Asia Pacific Consulting Solutions (APCS) uses a unique approach to foster responsible management of Indonesia's forests. Their group scheme supports operations in progressing step by step towards FSC certification. The stepping stones are NEPCon’s LegalSource and FSC’s Controlled Wood certification.
During May 2015, NEPCon issued three certificates to Asia Pacific Consulting Solutions (APCS). The Balinese company thus achieved FSC, Controlled Wood and LegalSource group certification.
Senior forester Loy Jones from APCS says: “We chose triple group certification to support small and medium sized forest operations to move step by step towards FSC certification. We aim to help them to reap benefits for every step along the road."
According to Mr Jones, most operations are unable to fulfil the FSC rules overnight. "With our group scheme, they may do so over time, tackling one challenge at a time. In the meantime, our group members will start reaping benefits from certification as soon as they reach the legality level," he says.
A unique ecosystem under threat
The group’s two first members are PT BIOS and PT Klia, mangrove forest operations located in Western Kalimantan. The NEPCon audit team inspected their forests as part of the certification process.
NEPCon forest expert Mateo Cariño Fraisse led the audit team. He comments: "A mangrove forest is a unique ecosystem that has to be managed in a unique way. For example, the work needs to be adjusted to the tides where the difference in water level can be up to two metres. ”
The mangrove timber species are not well suited for high-quality commercial products, which is why there is limited market for them. The timber is mainly used for woodchips and charcoal.
However, even a low market value may be a rescuing factor for mangroves, which are facing doom and gloom on a global scale. According to UNEP (the United Nations Environment Programme), the world’s mangroves are being cleared 3 – 5 times faster than terrestrial forests.
UNEP estimates that the destruction of carbon-rich mangroves runs a bill of $42 billion in economic damages per year. With the loss of mangrove forests, the world loses biological diversity, food security and coastal zone resilience against future climate change.
Mangroves are important for wildlife and almost 80% of the world's global fish catches depend on them directly or indirectly. In addition, mangroves retain massive amounts of carbon and provide food security for coastal populations. They also provide an effective buffer against high waves and even tsunamis.
“Responsible use of a natural forest ecosystem can be difficult, but these operations show that it can be done. And given the pressure on mangrove forests, responsible timber harvesting may be their saving grace. The alternative is often destructive logging or clearing for coastal development or aquaculture,” explains Christian Schriver, Regional Manager of NEPCon Southeast Asia.
Certifying social and environmental responsibility
The forest areas in the group scheme consist of only two main timber species. Yet they are far from poor in wildlife - on the contrary, they are home to lots of precious wildlife such as proboscis monkeys and Irrawaddy dolphins.
The operations' own High Conservation Value (HCV) inventories have resulted in the set-aside of 34% of the total area for conservation. They have also established buffer zones 500 m wide in areas next to protected forest.
Curious otters take a good look at the photographer. © Fairus Mulia
WWF Indonesia has been engaged with the two companies since 2011. Initially, the collaboration centered on mapping of probiscus monkey and Irrawaddy dolphin populations in mangrove forest located within the PT Klia and PT BIOS areas. The scope of collaboration was expanded through funding from WWF's Global Forest and Trade Network (GFTN), enabling WWF Indonesia to provide important assistance on implementing best forest management practices. This included forest planning, assessing HCVs and developing management plans and monitoring of biodiversity.
GFTN Indonesia Manager Joko Sarjito says,”Once again, it is proven that conservation management to protect proboscis monkey habitat can be integrated with mangrove harvesting activities. They can even mutually support each other. The FSC certificate verifies that the management of both concessions support sustainability and protect the endemic habitat of the proboscis monkey.”
The Borneo Initiative supported the process financially as well through a grant of US $ 85,000, which partly covered preparatory assistance and surveillance costs for the two operations.
Proboscis monkeys taking a rest in a mangrove tree. © Fairus Mulia.
Fairus Mulia, Director of both the PT Klias and PT BIOS operations, stresses that achieving a certificate is not in itself the primary goal. "We want to ensure that we're managing the mangroves responsibly and sustainably for the benefit of future generations and to gain global recognition for our effort. To achieve this, of course the financial benefit of certification becomes a key factor in supporting our activities. With our FSC certificate in place, I am confident that everything can be achieved."
Indonesia's forest sector is known for high levels of illegal logging and corruption. Encroaching illegal loggers are a constant risk, so the operations have put measures in place to handle this threat.
APCS has set up a Corporate Social Responsibility Programme, and the group has conducted a Social Impact Assessment and a Participatory Rural Assessment for both forest areas covered by the certificates. Local villagers are allowed to collect non-timber forest products such as crabs and Nipa palm leaves used for traditional roofing.
At a well-attended stakeholder meeting held in the Bunbun village, members of the community told the NEPCon auditors that they had received social assistance from PT BIOS. The operation's support covered school buildings, places of worship, roadwork, and funding for the national day.
“The steps that forest operations in the APCS scheme have taken to address the full scope of the standards have been crucial for their successful certification to three rigorous schemes, all at the same time,” notes Mr Cariño. In addition to their work to map High Conservation Values and secure good community relations, they have also taken measures to secure the health and safety of forest workers.
A unique approach
Executive Director of NEPCon Peter Feilberg also participated in this audit. He believes that the approach spearheaded by the APCS might be part of the solution to saving the world’s mangroves.
“The basis for this group scheme is the real situation for many small and medium sized operations in Southeast Asia. Engaging small operations in FSC certification is a major challenge worldwide,” he says.
“The set-up used for the APCS scheme breaks the process up into several smaller steps. It uses three well-recognised schemes that are operational in the market, which ensures a real incentive for the forest owner to complete each step. The Indonesian FSC Forest Management Standard, the FSC Controlled Wood Standard and the LegalSource Standard are well aligned with each other, e.g. on legality criteria. This eases the progress from one level to the next.”
Mr Feilberg: "The mangroves are rich habitats that provide vital ecosystem services to tropical nations, including protection against storms and preservation of fish stocks. But these forests are under serious threat from development. This type of group scheme may help to keep mangroves standing by linking their responsible management with economic value.”
Photos by Fairus Mulia, Ditte Steffensen/NEPCon, Christian Scriver/NEPCon and Mateo Cariño Fraisse/NEPCon.
About the group scheme
The group scheme is set up and managed by Asia Pacific Consulting Solutions (APCS, PT Pandu Maha Wana). The scheme offers LegalSource, FSC Controlled Wood and FSC group certification to its members in a stepwise process.
Initially, the scheme covers two mangrove forest operations located in Western Kalimantan, PT Bina Ovivipari Semesta (PT BIOS) and PT Kandelia Alam (PT Klia).
The group's certificate registration codes are:
Tree species covered by the certificates include Bruguiera species and Rhizophora apiculata.