Tackling illegal logging in Aceh, Indonesia

Illegal logging is a serious problem around the world, not least in Indonesia which is home to 10% of the world’s tropical forests.

Following the devastating 2004 Indian Ocean tsunami, Aceh’s pristine rainforest and its timber came under unprecedented pressure to supply the large-scale reconstruction effort in this Indonesian province.

This was cause for concern for Fauna & Flora International (FFI) which has been working in Aceh’s Ulu Masen ecosystem since 1998.

The 738,000 ha Ulu Masen landscape is rich in biodiversity, supporting over 300 bird species as well as globally important populations of Sumatran tiger and Asian elephant.

It also provides invaluable social, environmental and economic services (such as clean water supplies and flood prevention) to over a million people.

A collaborative approach

In 2008, in an effort to tackle the large-scale deforestation in the area, FFI and local partners designed and implemented an ‘anti-illegal logging network’ for Ulu Masen’s forests.

Mr Wahdi Azmi, FFI’s Forest Conservation Manager described the approach, “We are working with all of the main stakeholders: from local NGOs who monitor and report illegal forest activities, to law enforcement agencies who then respond in the field.”

FFI has now published a new report which outlines the compelling results from this project:

  • Over 12 months 190 forest offences were reported, which resulted in 86 law enforcement operations
  • In total, 251 m3 of illegal timber, 26 vehicles, 17 chainsaws and two industrial saws were seized and three sawmills closed, all of which were used for illegal logging
  • 138 suspected illegal loggers were arrested. From 45 cases monitored until a known outcome approximately half (48.3%) received a prison sentence (4 months to 4.5 years), while 41.4% received a verbal warning for a first offence. The remaining 10.3% were awaiting a final verdict.

Mr Rahmad Kasia, FFI’s Forest Crime and Investigation Coordinator said, “FFI has taken on many of the recommendations made in the report. We’ve provided a sub-grant to a local NGO so they can keep monitoring the situation and build community support for our work. We’ve also signed a formal agreement with the Aceh police, which should increase their on-the-ground response.”

The future of Indonesian forests

The Government of Indonesia is currently preparing to implement a nationwide strategy to Reduce Emissions from Deforestation and Forest Degradation (REDD+).

These REDD+ projects have the potential to generate billions of dollars and yield significant biodiversity benefits, but the Government of Indonesia first needs to demonstrate its ability to meet pre-agreed targets for reducing forest loss.

In turn, this will require the establishment of a comprehensive strategy that tackles both illegal timber felling and land encroachment, which so far has generally been lacking.

FFI’s Ulu Masen report outlines a multi-stakeholder approach that could form the basis for such a strategy, and will help planners to predict and mitigate potential problems before they arise.

To learn more, download the report (PDF).