How Jambi province could become the role model of sustainable landscapes in Indonesia

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Tea plantation on the slopes of Kerinci volcano in Jambi Tea plantation on the slopes of Kerinci volcano in Jambi

Jambi, a province located in the center of Sumatra Island, Indonesia, is home to forests and peatlands that regulate water flows, store carbon, support biodiversity, and are lifelines for traditional communities such as the Talang Mamak, Orang Rimba, and Melayu peoples. But these rich landscapes are fast disappearing.

Natural forests used to cover 40 percent of Jambi in 2006, but by 2017 this had fallen to only 22 percent (based on Ministry of Environment and Forestry 2017 analysis of satellite images for Jambi). Emissions from the Agriculture, Forests, and Land Use (AFOLU) sector account for over 85 percent of total emissions in Jambi.

The International Day of Forests this year took us back to memory lane when we made a personal visit to the province’s capital Jambi City last year, located in eastern Jambi, to the Kerinci district in the province’s far west. We observed kilometers after kilometers of extensive palm oil plantations, interrupted by coal mines and lively villages.

The impact of this rapid transformation has been felt by the local people. Many retold the experiences of Orang Rimba who are confined to protected forests (such as the Bukit Dua Belas National Park) or even squeezed within palm oil plantations and no longer have space to practice their traditional way of life. Human-wildlife conflicts are multiplying, including with species such as elephants and tigers, leading to the loss of critically endangered species. At the same time, local people clearly recognize the benefits of protecting forests – particularly the role of forests in maintaining water balance and avoiding erosion and protecting from natural disasters.

Indonesia has taken strong measures to avoid deforestation and promote green growth in Jambi

Indonesia has made significant commitments to reduce its greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions, while the deforestation rate has decreased for four consecutive years between 2017 and 2020. The government credits this to several reforms , including improvements in forest monitoring and prevention, a moratorium on oil palm plantation licenses and on peatland and primary forest conversion, investment in land tenure clarification, restoration of critical ecosystems such as peatlands and mangroves, and the promotion of sustainable livelihoods to rural communities.

Jambi provincial government and several non-government organizations are working hard to protect the remaining forests. To promote sustainable and inclusive growth, Jambi has established a provincial Green Growth Plan. This plan outlines a vision for low-carbon development that is centered around increased land productivity and the protection of forests and peatlands. The 2021 provincial mid-term development plan sets out to mainstream ‘green growth’ into the development of the province. These are the foundations on which provincial policies and projects can be built on to achieve Jambi’s green growth ambitions and to bolster the trend in reduced deforestation and GHG emissions.

Inspirational examples of integrated landscape management by local communities.

The Merangin district is a case in point of a clear “green development” vision and of integrated landscape management on the ground. Efforts are currently underway to establish a brand-new 400,000-hectare geo-park. The geo-park is a unified area that advances the protection and use of geological heritage in a sustainable way to protect and promote a rich treasure of fauna and flora fossils, while promoting nature-based tourism in the mountainous areas. The district government has prepared a master plan for the area, established a management body, and is seeking UNESCO recognition, while marketing the destination to domestic and international tourists.

The district has also championed the formal recognition of customary communities, who are, after being recognized, able to get forest management rights from the Ministry of Environment and Forestry. After securing land rights, communities gain income from the forests through harvesting non-timber forest products such as honey and cinnamon, and practicing ecotourism and providing ecosystem services.

While visiting a customary forest covering 800 hectares, we experienced the leadership of local traditional leaders and young people in protecting their forests and ensuring their sustainability. They even plan to build a “sekolah rimba,” an environmental education center for the local youth.

The Merangin district planning agency is providing funds to 22 villages (IDR15 million per village) to increase communities’ motivation in managing forests and to enhance the capacity of local institutions. The district’s Forest Management Unit has supported local communities to market their products, promoted rehabilitation of critical degraded areas through community-based restoration techniques, such as village-level nurseries with native and fruit species, and protected forests through improving forest management (firefighting and patrolling).

Nursery owned by farmer group in Jambi
Nursery owned by farmer group in Jambi. Photo: Fauzan Ijazah/World Bank

Through various programs, the World Bank has been supporting the government of Indonesia and Jambi in accelerating the transition to a green economy . A grant from the BioCarbon Fund Initiative for Sustainable Forest Landscapes (BioCF-ISFL) supports the local government and communities around critical forest areas to increase agriculture productivity, promote alternative income activities such as tourism, and increase access to markets to avoid further encroachment and benefit the communities. Offering alternative livelihood opportunities for local communities while ensuring enforcement of spatial plan regulations is critical to conserving the remaining forests. 

From land governance to carbon payments, Jambi has the potential to be an example of successful integrated landscape management taking place in real-time. In the long run, Indonesia could scale up the initiatives in Jambi and use it as a model for sustainable land use management across the country. 


André Rodrigues de Aquino

Lead Environmental Specialist

Efrian Muharrom

Environmental specialist

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