Teak (Tectona grandis) is a symbol of high-quality timber in the forestry industry. It describes the luxury of the kraton (Javanese palace); not everyone can have teak timber in their homes. Even though the demand for teak is increasing, the price of the timber is still good. The value of teak lies in the durability and strength of the wood.
Why can’t everyone use teak to build their houses? Why is teak the best quality of all forest timber products, especially in Asia? Is teak able to improve the livelihoods of smallholder farmer? And if so, what projects are related to teak plantations?
As explained above, teak is seen as one of the highest quality forest timber products in the world. The durability of teak is the most important aspect of the superior timber, which also distinguishes it from other timbers. Teak also has extractive substances that can kill termites, which are a pest that consume wood, degrading its quality and reducing prices.
Therefore, the high value of teak means it needs the best silviculture management, plantation, maintenance, and harvesting. Teak requires different management to other timber products; it requires higher-level security against illegal logging bandits. It also requires thinning and pruning, which are calculated for cost. The skidding method, which reduces damage to the wood, and a certification mechanism to increase its value chain, are also vital.
Thus, forestry management is a valuable part of the enterprises of many farmers, especially in community teak forests. In regards to improving the livelihoods of smallholder farmers, the Australian Centre for International Agricultural Research (ACIAR) has funded a project on smallholder teak plantations in Gunung Kidul, Yogyakarta, Indonesia. The ACIAR project is a valuable mechanism to push science in a way that is beneficial to farmers.
The four-year project aims firstly to introduce and promote the adoption of silvicultural technologies that improve returns for smallholder teak producers. Secondly it hopes to establish financing schemes that provide incentives for smallholder participation in profitable teak production. Finally, it plans to enhance market access for smallholder teak producers.
Nowadays, the timber that is produced by smallholders has a reputation of being of low quality due to the silvicultural methods used, and it has a lower price. However, if farmers can adapt their silviculture management, they can improve the quality of their timber.
Teak plantations with good silviculture management can improve the livelihoods of smallholder farmers. This is also supported by the implementation of tebang butuh. As community teak forests are a long-term business enterprise, if the best silviculture management is implemented with unevenly aged teak trees, farmers are able to cut down and sell trees when they need money — of course, with the requirements of wood that is ready to be harvested.
In these cases, perhaps farmers can implement tebang butuh, referring to trees being cut down when money is needed, when they also implement thinning and pruning techniques. Thinning is a method to improve the quality of timber. However, it can be difficult to convince farmers about the thinning method, because they do not agree with cutting down trees if the basal area is exceed.
So, the clear impact that furniture producers have on smallholder farmers relates to improving their income, by producing high-quality timber in teak plantations. The high price and demand for the product, through the management of a financial scheme, will lead to the access of smallholder market producers. For all of these components to work, they must be facilitated by the right regulations and a policy framework.
M. Firdaus Iqbal is a student of forestry mangement at Bogor Agricultural University, Indonesia.