One of the most effective ways to conserve Indonesia’s forests is to provide alternative sources of income to the local communities who otherwise depend on logging.

It’s for that reason that Riau Ecosystem Restoration (RER) has partnered with Koperasi Jasa Tani Merbau Sejahtera (KJTMS), a local cooperative, to produce and sell honey. 

Riau Province is home to many sialang trees, which often host forest bees, and Padang Island, where past of the RER concession sits, has a long tradition of honey production.

RER partnered with KJTMS earlier this year to help the local community increase production and therefore their income.


Sialang trees are ideal habitats for forest bees

Forest honey is usually available throughout the year, but the honey in Padang Island is typically harvested between November and March. During this period, the honey farmers will spend a few days in the forest to collect the honey, which will then be distributed to the other members of the group. The honey is then marketed through KJTMS.

RER provides the cooperative with training, bottling facilities and marketing assistance. To introduce Riau Forest Honey to the market, RER held honey promotional days at Unigraha Hotel, Pangkalan Kerinci. At least 300 guests and employees of APRIL Group had the opportunity to sample the honey on 14-15 June 2017. The proceeds of the sale will go to community programs in Padang Island.


The Riau Forest Honey packaging

Lisbeth, one of the APRIL Group employees at the event, said she often finds commercial honey to be mixed with water and sugar, which reduce the flavor and quality.

"Thumbs up for this cooperation with honey farmers in Padang Island because I find this is a very positive activity. Especially when RER is committed to allocate the revenue from the purchase of honey to the activities supporting the community in Padang Island,” she said.


More than 300 people attended the sale

Riau Forest Honey is packed as raw honey that has not been chemically treated so it still has 20-22% water content. The honey is harvested from naturally growing sialang trees and produced by wild honey bees.

Honey is believed to boost the immune system and contains natural microorganisms that can help the healing process and kill bacteria in our body.

Fahiran, a member of the KJTMS board, hopes that cooperation between RER and honey farmers in Pulau Padang can improve the welfare of local people. "Harvesting honey is now only considered as generating side income, but with this cooperation, they hope it can be one of their main sources of income, so the community can slowly reduce their dependency from logging and selling of timber from the natural forest," Fahiran said.