Tree planting in Indonesia: trends, impacts and directions

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This report details the results of a consultancy that aimed to: (i) identify tree planting activities currently prominent in Indonesia; (ii) seek reasons for their ascendancy; (iii) monitor perceptions of local and transmigrant populations regarding the opportunities and constraints associated with tree planting options; and (iv) briefly examine the environmental impacts of dominant tree planting activities. Oil palm is seen to emerge as the winner on all counts, just as the IMF has endorsed further development of tree-based cash crops. Forestry is in retreat. Fires have further undermined some of the best Kalimantan forests, which now face increased pressures from the demands of the large firms operating logging concessions, plantation forests and oil palm estates. Newly impoverished populations are also turning in increased numbers to the extraction of forest resources. Indonesia is the world's cheapest producer of palm oil products, largely because of low labour costs. Future plantations are likely to want to cut costs further, especially those estate companies being attracted from Malaysia. Huge markets for palm oil products, both local and international, will ensure the industry's future growth. Replacing much of Indonesia's biodiverse tropical forest and cultivations of small-holders by oil palm monocultures, is not an environmentally happy prospect. It is, however, a prospect embraced with equanimity, even eagerness, by local administrations. While the pulpwood monocultures will also engage in the battle for land, the demise of many is likely, except in specific areas where they can attract small-holder growers. Big questions remain on the continuity and sustainability of all these tree crops, together with uncertainty surrounding the continued role of the small-holder as an independent grower and producer of a variety of tree crops.

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