It is no secret that the tropical forests of Asia-Pacific are increasingly under threat, from clearing and conversion to illegal and unsustainable logging.

Equally important, but much less reported, is the progress being made in promoting responsible forestry in Asia Pacific and the opportunities this presents for consumers to support tropical forest health and wellbeing from afar.

For more than 10 years, RAFT partners have been collaborating to safeguard forests in a way that they provide benefits to all stakeholders without destroying their valuable ecological benefits.

To help shine a light on the positive impacts of legal and responsible forestry and the urgent need to promote these practices, RAFT partner WWF organized media trips in China, Indonesia and Vietnam. Journalists from around the world experienced firsthand how responsible forestry works from the forest to the factor to consumers, and had the opportunity to have dialogue with all stakeholders involved, from communities to company and government representatives.

The tours helped increase awareness about the challenges and benefits of responsible forest management among key media, with stories published in such major outlets as Deutsche Welle (DW), Vietnam News, Jakarta Globe, Detik, and PGZSL to name a few.

Beyond the Headlines

Asia has emerged as a powerful force in the global wood products market. But years of deforestation and unsustainable forestry means that many key timber species are now at risk. The continuation of such practices threatens the manufacturing sector that depends on wood products for its bread and butter.

At the same time, more and more big buyers in major markets are responding to both the risks of a complex global supply chain and new laws designed to restrict illegal timber imports with bigger and better responsible sourcing programs.

This is strengthening the incentives for suppliers to transition to more responsible management systems and ultimately clean up their supply chains.

The tours briefed a mix of international and local journalists on how international legislation on illegal timber trade is motivating local governments and industry stakeholders to shift from ‘business as usual’ to responsible forest management practices.

They showcased the challenges companies face in meeting new legal requirements and how they are addressing such issues, and demonstrated the community outreach that’s being done as part of a move towards responsible forest management.

Community Close-Up – Sumalindo Sets Example of Community Collaboration

One example of this is the work of Sumalindo Lestari Jaya IV (SLJ IV)—a timber concession in Indonesia’s East Kalimantan province—to improve relations with communities living around its concession area.

SLJ IV has committed to achieving Forest Steward Council (FSC) certification and is working closely with the community to mitigate social conflict and empower local people to be involved in forest production and benefit from timber harvesting. The company has also taken crucial steps to stop hornbill poaching in its concession in conjunction with community members.

The company has faced some obstacles related to social conflict and financial problems, but has worked to resolve those in its progress towards responsible forest management.

“There was a time, in the beginning, when we had conflict over these natural resources with PT. SLJ IV,” said Jones Lakan, head of BP Segah, a local organization representing affected communities. “The first thing that caused the conflict to happen was that the community was never involved in forest management or planning.”

In 2003, the company started actively engaging with the communities. As a result of the talks, SLJ IV reached agreements with the five villages in the concession, allowing community members to participate in a number of processes including identifying ecologically important areas to be protected within the concession, identifying harvesting blocks, management plan development, setting the company’s production targets and establishing benefit sharing arrangements.

“Since we agreed to work together again, they [SLJ IV] have remained committed to the communities’ proposals conveyed to them,” said Lakan.

As part of its social outreach, SLJ IV has provided scholarships and school fees to children from the communities, dormitory funds for four villages, transportation assistance, equipment, electricity and the opportunity to monitor activities in the concession. Illegal logging has also declined dramatically as a result of this cooperation.

Community outreach gained further momentum under RAFT in 2013, with WWF providing critical support to monitor and evaluate this work.

“Sumalindo has now incorporated High Conservation Values (HCV) within its management plan to mitigate the impact of logging activities and to enhance safeguards in important conservation zones,” said Joko Sarjito, Responsible Forest Officer, WWF-Indonesia. “The company has also adopted Community Social Responsibility (CSR) with the intent of increasing participation from the local community. As part of that, Sumalindo has developed a village mentoring program and is also providing support for health and educational services to local communities”.

When we buy wood and paper products, we seldom think about where they come from and who they may have hurt or helped along the way. The more people understand stories like Sumalindo’s, the more they can start to make informed choices about the type of forest management they want to support as consumers.

“The benefit of sustainable forest management is the positive image linked to forest conversation management rather than profit,” said Uun Raudatul Jannah, Head of Sumalindo’s Forestry Subdivision. “Society will gain an understanding of safeguarding forests for the future… and conviction that the forest will always be protected by companies and society”.

Learn more about RAFT media outreach efforts here.