Bungo, Jambi

The site

Bungo district in the Batang Hari watershed is located in the western part of Jambi province on the island of Sumatra. Jambi is the third-largest rubber-producing province in Indonesia. The district lies between 1º08' and 1º15' latitude and 101º27' and 102º30' longitude. The region is relatively flat, with an altitude of less than 500 masl. Approximately 50% of the land is covered by rubber-based systems, of which 15% is in the form of old rubber agroforests or ‘jungle rubber’, which is becoming an increasingly important  reservoir of forest diversity and other environmental services provided by natural forests.

The issues

In Jambi province, where rubber is the major source of income, the economic level of the inhabitants depends on the world market price. Low rubber prices over past years have brought a substantial part of the province below the official poverty line, while a decade ago Jambi was better off and was an attractive destination for migrants. 

In recent years, the enormous increase of oil palm plantations has led to a reduction in the number of jungle rubber areas in Jambi.  Oil palm plantations provide more income per unit of land with less labour than rubber, thus, forming a threat to both environmental services and diversified livelihoods. Unless farmers are rewarded for the environmental services provided by rubber agroforests, these biodiverse areas will soon be replaced by largely monoculture oil palm plantations.

Environmental services and the people involved

Environmental services

Maintaining old rubber agroforests  for diversity of animal and plants

People who provide the services

79 rubber farmers from Lubuk Beringin village

People who benefit from the services

Bridgestone, rubber industries

People who act as intermediaries between the providers and the beneficiaries

World Agroforestry Centre

The main ‘service’ that differentiates rubber agroforests from other ‘tree crop’ production systems is the diversity of plants and animals. With rubber trees typically at or below 50% of the total tree basal area, the diversity of forest trees, epiphytes, birds, insects and mammals is estimated to be 50–70% of that of a similar area of natural forest. Initial concerns that the landscape-level diversity (relative to that of forest) would be substantially less than the relative diversity of plot-level observations are not supported by current data (although the landscape context of the historical diversity remains to be further clarified by more research). These agroforests may provide one of the best examples of an ‘integrated’ approach to ecological agriculture, combining biodiversity and income-generating opportunities.

The communities of Letung, Sangi, Mengkuang Besar, Mengkuang Kecil and Lubuk Beringin villages agreed to retain their complex rubber agroforests (total of about 2500 hectare) if incentives were provided. The incentives local people requested included support to establish microhydropower plants, setting up rubber nurseries and demonstration plots of improved rubber agroforests, and clonal plants of high-yielding rubber trees for intensively managed rubber gardens.

Conservation agreements were signed by these four villages in 2006. The incentives provided at the time were seen only as interim while a more permanent reward mechanism was being developed.

In addition, Bridgestone (an international tyre company based in Japan) expressed interest in supporting jungle-rubber farmers to improve the quality of their rubber. The company appreciated the rich biodiversity of rubber agroforestry in Bungo, which was maintained by smallholders.

A team of experts from Bridgestone visited Bungo and conducted two ‘train the trainer’ sessions to improve the quality of the rubber sourced from agroforests. It was expected that the training would trigger a wider distribution of knowledge in rubber-quality improvement. To motivate farmers, the company paid for the cost of transportation for the first two loads by sending their trucks to pick up rubber slabs from farmers who had produced good quality rubber. 

RUPES also investigated an eco-certification scheme for the complex rubber agroforests that would lead to a price premium for the natural rubber from the ‘jungle’ that would be sold in niche markets, such as for ‘green’ car and bicycle tyres. RUPES and the World Agroforestry Centre, supported by Indonesia Ecolabelling Institute (LEI), conducted a study on eco-certification schemes to assess the community’s readiness to participate

The rewards

Marketing chains for rubber agroforests 

The RUPES team identified a number of obstacles in the smallholders’ rubber marketing chain. In particular, the product quality and processing of the ‘jungle rubber’ provided a link to the least ‘eco-sensitive’ segment of the rubber market.

In the short term, RUPES expected that the buyers would respond positively to a proposal that would provide direct support to village communities that agreed to protect a substantial area of old rubber agroforest. But more research is needed to clarify the issues and find solutions.

Eco-certified natural rubber from sustainable rubber agroforests

RUPES conducted some research on profitability and environmental quality, focusing on carbon stock and biodiversity, of traditional and intensive rubber production systems in Indonesia. One of the outcomes of this work was recognition of the environmental quality of rubber production systems through special product lines.

Ensuring a sustainable mechanism

RUPES contributed to some changes in Bungo’s communities, ranging from the establishment of farmers’ groups through to increasing the awareness of local officials on the environmental consequences of monoculture plantations. 

In order to maintain the positive processes, and to respond to future situations, local communities needed to learn to adapt to change wisely. Local and national institutions are expected to provide support in building the farmers’ capacities, as well as playing the role of intermediary between the communities and international buyers.

Follow-up

At the end of the project, RUPES and LEI conducted a workshop, ‘Land-use change dynamics’, that involved local stakeholders  who were interested in sustainable forest management, such as the forestry agency, members of parliament, business people, university staff and students, NGOs and community representatives. One recommendation was that everyone agree to establish a task force to support sustainable forest management in Bungo district. This task force is expected to become a centre that can support the capacity-building process towards eco-labelling certification in agroforests by the communities, inside (village forest, customary forest etc) or outside forest areas (community forests, farming).

Site partners

  • Lembaga Ekolabel Indonesia (LEI)

The Indone­sian Eco­la­belling Insti­tute is a non-profit, con­stituent-based orga­ni­za­tion that develops for­est cer­ti­fi­ca­tion sys­tems to pro­mote their mis­sion of just and sus­tain­able for­est resources man­age­ment in Indone­sia. As a con­stituent-based orga­ni­za­tion LEI retains independence and trans­parency, both of which are nec­es­sary for the cred­i­bil­ity of for­estry certification (http://www.lei.or.id).

  • Warung Konservasi (WARSI)

WARSI is an organizational network established in January 1992, with membership made up of twelve NGOs from four provinces in Sumatra (South Sumatra, West Sumatra, Bengkulu and Jambi), whose focus is biodiversity conservation and community development. WARSI cooperates and maintains a dialogue with a number of different parties connected with conservation and development in the four southern Sumatran provinces, including the Regional Planning Authority (Bappeda), the Nature Conservation Agency (PHPA), institutions of higher learning, private agencies and other concerned groups. WARSI is also not limited to NGOs but is open to professionals and teachers as well as other groups who are interested in being involved in its activities (http://www.warsi.or.id/).

Contacts for more information