GCRF TRADE Hub Webinar – Towards global green deals: Sustainable trade in palm oil, coffee and songbirds in Indonesia

Since 2020, the TRADE Hub Indonesia team – comprising CIFOR-ICRAF, the Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS), the University of Indonesia Research Center for Climate Change (RCCC-UI), IPB University and the University of Lampung (UNILA) – has conducted research on various topics relating to palm oil, coffee and songbirds. To disseminate research results to relevant national and sub-national stakeholders and secure their input on findings, the TRADE Hub Indonesia team held a webinar with the theme Towards global green deals: Sustainable trade in palm oil, coffee and songbirds in Indonesia on 10 January 2022. The webinar, which involved 322 participants, was also aimed at hearing different stakeholders’ perspectives on issues relating to sustainable trade in palm oil, coffee and songbirds in order to support priorities, policies and programmes in Indonesia as well as potential global green deals. 

Opened by Nada Rifda Putri from IPB University, the webinar continued with welcoming remarks from CIFOR-ICRAF representatives Prof. Herry Purnomo, Dr Sonya Dewi and Dr Michael Brady. Keynote speeches were then delivered by Prof. Neil Burgess, Chief Scientist of UNEP-WCMC and Principal Investigator of GCRF TRADE Hub, and Dr Musdhalifah Machmud, Deputy Minister II for Food and Agribusiness Coordination under the Indonesian Coordinating Ministry for Economic Affairs.

During his speech, Prof. Burgess explained the role of sustainable commodity trade in global green deals. He began his speech by highlighting the food production and agriculture sector status quo in global land use, emissions and trade lying at the heart of the environmental challenges we face. He emphasized that solutions will only be possible through societal transformations underpinned by sustainable economic and trade systems, and strengthening transparency in decision making processes and the environmental aspects of trade agreements. He also suggested using measurement tools, such as ‘Encore’ for measuring economic sector impacts and ‘Trase’ for supply chain impacts.

During her speech, Dr Musdhalifah informed the audience about the significant contributions of palm oil and coffee to Indonesia’s national earnings and post-Covid-19 economic recovery. She also discussed the presidential mandate and national programmes for strengthening national green and sustainable products. She closed her speech by conveying her hope that TRADE Hub research can contribute to improving the competitiveness of Indonesia’s commodities and the well-being of its people, as well as to addressing challenges to trade caused by rapid changes in global trends. 

Diah Ayu Febriani of RCCC-UI moderated the two-session webinar. The topic of the first session was sustainable trade and communities, while the second session discussed trade systems and policies. Jeni Pareira from WCS shared her team’s experiences in and lessons learned from implementing the “Forest First” approach to empower coffee farmers, decrease deforestation, and avoid forest-proximate commodity supply chain risks in the Bukit Barisan Selatan (BBS) landscape in Lampung. A roundtable comprising local government, private sector, farmer group and civil society organization representatives named Bukit Barisan Selatan Kemitraan Komoditas Lestari (BBS Kekal) had been formed to facilitate communication and coordination between stakeholders, which were essential for encouraging and supporting coffee farmers in switching to deforestation-free coffee production.

As part of the effort to support the sustainable coffee production initiative in Bukit Barisan Selatan National Park buffer zones, Prof. Bustanul Arifin from UNILA and his team conducted a study on the characteristics of coffee smallholders, production and value chains in the area. Key findings from the study were the dominant role of brokers in the coffee value chain around the park posing a serious challenge to implementing sustainability principles, and that conservation principles must be improved on the ground in order to meet the standards required for sustainability certification. 

Prof. Suria D. Tarigan of IPB University presented his team’s study on the importance of capacity building for smallholders in good agricultural practices (GAP), particularly enrichment planting and establishing tree islands between oil palm plantations, to improve local livelihoods and landscape sustainability.

Dr Sonny Mumbunan of RCCC-UI followed by sharing the results of his research highlighting the possible implications of smallholders being inadequately defined in existing policies, and how this can lead to insufficient resource allocation and ineffective policy interventions. He recommended six to eight hectares as the upper limit for an area to be considered a smallholder plantation, and any plantation exceeding eight hectares to be deemed non-smallholder land.

Meanwhile, Agus Andrianto and Heru Komarudin, researchers at CIFOR-ICRAF, shared some of their findings on understanding sustainable independent oil palm farmer typologies in West Kotawaringin District, Central Kalimantan. Their findings show major problems for independent oil palm farmers being structural issues; market failures; nonexistence of farmer institutions; lack of incentives; and weak law enforcement. They suggested that developing some business case which can provide information on the benefit, cost and risk of alternative options could encourage independent oil palm farmers to engage in sustainable production and trade.

Prof. Herry Purnomo and Sonya Dyah Kusumadewi from CIFOR-ICRAF commenced the second session of the webinar by presenting the results of their global palm oil trade policy simulation study using Palm Oil Trade and Landscape Simulation (POTLAS) and Structural Equation Modelling of Palm Oil Political Economy and Trade (SEMPO) tools. Key messages from their study are the need to ensure that green deals provide economic incentives with price stability and higher prices paid for sustainable palm oil, and that an essential determining element is consumer behaviour.

Dewa Ekayana of the Fiscal Policy Agency and RCCC-UI enriched the discussion on palm oil trade by delivered a presentation about his research into public financing for sustainable palm oil. From his three case study analyses he concluded that actionable solutions for public sustainable palm oil financing include enforcing land certification and utilization permit requirements; maximizing Indonesian Sustainable Palm Oil (ISPO) certification; and developing a more consistent smallholder typology.

Beni Okarda of CIFOR-ICRAF shared findings from his team’s research into online songbird market trading in Indonesia using big data analysis and machine learning modelling. Their findings showed 6% of advertisements involving bird species categorized as threatened by IUCN, and more than half of bird sellers also being breeders. They also concluded that big data and machine learning approaches are promising tools for monitoring time-series data on songbird trade in Indonesia and creating a useful database for future research. As a fitting topic of discussion to end the webinar, Dyah Pitaloka presented the results of her team’s analyses of stakeholder networks in the palm oil, coffee and wildlife trades. The research results highlighted that in some cases, the most popular, connected and influential actors are not necessarily those with power to coerce, disincentivize or dominate information. In the palm oil and coffee trades, small-scale producers were found to be the most popular, connected and influential, but also the weakest actors. Results also showed government officials, law enforcers, NGOs and the public being the most important components in combating illegal wildlife trade.

Prof. Bustanul Arifin from UNILA wrapped up the webinar by reviewing TRADE Hub’s background and offering insights drawn from the speakers’ presentations. He emphasized that market mechanisms cannot be relied upon to support smallholder farmers in the palm oil and coffee trades, so partnerships involving governments, the private sector, communities and academics are necessary to do so. He added that law enforcement is not enough without institutional improvements, and ultimately, collective action involving all parties is fundamental to more sustainable trade in palm oil, coffee and songbirds. He said that overall, the webinar had been a success, and looked forward to publications of all TRADE Hub research.

Webinar recordings and materials are available here, and further discussion is available on our science blog here.