In 2017, Earthworm Foundation, with the support of our Coalition partners and funders, launched a pioneering programme to advance long-term, landscape level sustainability transformation in Aceh Tamiang, Sumatra.
The goal of this programme is to reduce deforestation and demonstrate to the world the feasibility of balancing commodity production, conservation and good social and labour practices at scale.
To accomplish this, the programme focuses on three mutually reinforcing areas of work: integrated land use planning with government, NDPE support and training for industry, and intensive capacity-building for communities on the forest frontier.
The first phase of the Areas for Priority Transformation (APT) programme in Aceh Tamiang consisted of robust landscape diagnostics using the Starling satellite monitoring system to observe forest cover change and understand the sources and drivers of deforestation. With this information, we began a second phase of stakeholder engagement to build trust and establish working relationships on the ground that would provide the basis for implementation work for the coming years.
In June of 2018, Earthworm Foundation (then The Forest Trust/TFT) signed a formal partnership with the district government of Aceh Tamiang, under the authority and direction of the Bupati. This partnership was an important milestone in the APT programme in Aceh Tamiang and acted to formalise our support with the government on spatial planning and sustainable development efforts at district, sub-district, and village levels.
Working with government on integrated spatial planning and sustainable development
The APT programme helps to build the capacity of the local government to conduct spatial planning and district development processes that are inclusive and driven by data. We do this through data and technical expertise and by bringing together voices from NGOs, civil society and local communities to ensure balanced representation and input.
NDPE socialisation and training for mills and plantations
We are helping build understanding among mills and plantations about the business case for sustainability and good social and labour practices. Through an intensive series of workshops and training, we socialise the concept of NDPE (No Deforestation, Peat, Exploitation), guide companies through a self-assessment process of their own operations using simple yet powerful tracking tools, and build their capacity to close gaps in order to protect forests and respect both workers and communities.
High Conservation Value / High Carbon Stock forest protection efforts
We help priority landscape actors to identify, map, manage, and monitor HCV and HCS forest areas. The first of these efforts is focused in PT. Semadam, the company with the largest amount of forest remaining inside any palm oil concession area in Aceh Tamiang district. As part of this process, we work with nearby border villages to identify social issues connected to remaining forest areas and to secure free, prior, and informed consent for HCV/HCS assessment-related activities. The goal and imperative is to achieve inclusive conservation of remaining forest areas.
Supporting communities to develop sustainable livelihoods
We use a participatory mapping process known as Participatory Conservation Planning (PCP) to help villages map and define their land use in accordance with their own aspirations. To build their agricultural capacity, the APT Rural Support team leads the development of our supplementary livelihood pilot programme. This is designed to help villagers build sustainable sources of income that, when combined with land use plans and education, can alleviate pressures on the forest.
The team is working with several high risk forest-frontier villages to create agriculture sites from land preparation through planting, cultivation and harvest, thereby providing continuous training opportunities for villagers.
Establishing the formal partnership and Memorandum of Understanding with local government
Securing the governing Bupati's agreement to work together was a major and vital step forward in supporting government-led spacial planning and district development efforts. This includes working with "at risk" communities and smallholder groups to develop supplementary livelihood solutions that are scalable and replicable across the district.
Securing a Memorandum of Understanding with PT. Semadam
PT. Semadam agreed to work with us to protect what forest remains. The company has a critically important role as the owner of more than 1400 hectares of forest.
Task Force for Acceleration of Green Development
Earthworm Foundation was invited by the Bupati to join the task force, which is tasked with guiding spatial planning and sustainable growth efforts. The task force will soon issue its implementation action plan to the Bupati.
Participatory Conservation Plan results
A Public consultation to socialise the results of the plan was well attended by the villagers and relevant local authorities, and yielded strong stakeholder consensus over recently completed mapping results. This important milestone moves us closer to securing formal regulatory protection over the village’s specified land use plans and aspirations.
Drop in deforestation
Starling satellite monitoring of Aceh Tamiang in Q2 2019 revealed a 95% drop in deforestation when compared with 2018, and a 96% drop compared with 2017. It should be noted that persistent cloud cover posed limitations in satellite monitoring in Q2, but monitoring data and field verification on the ground confirm an encouraging multi-quarter trend of declining deforestation.
We attribute this decline to a range of factors. Recognising that increasing scarcity of accessible forested land to clear and unfavourable commodity prices are undoubtedly influencing deforestation rates, our ongoing, close collaborations with local government and plantation companies indicates that increased awareness and commitments on their parts stemming directly from APT programme activities are also playing a significant role in driving behaviour change. We view these significantly declining deforestation rates as a very positive development, while working with our local partners and strategic allies to keep a watchful eye towards risks on the horizon.
*Research from a variety of sources, including: Starling landcover basemap & monitoring (2016-2017); KLHK Landcover (MoF, 2015); Intact Forest Landscape (Greenpeace,2010); Aceh Tamiang District Spatial Planning (2012-2032).
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