Growing both food and fuel in Sumatra’s wetlands

When local villagers in Perigi Talang Nangka, South Sumatra asked researchers from CIFOR and South Korea’s National Institute of Forest Science what to grow on degraded and marginal peatlands, the scientists drew on their success with earlier trials of bioenergy crops, and set up a demonstration plot in partnership with Sriwijaya University to test which plants did best near the community.

By using paludiculture – wetland agroforestry – researchers showed how local trees such as nyamplung (Calophyllum inophyllum), bintaro (Cerbera manghas), and jelutong (Dyera lowii) can grow among rice paddy and pineapple in the degraded peatlands.

After 3–5 years, the oilseeds can be harvested without cutting down the trees, and some of the trees can also be used for timber. The trees survive the six months of flooding, when villagers traditionally supplement their diets with fish. The mixed-cropping system retains moisture and, because farmers value and protect these plots, helps prevent the spread of wildfires. And since bintaro is unpalatable to Sumatran elephants, it can help lower the risk of human-wildlife conflict.

Oil from the trees can be used in cosmetics or, if grown on a larger scale, as biofuel. Scientists are in discussion with private sector representatives to determine whether it can also be used as aviation biofuel.

Project info


Socioeconomic and environmental outcomes of bioenergy production from degraded land (Bioenergy project)



Funding partners

South Korea National Institute of Forest Science (NIFoS), CGIAR-FTA

Project partners

Biotechnology Research Center — Indonesian Ministry of Environment and Forestry (FOERDIA), Sriwijaya University, University of Muhammadiyah Palangkaraya, University of Mulawarman

CIFOR focal point

Himlal Baral, Senior Scientist; Yustina Artati, Senior Research Officer, Yusuf Bahtimi Samsudin, Consultant

Forests in a
time of crises


In 2019, the world witnessed some of our greatest challenges shift gears from urgent to emergency – from climate crisis to landscape degradation to the wildfires that devastated ecosystems across several continents. But it also saw momentum build with the announcement of the UN Decade of Ecological Restoration, a focus on nature-based solutions, and the recognition of local forest communities and Indigenous Peoples are the best land managers for forest conservation.

Another exciting development – the merger of CIFOR and World Agroforestry (ICRAF) – set the stage for more evidence and solutions that will improve people’s lives, help to conserve and restore the ecosystems that support people and nature, and respond to the global climate crisis.

Our scientists advanced critical knowledge on forest landscape restoration, wild foods and timber legality in Zambia, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, and peatland fires, biofuel, oil palm and wetland ‘blue carbon’ in Indonesia – with clear policy impacts in Southeast Asia from 10 years of social forestry research and engagement. Our ongoing Global Comparative Studies – GCS REDD+ and GCS Tenure – continued to bring science to policy makers across Africa, Asia and Latin America. Gender researchers looked deep into a myriad of topics, and we mourned the loss of principal scientist and Nairobi hub leader Esther Mwangi, whose legacy of achievements in gender and land rights won’t be soon forgotten. Finally the Global Landscapes Forum brought even more people together, both at events from Accra to Luxembourg as well as through exciting new digital innovations.