Brazilian solution to end deforestation in Indonesia?

This just in from a reader. Dow Jones has carried a story in which Brazil apparently may have the answer to how Indonesia can stop illegal logging:

Just over 20 years on from its shift to democracy, Brazil could provide valuable insight into sustainability to another of the world’s largest forested countries, Indonesia, and strengthen diplomatic ties in doing so, an official said.

The increasingly democratic nature of Brazil’s governance has been key in the country’s success in reducing the rate of deforestation, which worsened almost unchecked during its decades of dictatorship, Jose Soares Jr., deputy chief of mission at Brazil’s Jakarta embassy, told Dow Jones Newswires in a recent interview.

Brazil is now less tolerant of corruption and favors what Soares describes as an institutionalization of forestry resources, which crowds out small-scale outfits – often the culprits of illegal logging.

Brazil, which under its current administration has made broad inroads into halting the slide of its forests into oblivion, is ready to share its hard-earned lessons on forest management with Indonesia, Soares said.

“The Brazilian government wants to let the Indonesian government know what it is doing, and the roadblocks it faces, (to encourage) everyday cooperation for creating a culture between the two countries,” Soares said.

Indonesia, a scant nine years into democratic reform after 32 years of dictatorship, is facing financially crippling deforestation problems exacerbated by a corrupt legal system, widespread poverty and unemployment, and a high degree of legal impunity for environmental criminals.

Soares’ comments came on the sidelines of a conference held in Jakarta this week to determine future Indonesia strategy for the locally-based Centre for International Forest Research, or CIFOR.

During the conference, parliamentarian Dr. Drajad Wibowo urged the independent CIFOR to assist the Indonesian government to create informed forest management policies, which officials say are currently often determined by political expediency.

“Research that informs policies…has to be relevant, it has to be transparent, and it has to be understood,” Mike Harrison, Livelihoods advisor at the U.K.-based Department for International Development, added.

While CIFOR considers its way forward in influencing government policy, if Brazil were to provide a successful working model for forest sustainability, this could hugely benefit Indonesia’s government which, despite its efforts, is so far enjoying little success in halting massive deforestation in its backyard, estimated to drain IDR5 trillion ($5.5 billion) from state coffers each year.
Forests “Niches Of Opportunity” For Indonesia, Brazil Ties

As well as being a fellow fledgling democracy, Brazil is also physically similar to Indonesia in that both are sprawling countries that are home to large forest tracts, distinct and sometimes mutually hostile ethnic groups, and semiautonomous regional governance systems, loosely and sometimes unwillingly gathered under the central umbrella of a developing economy.

“Brazil is a partner that is useful and adequate to the Indonesian experience,” Soares said, but added that indifferent diplomatic and trade ties between the two countries could be strengthened by finding a common ground.

“Indonesia is trying to form an institutional framework. They (can) go to the brother on the other side of the sea if they need something really specific,” Soares said.

“We are more or less 15 years ahead of Indonesia, in terms of (developing) institutionalization and transparency.”

“Brazil and Indonesia could have a common interface, (but) we (need to) find some niches of opportunity in the social field,” he said.

“We find the forest could be…one of these points of common interest.”

Working together on common issues could “create a cooperation that would surely extend to other sectors,” Soares said, predicting that tourism, trade and information-sharing ties between the two countries could benefit.
Alternate Forest Management Initiatives Could Be Key

Environmental groups peg illegal logging as the greatest single contributor to deforestation in Indonesia, estimating that the illicit industry represents an annual loss of IDR3 trillion ($3.3 billion) of total losses of state revenue due to deforestation.

But punishing the most visible culprits – such as farmers or small-scale logging outfits – is less effective than intelligence-gathering to locate the financial backers behind the illegal logging industry, Soares said.
CIFOR’s newly installed Director General, Frances Seymour, agreed. “(CIFOR’s) research shows that crackdowns on forest crime tend to focus on the little guy – the poor farmer illegally cutting (down) one tree,” she said during her keynote speech.

CIFOR hopes that the results of its findings will encourage law enforcers to target forest crimes “driven by greed, rather than by need,” Seymour said.

On the other hand, redirecting those responsible for illegal logging into more sustainable industries from wholesale timber trade could be a potential answer, Soares said.

Tropical rainforests such as those in Brazil’s Amazon Basin and Indonesia’s Kalimantan region are often home to myriad rare plant and animal species, and these are resources that can be exploited in a sustainable way, Soares said.

Ecotourism, sustainable extraction of plants for use in herbal medicines and food supplements, and even edible resources, make Indonesia’s forests, like Brazil’s, potential gold mines, Soares said.

“If you go to Amazonia, you will see shops with 100 different flavors of ‘forest fruits’ ice-cream,” he said. “We can play with comparative advantages, exploring the forest resources while conserving the forest itself.”

As Indonesia’s democracy continues to develop, redirection of forest exploitation into legitimate, sustainable sectors, and continued efforts by the legal and justice systems, are key to halting deforestation.

But public education may be the most important aspect of all, Soares said.

“If you make it something civic, something that is in the conscience of the people, you can do something real in the end,” he said.

2 thoughts on “Brazilian solution to end deforestation in Indonesia?

  1. That is an interesting article with help from a corner, I would not have expected it from. Too bad you didn’t include some links from your information sources. Insightful though.


  2. Sam – as the reader who wrote and submitted the story, i can tell you that as yet the idea of Brazil schooling Indonesia in forestry management practices is in a very early stage of conception, and there has so far been no official acknowledgement of the idea from Indonesia’s forestry ministry.

    the source hinted that Brazil’s government is very much prepared to offer Indonesia a ready-made “action plan” based on its own annually-updated environmental initiatives, which have slowed deforestation rates in the Amazon basin and elsewhere by 30% in the 12-month period to July ’06.

    i will be following the story closely if it develops, but right now the ball is very much in indonesia’s court.

    on past evidence, such as the stalled implementation of the FLEG and FLEGT initiatives, it may not start rolling at all – let’s hope it does.

    regarding sources for the background information, it was mostly compiled from data from environmental organizations, and existing dow jones copy, which is not readily accessible on the net.

    try,, and for further info on indonesia’s forests.


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