Timber Legality Assurance System in Indonesian Small Scale Private Forests: Where To?
Illegal logging and illegal trade issues have influenced the demand for timber in the international market which requires the legality of timber from producing countries including Indonesia. Indonesia at the forefront of tropical wood-producing countries is trying to increase the trust of wood buyers in the legitimacy of their wood products. One of Indonesia's efforts to overcome this problem is the implementation of the Sistem Verifikasi Legalitas Kayu (SVLK) policy internationally known as Indo-TLAS (the Indonesian Timber Legality Assurance System). The SVLK has been implemented since January 2013. In the same year, Indonesia and the European Union also signed the Voluntary Partnership Agreement (VPA) in Brussels. Then starting 15 November 2016, V-Legal documents issued by the Timber Legality Verification Authority (LVLK) to the European Union can also act as FLEGT licenses.
Based on Regulation of the Minister of Environment and Forestry P.8/2021 concerning Forest Management and Preparation of Forest Management Plans, and Utilization of Forests in Protection Forests and Production Forests (Tata Hutan dan Penyusunan Rencana Pengelolaan Hutan, serta Pemanfaatan Hutan di Hutan Lindung dan Hutan Produksi), the application of SVLK is mandatory and must be applied to all industrial timber businesses, from upstream (farmers) up to downstream business (industry), including small-scale private forests. The SVLK policy also applies to both domestic and international timber circulation. Although SVLK has been an internationally recognized system and has opened up markets for the Indonesian forestry industry, especially in the European Union, Australia, and the United States, there are many issues for its implementation in small businesses in the forestry sector, as well as private forest farmers.
Obstacles to SVLK implementation, especially for small-scale private forests, are related to compliance with legality standards and certification costs. This was expressed by Rochmadi, a farmer from the Gunung Kidul area of Daerah Istimewa Yogyakarta (DIY), who expressed that his farmer group (Kelompok Tani Hutan or KTH) Tani Manunggal consist of 97 members that manage Community Forest or Hutan Kemasyarakatan (HKm (state forests managed by the local community), had SVLK-certified timber, but since the certification is only for one year, they currently do not have the certification status (SVLK certified). They are at present unable to finance the certification extension and surveillance, hence their group is now managing small-scale private forests and HKm without SVLK. He could not say whether there are benefits (or even whether there are impacts) of SVLK since the group only had a-one year certification, and there were no harvest activities that year. He did mention, however, that he does not think that the impact would be significant since the buyers are local people and did not require certification. Most small-scale farmers claimed that they do not need the SVLK, the most important thing is how to meet the daily needs of their families. Even without holding an SVLK certificate, small business actors using community wood as raw materials are still able to trade their processed wood products in the domestic market.
The same comment was also conveyed by Rubikem, a female farmer who is the secretary of KTH Jasema, in Dlingo Subdistrict, Bantul, DIY. KTH Jasema received much facilitation from the government and NGOs related to funding so as not to incur costs related to SVLK. However, she has not seen the economic impact because buyers are residents and the circulation of community wood is still at the local level that does not require certification. Additionally, she said it has no impact on farmers' income, timber prices, timber sales volume, as well as the timber market chain. However, SVLK is sufficient to give social impacts on farmers in the form of new experience and knowledge, awareness in forest management, the improvement of farmer capacity to obtain information, roles in sustainable forest management, community forest institutions, and the economy, business networks, and improvement of production management (including administration system). Furthermore, meetings among members and with various stakeholders are becoming more frequent than ever. But of course, this is all because of fund facilitation from the NGOs and the government.
Meanwhile, information from East Java farmers, KTH Santuso II in Sumberjambe Subdistrict, Jember, revealed that there is little hope related to SVLK. Through the assistance of the East Java Forestry Agency, KTH has received SVLK since 2019. Although it is admitted by its chairman, Bambang Sugianto, that business development has not had a significant impact both from economic and social aspects, but, currently, KTH is in the process of working with a timber processing company in East Java because of obtaining SVLK. He hopes the process for a cooperation plan can work well so that the benefits of SVLK for opening new markets are real.
In Pati, Central Java, chairman of KTH Tani Muda Makmur, Yoyok said that there was little impact from SVLK, at least since acquiring SVLK in 2018, the price of wood is relatively stable and middlemen do not dare to play the price. The public is also increasingly concerned that logging is for mature trees or at least 15 cm in diameter, so this also has a good impact on the environment. In addition, Tamsi, chairman of KTH Tani Lestari 3, added that although the impact of SVLK in private forests has not been impacted yet for the economy and society, farmers have become more confident in the development of private forest businesses because of legality recognition from the government.
