We've just returned to Portland from a two-week visit to our project site in Jepara and Kunir. I was very gratifyint to see the progress the residents of Kunir have made over the past 4 years! Along on the visit were Tim O'Brien, project co-lead with me, Agni Pratama, an economic development expert from Mercy Corps (a global relief and development NGO) and Gabe Wynn from Green Empowerment ( a Portland-based NGO that develops renewable energy systems for villages), along with two members of the Jepara Forest Conservancy board of directors, Adi Sunaryo and Agus Rofiqkoh. We were welcomed, as always, by Pak Sumani the now retired village head. It was great to see him doing well after a period of illness. Here are some highlights of our trip (see the corresponding photos below):
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In March, Tim O’Brien, the founder of Tropical Salvage and a facilitator for the Jepara Forest Conservancy, visited Jepara and the JFC forest restoration site on Mount Muria. JFC leaders, Sabtono and Paisan, are currently focused on coordinating two projects. One is creating a native plant and tree nursery in their village, Kunir, which is located near the JFC restoration site. Previously, they acquired tree seedlings to reforest the restoration site from a nursery controlled by Perum Perhutani, the government forestry company that administrates most of the forest land in Java. The majority of seedlings at the government nursery are not native species. They are mainly “productive species” such as sengon and acacia, which are favored for their applications in the pulp and paper industries, or rubber and durian seedlings. In other words, the government nursery provides capacity to create mono-crop plantations that depend on and assist in fueling commodity agricultural markets. Using land to preserve or restore a traditional ecological profile is not a common practice in Java, the world’s most populous island. The Jepara Forest Conservancy believes an adjustment to this perspective on land use is vital to enable a future for the local community that offers food security, cultural integrity and routine access to clean water. JFC seeks to establish a forest garden, or “analog forest” whose biodiversity will provide traditional foods and medicines to local communities, as well as provide micro-habitats for various native fauna. The forest will also protect the watershed, stabilize soil on Mount Muria’s steep slopes and store carbon. The forest’s understory can include a range of productive species to sell in local and export markets such as spices, coffee, bamboo and fruits.
The JFC’s other current focus is choosing from its herd of etawa goats individuals to sell at a goat market that will occur in April. Over two and a half years the herd has grown from thirty-one to sixty-four. Kunir residents who undertook to participate in raising goats will begin in April to realize a return on their investment of time and labor.
The Jepara Forest Conservancy’s founding work – its original inspiration and efforts at organizing participants and forming goals – was provided by a handful of community members in Jepara who identified a strong need to improve environmental conditions on the Mount Muria peninsula. None of them had previous experience engaging communities to create forest conservation and restoration plans. They applied the initiative to learn from trial and error and to engage organizations and people who might offer appropriate expertise in a collaborative way toward realizing JFC’s vision.
Agus Rofiqkoh is both a principal member of Jepara Forest Conservancy’s founding team and a current member of its Board of Directors. At nearly every turn during JFC’s history and growth, Agus has been a critically important contributor, both initiating some ideas and facilitating implementation of nearly all of them. Agus Rofiqkoh is an example of what can happen when people grow and envision beyond models of “business as usual” that too often fail to protect natural environments and social contracts. Agus understands that success in implementing environmental restoration strategies and raising social empowerment is integrally dependent on creating strong sustainable businesses. Agus has become an environmental and social activist and spokesperson in Central Java Province. The core theme of his vision to improve social and environmental integrity is: market-oriented solutions.
Agus was born in Semarang, Central Java in 1968. He is the second eldest in a family of eight children. At age thirteen he was forced to drop out of school, both because his family could not afford tuition and because he had to find work to contribute to his family’s aggregate income. At age fourteen, Agus began to work on a passenger bus that traveled between Semarang, Java and Medan, Sumatra. During the eight years he worked for the bus company, he observed Sumatra’s vast primary forests become exploited by international lumber and mining concerns who regard Indonesia’s natural capital as a narrow set of commodity streams rather than a tapestry of intricately interconnected ecosystems and cultures. The business models brought little benefit to local populations: they displaced many people to urban slums and marginalized their native cultures. Ecosystems that had existed since time immemorial, providing bounty for many communities and for countless generations, were destroyed over a few decades. From the early years of Agus’ experience working on busses, he recalls encountering quite a lot of wild life along forest-lined Sumatran roads. He remembers meeting wild boars, elephants, various apes and monkeys and, once, a leopard. Toward the end of his time working with the bus company, some of the forested stretches had been transformed to wastelands dotted with stumps, as far as his eyes could see.
