The west african Oil Palm (Elaeis guineensis) is grown extensively across South East Asia to produce palm oil which is found in at least 50% of supermarket produce and biodiesels. FKL have become expert at restoring forests that have been lost by felling illegal oil palm plantations and empowering the surrounding human population to return their land back to its former glory.
FORUM KONSERVASI LEUSER
The Size of Jersey has partnered with Forum Konservasi Leuser (FKL), a local NGO focusing on the frontline protection of the Leuser Ecosystem in Aceh Province, Northern Sumatra. FKL are active in wildlife protection patrols, forest monitoring, facilitation of law enforcement, mitigating human-wildlife conflict and forest restoration.
Since their establishment in 2012, FKL has grown from operating just 2 Wildlife Protection Teams to patrol the Leuser Ecosystem, to today deploying 26 Wildlife Protection Teams as well as dedicated Elephant Patrol Teams, Community Patrol Teams and 12 Mobile Monitoring Units to investigate forest and wildlife crimes. They now employ over 250 staff and more than 30 volunteers. They also carry out joint law enforcement operations with local authorities and through collaborations with partner NGOs, have helped shut down numerous illegal oil palm concessions and other destructive projects inside the Leuser Ecosystem. Working together with local communities they have restored thousands of hectares of forest.
COMMUNITY - DRIVEN FOREST RESTORATION
FKL manages restoration projects in several locations around the Leuser Ecosystem. Between 2014 and 2018 they have restored some 2,778 hectares of forest. In 2018 alone, FKL together with local communities planted over 168,000 native trees. However, considering the scale of the destruction they continually work to expand their restoration efforts. The Size of Jersey concept will allow FKL to quadruple the scale of their restoration efforts to date, an ambitious but necessary target. As well as restoring vital habitat for Leuser's critically endangered mega-fauna the community driven nature of the project will boost the local economy while increasing the household incomes of 1748 families through the provision of sustainable livelihood opportunities.
What makes this approach so successful to date is the involvement and engagement of the communities that live around the restoration sites through providing a truly win - win system that benefits both people and wildlife. For the new forest to be truly valued by the community its protection must provide an economic incentive so that the community can directly benefit. This is achieved through the careful selection of wild fruit trees, each native to Leuser but with the added benefit that their fruits can be harvested by the local community and sold to market. This "wild fruit forest restoration" system allows. the people to prosper whilst the returning forest is nurtured through to maturity for the returning wildlife.
1. Palm Oil Removal.
The first stage of restoration is the removal of the standing oil palm trees. FKL supply the fuel and chainsaws required and pay each worker $1 for every oil palm cut down. One worker can remove 1 hectare of oil palm per day therefore with community involvement, significant areas can be cleared in a short space of time.
2. Establish Seedling Nurseries.
Once the plantation is cleared, FKL teach the community members to construct seedling nurseries in which they grow 23 species of native forest tree species, 15 of which will one day produce valuable native fruits such as the fabled Durian, which sell at market for the same price as 25kg of oil palm fruit.
3. Establish “Temporary Livelihood” Gardens
Depending on the species, the fruit trees can take up to 4 years to bear commercially viable fruit therefore the workers are encouraged to plant banana and papaya trees alongside vegetable gardens producing edibles ranging from ginger and black pepper to dragon fruit and local tubers. In addition it is possible to harvest palm sugar from the fallen oil palm trunks for one month after they have been felled. This allows the community to still bring in a decent income and feed their families while the wild fruit forest matures to the point it can provide an income.
4. Allow Natural Succession of Forest.
30% of the restoration site is planted out with the saplings while the 70% remaining returns through a process of natural regeneration. It is the responsibility of the local community to manage the development of the restored forest as a whole. If a sapling dies then it must be replaced though the whole process is overseen and monitored by a team of FKL staff.
5. Training in Sustainable Livelihoods.
The community are taught a variety of sustainable livelihood skills such as organic farming and honey production and each community member must agree to follow a set of environmentally responsible guidelines set out by FKL. These include a ban on pesticides or herbicides, hunting, logging and fire burning. Once an agreement has been signed, FKL assist the community members to apply for a 10 year lease from the Aceh Forestry Department to restore and harvest fruits from a demarcated 2 hectare site per family. This lease can be extended for 35 years once the original tenure has passed if the community members have demonstrated to be responsible custodians of this new agroforestry/restoration project.
6. Monitor the return of the forest.
Every stage of the forest restoration is monitored and recorded by the staff of FKL who carry out regular drone surveys, trunk and canopy measurements and tree species counts to record the return of the forest. Camera traps are used to record the wildlife as it returns while field researchers keep a record of the bird, mammal and insect species through transect surveying. With elephant migration routes restored and orangutan feeding and nesting sites reestablished soon this new forest will welcome back many of the charismatic megafauna that Leuser is famous for while all the while the surrounding human communities are benefiting too through harvesting some of the wild fruits.
PALM OIL VS FRUIT FORESTS ECONOMIC BENEFITS.
Prior to restoration a family of 4-6 members would require a minimum of 4 hectares of (illegal) palm oil plantation to make the basic monthly salary of $280. In reality, many families have responsibility for just one or two hectares of land so must work a second job to achieve this basic income to support their monthly needs. In many cases hunting or illegal logging in the Leuser Ecosystem would supplement this shortfall.
The agroforestry/restoration project proposed by FKL and supported by “The Size of Jersey” allows one family to survive and profit by utilising just 2 hectares of land with an impressive $700 profit per month.
FKL has already restored 2778 hectares of palm oil plantation to forest, boosting the local economy by providing employment and improved income to 300 families. At the present time they have 5,000 hectares of land at varying stages in the restoration process.
“The Size of Jersey” project, with a land area of 11,654 hectares (3,496 Ha of which would be agroforestry) would provide employment and an improved standard of living to 1748 local families with the potential to boost the local economy by $4.9 million per year whilst reducing the reliance of illegal activity in the forest such as hunting and logging.
The economic/lifestyle benefits of converting to the restoration / fruit forest approach has proved popular with communities around the restoration sites and there is a steady growing list of willing participants who would like to join the initiative. FKL have conducted market research surveys amongst the 28 villages that border the restoration sites to ascertain the popularity of the scheme. To date, following discussions with the “village head” of each community, 18 of the 28 have signed up to the scheme we are aiming to support through “The Size of Jersey”.
Economic benefit comparison for “The Size of Jersey” fruit forest / restoration site - vs Palm Oil/other crops.
$350 per month profit for 1 hectare agroforestry x 3,496 hectares of agroforestry (30% of restoration site area or 11,654 hectares x 0.3) = $14.683200 per annum.
Illegal Palm oil / Rubber / Timber (IPRT) plantation.
$70 per month for 1 hectare IPRT x 11,654 hectares = $9,789,360 per annum.
Potential boost to local economy per annum with 100% community engagement.
$14,683200 - $9,789,360
Boost to local economy= $4,893,840