Indonesian quality wood is known all over the world. Unfortunately, also is its deforestation rates have reached record standards. Worldwide demand for high quality wood led to indiscriminate logging and this has resulted in destroying Indonesian forest resources and in placing the country at the third place as one of the world’s biggest contributors to greenhouse gas emissions after China and the United States.
The need to preserve local resources has pushed the Indonesian government and civil society to take key measures. Konsepsi is an environmental organization that has launched a series of actions aimed at raising environmental awareness among local communities living next to forested areas. One of the regions where Konsepsi is active is Lombok, where 30% of the land is covered by forests on which 70% of local people depend on. Although a large forested area is protected in Lombok, the latest Konsepsi report on the island’s forest management shows that forest degradation is threatening agricultural production and is having a strong impact on water resources. Today, water resources do not satisfy people’s need and high demand for water is already leading to water-related conflicts. This is why a payment system for the use of resources has been adopted. All people benefiting from water resources have to pay a fee; communal law (awiq-awiq) is used to manage and protect forest and water resources. Forest and water are considered common property, needed to fulfil the community’s needs; villagers are not allowed to enter and cut the wood as they wish for their personal use and forest guards are responsible for the protection of the area.
“We carried out a survey in Northern Lombok and the feedback was positive. Although more than 60% of the people interviewed were not aware of the current resource crisis, 95% accepted to take part in the payment and local management system” Juned Lumuja, one of Konsepsi collaborators said.
In fact, according to a study on the impact of HKM (Hutan Kemasyrakatan or social/community forestry) carried out in 2008 by the International Food Policies Research Institute, communal management of natural resources is playing an important role in the efforts of reforesting Indonesia. Indeed, by being personally involved and affected, people understand the importance of their impact on the environment and actively work to reverse the trend. Konsepsi operates as a facilitator between the central government and the local community and regularly organises informative sessions about the importance to preserve water and forestry resources. “Our work is focussed on developing the community assets by empowering local people beyond forestry.” Juned added.
Responsibility for deforestation falls on many parties, and foreign countries’ demand for valuable furniture is one of the reasons behind indiscriminate logging and illegal export of precious wood from Indonesia. For years furniture has been built using slow growing wood without considering times for trees to grow back or any principle of sustainability. It seems that there is finally a tide of change; more and more furniture companies are using sustainability and traceability of materials as a market strategy to sell their products. This may lead to a positive trend affecting the furniture market as a whole. In fact, a change in the market has already occurred, because there is an increasing demand for products manufactured respecting natural resources and furniture companies are following this new trend.
One example is Haworth, an American company operating in Asia who produces office furniture. Haworth claims it is much more consistent to design a sustainable building and to plan an environmental campaign while sitting on an eco-friendly chair. This market strategy has been adopted by many others. Big companies such as Gucci, H&M or Tiffany and co. have decided to use recycled or materials certified by the Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) or Smartwood. These are the two main wood labels, created by many Ngos among which WWF and Greenpeace, that certify the legal origin of wood. People are encouraged to buy products bearing the official certificate, so to limit illegal exports and over exploitation as much as possible. However, Indonesian wood is not FSC certified and there is not an international label that guarantees the legal origin of Indonesian wood. In the country, the state enterprise Perum Perhutani is the organisation responsible for the protection, logging, exploitation and trade of teak wood and many furniture companies buy their wood from this state enterprise to make sure the wood used is legally logged and that it is not wood coming from natural tropical rain forest. There are even some companies that have created their own certification label or set up their own plantations in order to control the whole process of manufacture of their furniture. Asali Bali is a French managed company with a factory in Java who in 2009 started a replanting project on the island of Sumba in partnership with the local community. It is a long-term project that aims at replanting every year twice as many trees as the trees used the year before.
As in the case of the work of Konsepsi, for the project to be sustainable people involved have to feel committed and need to directly benefit from the programme. At the same time, consumers need to consider a wide range of aspects when buying furniture in order to push the market towards a more sustainable direction. Reversing the trend that has led Indonesia to reach alarming deforestation rates requires the involvement of many stakeholders. Changing the market attitude and raising awareness are the first steps to achieve a sustainable use of Indonesia’s natural resources. However, sustainability is not only linked to a correct use of natural resources; also social equity plays a key role. “You cannot say you are producing sustainable furniture if workers are not treated in a sustainable way. Fair treatment is part of a fair production.” Says Thierry, Asali Bali founder and director.
Published on WildAsia