Beginning in 1992, Agus determined to learn wood furniture production. In 1998 he partnered with a Singaporean concern that operated furniture showrooms in Malaysia, Singapore and Hong Kong. Agus believes the significant wealth that was available to many in the teak furniture industry between 1997 and 2002 was precisely related to the devaluation of the resource that occurred when Suharto lost power in 1997. Indonesia grew chaotic during the years immediately following Suharto’s rule. The nation-wide theft of Indonesia’s state-owned teak plantations was one expression of the chaos. Wood deriving from one-hundred and fifty year old teak trees – a historically high-value material – was commonly sold for a fraction of its value. Teak furniture from Indonesia, priced ridiculously cheap, flooded the developed world’s markets.
Agus grew wealthy during the boom, paying college tuition for two of his younger siblings, and lost nearly everything during the bust, when theft and gross mismanagement finally exhausted Indonesia’s mature teak stocks. Agus learned from the experience that, in the future, he would only do business that fairly served its employees and circumspectly respected natural environments. Today, Agus is the Director of Indonesian Operations for Tropical Salvage. Tropical Salvage’s mission is to work in Indonesia’s rural communities to create good, steady, eco-positive jobs building well-crafted, aesthetically distinctive, value-competitive, salvage-wood products; to assist in implementing conservation, forest restoration and environmental education projects to protect the world's remaining primary tropical forests; and to advocate for best responsible social and environmental practices throughout the business world. Agus’ work with the Jepara Forest Conservancy is not compensated with money but it is rewarded enormously with inspiration and satisfaction.
Today, Agus lives in Jepara with his wife, Heni, and his two daughters Meri, aged ten, and Feni, aged one. Agus’ son, Luki, aged twenty, attends law school at the University of Semarang.
In Februry, 2010, the Institute For Culture and Ecology enlisted Dr. Iwan Tjitradjaja, chair of the anthropology department at the University of Indonesia, to conduct a social-cultural survey among the people who live in Kunir, a village located at the edge of the Jepara Forest Conservancy forest restoration project whose community the project is designed to directly benefit. The survey was structured to learn the community’s traditional practices and current needs and aspirations so that projects initiated by the Jepara Forest Conservancy might smoothly and efficiently engage and integrate with the community. Since the survey was initiated, Dr. Tjitradjaja has visited the JFC site several times and a colleague, Kartika Pamungkas (Tika), has spent nearly a month living in Kunir, getting to know its people and observing their routines. Through the survey, which is on-going, Dr. Tjitradjaja and Tika have learned a great deal about Kunir. They learned that a strong tradition of practicing gamelan music existed until recently, when challenging economic pressures forced most of the people who owned gamelan instruments to sell them. Traditions of Wayang kulit (shadow puppet) performances and studying and practicing pensilat (an Indonesian martial art) were strong until recent years – perhaps losing favor among a younger generation whose attention is increasingly drawn to the ever-multiplying attractions and distractions of a wired world.
Additionally, Dr. Tjitradjaja and Tika have learned many details about how the community’s historically abundant forest resources became degraded. For generations, surrounding primary forests provided the community with important sustainable food and medicinal products, as well as sustainable raw materials for construction and fabrication purposes. Also importantly, for generations the forest’s biological diversity offered a rich tableau of experiences that nourished strong cultural identification. When former president Suharto lost power in 1998, many communities reacted to his thirty-two year iron-fisted reign with anarchic autonomy. One expression of this country-wide, social-economic convulsion was a sharp surge in theft of Indonesia’s mature forests to sell their wood, below established market values, for fast cash. Forests that were protected by legal mandate went up for grabs. Much of Mount Muria’s forestlands, including the area where the JFC site is located, were targets of this misguided exploitation.
