the International Food Policy Research Institute found that HKm had made a significant impact. In addition to increasing land tenure security and doubling the value of land, agroforestry and soil and water conservation had been promoted, tenure rights had been increased, and a reduction in bribes had increased farmers' incomes. "We are very happy with this scheme since it gave us a legal certainty in managing our land as well as providing us with additional income from the fruit trees," enthuses Eddy Purwanto, one HKm group member.

River care

To help alleviate poverty and protect the natural environment, RUPES has also implemented a Rewards for Environmental Services (RES) scheme in the Way Besai watershed, which supplies a hydroelectric dam. The threat to hydroelectric power production from increased soil erosion and sedimentation was a key factor in prompting evictions in the 1990s, with farmer activities blamed. Whatever the causes, Rachman Pasha acknowledges the role farmers can play in preventing the problem, thereby saving the electricity company significant desiltation costs. "Way Besai hydroelectric company (PLTA) would need up to US$1 million a year to clean sediment from their reservoir," he explains. "This is a huge amount of money that would not be necessary if they can keep sediment from reaching their reservoir in the first place."

Called River Care, the scheme has helped to build direct links between coffee farmers in Buluh Kapur village and the power company. During the programme, the villagers worked with RUPES to learn principles related to water conservation, including ways to reduce sediment in the river. For example, check dams were constructed and maintained, and drainage along pathways and terraces were built. RUPES also helped with the technical sediment monitoring and calculation.

ICRAF scientists analyse sediment concentration and monitor the watershed (© Rachman Pasha)
ICRAF scientists analyse sediment concentration and monitor the watershed
© Rachman Pasha

By acting as an intermediary between the coffee farmers and the national electrical power company, ICRAF negotiated a reward structure whereby the River Care group was given a micro-hydropower unit, worth US$2,000 for a silt reduction of 30 per cent or more, US$750 for 20 to 30 per cent reduction, US$500 for 10 to 20 per cent reduction and US$250 for less than ten per cent reduction. Overall, the River Care group achieved a reduction of sediment of 20 per cent.

Due to the success of this pilot scheme, ICRAF has replicated River Care in another village and soon the government's HKm programme will assume ICRAF's intermediary functions. "This new phase will also involve a university taking over ICRAF's role in analysing sediment concentration and monitoring the watershed," Pasha notes. "By encouraging local stakeholders to share roles and responsibilities among themselves, we expect that the second phase will lead to even further expansion and hence to better conservation of precious water resources and improved lives for poor farmers."

Sharing lessons

In collaboration with national NGOs, government institutions and the national RES network, RUPES has encouraged the government to integrate RES into policies and regulations at a national level. Recently, RUPES supported the Ministry of Forestry in the development of draft regulations on the utilisation of environmental services from natural reserves and nature conservation areas. The team is also developing guidelines for RES implementation. "Lessons learned from a local level have been formulated to contribute to the development and improvement of the government's policy framework for RES," Pasha explains.

In addition to sharing lessons learnt with Care International, WWF and the UN, RUPES has also been passing on its knowledge to ICRAF's Pro-poor Rewards for Environmental Services in Africa (PRESA) programme. With Care Tanzania and WWF, PRESA is piloting payments for watershed services, paying 200 farmers US$0.20 per year for each surviving tree seedling that the project has planted. While in Uganda, in partnership with Ecotrust Uganda, 17 farmers are receiving carbon payments for maintaining trees in the River Mubuku watershed.

In Uganda farmers are receiving carbon payments for maintaining trees (© Vanessa Meadu)
In Uganda farmers are receiving carbon payments for maintaining trees
© Vanessa Meadu

"Rewarding communities for environmental services can have positive effects on the environment," explains Godfrey Mwaloma, communications assistant for PRESA. "However, there is still some way to go before RES become widely operational. In Africa, for example, despite significant willingness among communities and the private sector to participate in reward schemes, state agencies and state-owned corporations remain reluctant to get involved. "Researchers and environmentalists need to lobby for the recognition and inclusion of reward schemes into national, and perhaps regional, environmental policies," Mwaloma concludes. "This is likely to spur interest in both public and private sectors, leading to greater involvement - and more funding for rural communities."

* Rewards for Use of and Shared Investment in Pro-poor Environmental Services

Date published: January 2012


Have your say

The difference is limited by complexity and self sustaining ... (posted by: RAVINDER RAJU AMBATI)


The New Agriculturist is a WRENmedia production.

This website uses cookies to improve your experience. By continuing to browse the site you are agreeing to our use of cookies.
Read more