December 17, 2019

Restorasi Ekosistem Riau: How does landscape conservation work on the ground, at scale?

Lucita Jasmin, APRIL Director of Sustainability and External Affairs, and Brad Sanders, RER Head of Operations, recently spoke about APRIL’s Restorasi Ekosistem Riau (RER) program at Innovation Forum’s Sustainable Landscapes and Commodities Forum.

The meeting, which took place from November 20 to 21 in London, focused on how businesses can transform supply chains, drive resilience, and empower communities including farmers who depend on land and forests for their livelihoods.

As part of APRIL’s 1-to-1 commitment to ensure an equal area of conservation forest for each hectare of fiber plantation, the APRIL Group established RER in 2013 to protect and restore 150,000 hectares of degraded peat forest on Kampar Peninsula and Padang Island in Riau Province, Indonesia.

“RER operations are funded by an initial 10-year USD 100 million investment from APRIL,” said Lucita.

A critical element of the RER initiative is the adoption and maintenance of an integrated production-protection ring landscape model. This model demonstrates how peat landscapes can be responsibly managed to provide forest products for society as well as protect biodiversity. The ring of fiber plantations along the coastline of the peninsula acts as a buffer for RER concession areas. It serves to protect and conserve the unique biological diversity found within the natural peat forests which in return provides ecosystem services to downstream communities such as water storage and supply, carbon storage, fisheries and other non-timber forest products.

Working with and gaining the trust of local communities are important for the success of RER’s restoration activities. With more than 40,000 people living just outside of the RER concession areas, it is important that APRIL and RER provide training and incentivize improved livelihood opportunities to reduce potential threats to the forest. Programs that promote intensive ‘no-burn’ vegetable farming, aquaculture, low-impact fishing practices, and forest honey collection provide sustainable income and food sources for the local communities.

Nevertheless, some challenges exist. During extended dry periods, fish catches are at a low, which may cause some local fishermen to supplement their annual income by removing birds from the forest for sale to collectors who may use them in songbird competitions in the cities.

Despite these challenges, RER has been successful in the past five years in preventing incidences of illegal logging, fire or other forest disturbances from occurring in our area on the Kampar Peninsula.

A recent Normalized Differential Vegetation Index (NDVI, which is an indicator of forest heatlh) from 2012 to 2018 showed a continuous improvement in the above-ground biomass conditions of peat forests on the Kampar Peninsula.

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