Today, then, the need among Mount Muria’s communities, and the guiding theme of the Jepara Forest Conservancy’s work, is market-oriented restoration, or restoration development.
Dr. Tjitradjaja’s and Tika’s work has proved extremely important in clarifying and strengthening communication between the Jepara Forest Conservancy, the site community and Perum Perhutani, the state-owned forestry company of Indonesia. They have clearly communicated to the site community and Perum Perhutani details of on-going and planned JFC restoration development projects. As Perum Perhutani is a critically important partner in the project's development, Dr. T and Tika have opened the door widely to cooperation. JFC’s success will be Perum Perhutani’s success - adding positively to PP’s reputation and establishing sustainable, ecologically-viable tax revenue streams.
Dr Tjitradjaja’s and Tika’s work has also been very effective in emphasizing to people living in Kunir that they are the paramount stakeholder in all JFC work, that their needs and aspirations are a principal driver and navigator in shaping JFC projects.
Dr. Tjitradjaja and Tika have observed broad-based support and enthusiasm in the site community for the Jepara Forest Conservancy, as well as broad-based need for its projects. In fact, their survey work assesses it is very appropriate to expand the restoration project boundaries from 36 hectares to 700 hectares in order for the broader Mount Muria community to participate in and benefit from restoration development projects. Furthermore, expansion of forest restoration boundaries will allow the establishment of a Heritage Species Forest Park that is large enough to benefit from a set of government support mechanisms and funding streams accorded to Indonesian forest conservation and restoration sites whose size exceeds 200 hectares. JFC’s current site of 36 hectares is part of a larger 700 hectare area of officially recognized “Protected Forest.” The legal Protected Forest status of the land has not been rigorously supported and today government does not possess the financial capacity to restore the land. The logic of expanding the JFC site to 700 hectares derives from this circumstance and, also, from a belief that the way forward to restorative, sustainable and productive land-use is a collaborative one that combines the needs of a community with administrative support and policy guidance of government, scientific expertise sourced from academia, seed-funding from NGOs and market networks availed by business. In collaboration, then, Dr. Tjitradjaja, Dr. Greg Hill, Dr. Eric Jones and Tim O’Brien are in the process of creating a document that proposes this expansion. Dr. Tjitradjaja will present the proposal to the Director of the Indonesian Department of Forests.
Current Status of On-going Jepara Forest Conservancy projects.
1) JFC will continue planting trees at the end of November, the beginning of Central Java’s rainy season. Plantings will coordinate with a map of the Heritage Species Forest Park. They will emphasize tree species native to Central Java, some of which yield products for traditional local use. Dr. Tjitradjaja suggested that the local school might participate in a heritage species seed-collection contest sponsored by JFC.
2) Kunir’s herd of etawah goats has increased, through successful breeding, to 52 – from an original herd of 32. (Two goats have died.) Their diet consists of leaves and grasses that grow naturally and are plentiful around the village. Agus Rofiqkoh, a JFC founder and administrator, has contracted two specialists in breeding and managing etawah goats, Pak Abdulah Piadi and Pak Mialah, to assist and advise goat-owners living in Kunir. Pak Dul and Pak Mialah visit Kunir once a month. Their work includes demonstrations on how to milk etawah goats and how to safely use and store their milk. Pak Agus projects that Kunir goat-owners will begin milking their herd in March or April, 2011. Presently, the price of etawah goat milk fetches a price in the marketplace nearly three times higher than the price of cow’s milk. JFC envisions increasing the goat herd, involving other villages in the project, and establishing a milk collection depot and cheese production facility.
3) Dr. Tjitradjaja and Tika continue their work surveying Kunir’s social and cultural profiles and providing a clear voice to the community for JFC’s project objectives. If the Heritage Species Forest Park receives permission to expand its size to 700 hectares, it will be extremely important that Dr. T’s and Tika’s survey work be expanded to include work in Sumanding, a village located at the edge of the proposed expanded Forest Park.
