This month Greenpeace launched Forest Solutions: An insider’s look at Greenpeace collaborations in forest regions around the world. Wirendro Sumargo, a Forest Campaigner for Greenpeace in Indonesia, shares his perspectives on a collaboration to preserve Indonesian rainforests in the fourth of a four part series on forest-based collaborations for conservation.

With the list of companies around the world committing to No Deforestation growing ever longer, with Procter & Gamble and Cargill adding their names just this month, the question arises: how do you put Zero Deforestation into practice? 

Small-holder Oil Palm Harvest in Sumatra. 05/15/2012 © Greenpeace / John Novis

In the last three years Greenpeace, together with The Forest Trust (TFT) and Indonesian palm oil giant Golden Agri Resources (GAR), have been innovating to develop a way to do this – the High Carbon Stock (HCS) approach.  The approach will stop the further conversion of forests, protect and restore viable areas of natural forests within developments in the tropics such as palm oil and pulp plantations as well as ensuring that the current and future land use rights of local communities are respected.

The HCS approach uses a combination of high quality satellite pictures of a forest tenure and cut blocks that measure the trees to do a first cut of what is potentially HCS forest.  These potential forest areas are then analysed and sorted to create a plan of HCS forest for conservation, including removing community food growing areas, and incorporating peat land and areas of High Conservation Value into one conservation plan.  At the same time, it identifies degraded areas that can be developed to balance out economic needs. The community needs to give their consent for the HCS conservation, just as they do for any areas that are planted.

Palm oil expansion is a major cause of forest destruction in Indonesia, second only to conversion for pulp and paper tree plantations.  In Africa palm oil is also now a major threat to tropical rainforests.  Greenpeace has called for a moratorium on further forest clearance, given the biodiversity and climate crisis we are currently facing. We simply cannot afford to lose more forests as they are critical for the survival of countless species, and forest loss contributes 12-15% of global GHG-emissions (as much as the transport sector). Millions of the world’s poorest people depend on tropical forests for their survival, and ongoing forest loss is destroying their livelihoods.

A large part of the success of the HCS approach has been the collaboration between Greenpeace, TFT and GAR, as well as the recognition that it had to be practical, simple and efficient so that could be broadly applied across the palm oil sector.  We are still learning and adapting the approach as we go but support is growing, with many companies committing such as Nestle, L’Oreal, Unilever, Ferrero, Kelloggs, Colgate-Palmolive, Wilmar, and GAR. Companies that are part of the Palm Oil Innovation Group (POIG) – New Britain Palm Oil, DAABON, and AgroPalma Brazil, have also committed to the HCS approach.  It is that commitment that is the test as to whether companies are serious about ending their role in deforestation, or whether they want to keep talking about the problem without actually taking the first crucial step: stopping the bulldozers.

But of course the solution is not only about companies and large corporations, it is about local communities as well. In Sumatra, Indonesia, Greenpeace together with local NGO Elang, has been supporting an initiative of independent palm oil farmers. 

Boys in Indonesian Forest Young. 11/10/2009 © Will Rose / Greenpeace

The Dosan community has set up their cooperative, are protecting their natural forests, and are putting in place improved practices to both reduce environmental impact as well as increase profits.  This includes minimizing use of fertiliser, making dams to keep the water levels optimal for maintaining the peat land areas, and not using pesticides. For better impacts, besides applied “Better Management Practices” in the landscape approach, Greenpeace also endorses replicating this independent farmer model to the surrounding area and elsewhere in Sumatra.

Solutions to forest-based conflicts using collaboration are at hand and Greenpeace with others are leading the way around the world. We direct you to our Forest Solutions report and the first, second and third (in French) in the series forest solutions perspectives that accompany it.

Sumatran Tiger in Indonesia. 08/13/2013 © Paul Hilton / Greenpeace

Wirendro Sumargo is a Forest Campaigner for Greenpeace in Indonesia.