The forests of Indonesia are among its most valued – and exploited – resources. Many formerly forest-rich provinces such as Sumatra and Kalimantan mismanaged this resource, and forests there faced wholesale destruction at the hands of loggers and clear-cutting for palm oil plantations. The Papua provinces, which boast the largest natural forests of Southeast Asia, are facing the same future: the current growth trajectory is high-risk and carbon-intensive, and illegal logging poses a threat to indigenous Papuans, 84% of whom are directly dependent on the forest for up to half of their income.
To meet this challenge, the Papuan government has committed to pursuing an alternative set of growth policies. Their “Vision 2100” and “Blueprint for Sustainable Land Use” aims to offer an economic model that delivers both ecologically sustainable and equitable growth. Two key targets of these programmes are a goal of 90% forest cover as well as the reduction of areas earmarked for logging by 21%.
As a part of this initiative, in 2017, the UK’s Department for International Development (DFID) launched the Green Economic Growth programme, operated by the UK’s Climate Change Unit (UKCCU), which aims both to promote sustainable economic development in the private sector and build the capacity of local authorities to manage this development and attract investors to the region. The programme runs until 2022.
LTS International, the newest addition to the NIRAS Group, has been contracted to provide technical assistance to Papuan small-holder farmers and to micro, small, and medium-sized Enterprises (MSMEs) to help build a sustainable and thriving local economic base which will not threaten the natural environment as it grows.
The challenges faced by Papuan small-holder farmers and MSMEs include limited access to markets, high entry costs with little access to credit, a lower level of education and skills, and a lack of general coordination among officials and support organisations. To tackle these issues, the programme focuses on five core areas of activity:
- Market systems analysis to identify, define, and pilot test the changes to markets systems needed for sustainable growth;
- Socioeconomic planning and gender analysis to equip farmers and entrepreneurs with the “soft skills” needed to compete in the market;
- Farming methods and production systems training to help smallholders adopt sustainable crops and land use practices;
- Credit, finance, and small business development to help financial service providers become more active in providing credit products to these groups;
- Business incubator and investor engagement activities through a structured programme of business incubators and process of facilitating investment.
By supporting selected farmers and MSMEs in developing capacity whilst simultaneously working with finance institutions and investors, we can demonstrate the potential of green enterprises in the goal of reducing poverty. Ultimately, proving the viability of these enterprises and leveraging successful programme interventions will attract further support and lead to a growing and sustainable green economy in the region in the long-term.
The programme will focus on assistance to smallholders and enterprises working with many commodities, services and products (see infobox in sidebar). One example area of focus would be the cultivation and sale of seaweed. For the coastal areas of Papua, seaweed is among the commodities best suited for economic development - the start-up costs are low and the turnover period is relatively short, the ecological and social risks are also minimal and profits at current prices will be able to compete or even surpass many other options for smallholders in the area. Add to that the fact that the international seaweed market is rapidly developing and you have a perfect commodity for the coastal regions.
The coast of West Papua, with its access to ports and public transport, and emphasis on sustainable economic and environmental development Wondama and Sorong, along this coast, are excellent locations for seaweed production and where the programme has piloted its seaweed efforts. There have been attempts at producing this commodity in the area before which failed primarily due to lack of supply chain development and lack of training. Thus, the critical intervention in this pilot programme will be to improve knowledge sharing and provide support to enterprises at the initial phase of the process.