4) Assisted by Dr. Tjitradjaja and Tika, a biogas development project was initiated by Sabtono, the only teacher working in Kunir’s small grade school, and the Director of LMDH’s (Foundation for Forest Villages) chapter in Kunir. More than half of the 316 families living in Jian District, a part of Kunir where JFC’s work is currently focused, raise cows. The cows are commonly confined to pens in the owners’ yards. Use of cow manure for fertilizer is not common in the area, so cow waste accumulates and creates unsanitary conditions. However, cow manure can provide raw material for biogas production. Biogas technology will turn presently under-utilized cow manure into fuel for cooking stoves and electricity. Sabtono submitted a biogas development grant proposal to the Global Environment Facility Small Grant Program. He received $12,000.00 from GEF SGP.
5) Dr. Greg Hill and Tim O’Brien are working to identify varieties of coffees and spices which are known to grow well in Central Java at elevations consistent with the JFC site and for which ready market demand exists in the U.S. Organic cultivation of coffee and spices is a planned part of the forest park’s understory.
6) JFC is working with Tropical Salvage to identify uses of kapok in products for export. Kapok is a fluffy cream-colored fiber found in seedpods of the randu tree (Ceiba pentandra) which grows commonly in and around the JFC site. The fiber is a mix of lignin and cellulose. It is commonly used in Indonesia as stuffing for pillows, cushions and mattresses. Tropical Salvage has used kapok to create seat cushions and occasional cushions. It plans to submit an order to cushion makers in Kunir after it has introduced product samples at The Las Vegas Market trade show in January, 2011.
7) The Institute for Culture and Ecology funded the acquisition of a solar oven and “Rocket Stove” to enable Kunir to experiment with their use. Tim O’Brien took them to Jepara during his visit to Indonesia in August, 2010. A Rocket Stove is an innovative, fuel-efficient stove design that significantly reduces smoke reduction, thereby reducing health hazards from smoke inhalation and reducing greenhouse gas emissions. Its fuel efficiency also reduces the frequency of firewood collection. Agus Rofiqkoh will discuss the stoves with Sabtono, Paisan and Perwanto, village leaders in Kunir who assess and guide JFC projects. If they judge a need and/or desire for the stoves exists among Kunir residents, then IFCAE will coordinate acquiring more of them - perhaps administering a trade of stoves for tree-plantings.
In August of 2009, team members Greg Hill and Eric Jones visited the University of Indonesia in Jakarta to meet Dr. Iwan Tjitradjaja, professor of anthropology and expert in social forestry. Through contacts, we had learned of Iwan's long history of working with local communities to promote healthy forests, sustainable livelihoods and cultural resilience. Since our meeting last year, we have kept in touch with Iwan by email, discussing the JFC vision and find a way to engage his expertise. The good news is that Iwan, and his graduate student Tika, are now working to deepen our understanding of the ecological and cultural context and facilitate communication with state and national government representatives.
Iwan and Tika first visited the JFC site and Kunir village from April 8th to 11th, meeting with village head Pak Sumani, touring the village and the JFC site. They discussed the JFC project vision and its implementation, village leadership and politics, economic, social and cultural life and shared their observations with JFC board members Agus, Adi, Yani and Heni in Jepara. Project team member Tim O’Brien met with Iwan and Tika at University of Indonesia soon afterwards and helped to formulate next steps. A second site visit, from April 29th to May 2nd, included meetings with Perum Perhutani (the state-owned forestry company of Indonesia) administrators in Pati and Jepara to discuss and clarify the JFC project vision and mission, as well as continued discussions with the JFC board and Kunir village leadership. Based on these visits and the positive feedback we've received we are moving forward to have Iwan and Tika get involved on deeper levels. Tika will be staying in the village from mid-June to mid August with Iwan making visits to Kunir-Jepara twice a month. Some of the understandings we expect to get from this work are:
• Information on land tenure history and contemporary patterns, kinship, governance, household and village economy.
• Local ecological knowledge that could assist with project activities like planting culturally important heritage species.
* How the potential influx of funding from the coffee restoration work might impact women.
• How the influx of financial resources from the project can be distributed equitably.
This information, and the valuable liaison work that Iwan has already started, will be of tremendous help in making the Jepara Forest Conservancy a truly sustainable project, able to help build thriving communities in a resilient ecosystem for generations to come.
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