Small timber businesses in Java are provided with the training to calculate a sustainable harvest and achieve their just rewards.
Traceable and responsible supply chains for timber retailers; better practices that respect the environment and local people; increased revenues for smallholder farmers. It sounds like a pipedream, but for one community in Java, it’s a reality.
Dipantara is a small Indonesian wood trading business in the Javan province of Yogyakarta, which has developed a group business model aimed at helping smallholder farmers in the region. It is now a viable organisation that helps smallholder farmers in Java to manage their land more sustainably and sell their wood to retailers in Europe and the United States.
Much of Indonesia‘s teak, for both domestic and international markets, comes from small, family-owned plantations such as those belonging to Dipantara’s farmers. Millions of families across Java plant teak in this way to earn additional income.
But farmers often fail to realise the potential of their teak resource. Low timber quality due to poor silviculture techniques – along with lack of capital investment and limited access to market information – can mean farmers receive well below market price for their wood.
Training has been a big part of Dipantara’s journey, improving the farmers’ environmental and business knowledge. Farmers now know how to estimate teak volumes and calculate sustainable harvest levels. Workshops in planting, pruning, thinning and seedling selection have taught smallholder farmers how to improve the quantity and quality of trees grown on their agro-forest plots. Modern and sustainable logging techniques have helped smallholders to harvest wood safely, lowering the negative environmental impact and ensuring there’s no damage to neighbouring properties when trees are felled. Farmers make a premium for their teak through Dipantara, which has also given them access to thousands of free, high-quality seedlings to plant in their agro-forests. In just three years 64,500 teak and albizia seedlings have been distributed and planted. On average, for every tree harvested five seedlings have been planted in its place. This year the total number of seedlings planted is expected to be over 200,000.
A key part of developing a successful business model for Dipantara has been a focus on community collaboration and environmental awareness. Dipantara is supported by TFT’s retail members, such as Crate & Barrel and Maisons du Monde, which make their orders early on in the process which funds more villages to join the initiative.
Today Dipantara has partnerships with 96 farmers’ groups in 20 villages. In total, 7,966 farmers and their families have registered with the business. The model achieved Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) certification in 2012 for 20 of its farmer groups, involving 1,217 farmers.
But herein lies the challenge: how can you successfully coordinate the activities of thousands of farmers scattered throughout the region, each with their own individual ways of working? This is why TFT is working in the field alongside Dipantara’s members, maintaining and improving local forestry to secure livelihoods in Indonesia.
It’s a gradual and complex process, but buyers who source teak from the group business know their wood is 100% traceable back to the tree stump. This a rarity for retailers and is often presumed impossible. Dipantara is a living, breathing example of how it can be achieved.
This post originally appeared on TheGuardian.com