Although all interviewees said that SVLK needs high costs, actually, they did not know the exact costs for the entire certification process, because all are financed by the donor/government. They were only implementers of what the assistants/donor suggested. Furthermore, some farmers still adhere to the logging system to meet the needs of the economy or it is defined as "needy harvest" (tebang butuh), though some have tricks to prevent tree felling that are not worthy.
For example, through the strategy of loan funds from the KTH Cooperation Office such as those conducted by KTH Jasema in Bantul DIY and internal agreements between buyers and sellers related to the loan fund for delayed harvest such as those in KTH Tani Muda Makmur and KTH Tani Lestari 3 in Pati, Central Java. The government itself through the body of public services or Badan Layanan Umum (BLU) has recently provided loan services to community forest farmers, one of which is the delayed harvest credit (Kredit Tunda Tebang) scheme. Research results from Soedomo et al. (2021) showed that the delayed harvest credit had enriched its objectives, not only dealing with "needy harvest" but also becoming an alternative source of funds for business expansion in rural areas.
The results of interviews are not much different from the results of the research “Enhancing Community-Based Commercial Forestry in Indonesia” in 2016 – 2021 (collaborative research by the Research and Development and Innovation Agency of the Ministry of Environment and Forestry with the Australian Center for International Agricultural Research) that several SVLK certificates have suspension status, mostly because the certificate holder does not carry out audit surveillance activities according to the timetable set by the Timber Legality Verification Agency (LVLK). Freezing up to the revocation of the V-LK Certificate, there are still a lot of business actors in the small-scale timber sector as well as private forests, citing the high cost of certification and maintenance. Moreover, the collection of community timber in the private forest can still be carried out only with a Supplier’s Declaration of Conformity (SDoC) or Deklarasi Hasil Hutan secara Mandiri based on Regulation of the Minister of Environment and Forestry P.8/2021.
Farmers who received SVLK claim to be willing to apply for SVLK because there are assistances from the government and NGOs who are willing to facilitate funding and all SVLK needs. They cannot apply for and meet SVLK requirements without assistance. Some farmers claim not to know the exact amount of costs related to SVLK submission, process, and surveillance because all related financing is taken care of by the assistant and the farmer only carries out orders or guidance from the assistant team. Farmers realized that the cost of certification is expensive and difficult to fulfill for small-scale private forest owners.
But what about the private forest farmers whose access to information and assistance from stakeholders does not yet exist? Farmers who received SVLK are lucky because they get attention and assistance from the government or NGOs, although some also claim follow-up assistance after getting SVLK has not been optimal. Institutionally, in general, private forest management institutions are still weak. SVLK regulations or related to SVLK are rapidly changing so it confuses the target group. As a result, small business actors are indifferent and reluctant to take care of SVLK certification. Not easy for private forest farmers with low-level income and education to obey the SVLK system, furthermore, the average land area is only about 0.25 ha. They face unsupportive economically and institutionally conditions, which eventually call other actors to assist them. The government needs to provide more intensive socialization and assistance so that farmers and small businesses can adopt better policies.
It cannot be denied that SVLK in the private forest brings many interesting questions and discussions, and many more explorations are needed. There are many issues to be raised and questions pertaining to SVLK, e.g whether it is needed in private forests. Basically, timber from private forests is the most legal timber from a legal perspective, isn’t it? especially in Java. Private forests which have legal ownership of land rights by each individual will of course be closely guarded and protected by the landowners. Illegal logging in private forests can be said to be very minimal and even very difficult to happen because each owner protects trees for their livelihood. Therefore, analyzing the implementation and challenges of SVLK in Indonesia is essential to provide recommendations to the government as well as donors to support the effectiveness of SVLK, policy improvement, and donor programs in the future.
Fitta Setiajiati1,3, Bramasto Nugroho1,3, Damayanti Buchori2,3, Yulius Hero1,3, Silfi Iriyani3
1 Department of Forest Management, IPB University
2 Department of Plant Protection, IPB University
3 Center for Transdisciplinary and Sustainability Sciences, IPB University
 Interviewed by phone on December 21, 2021
 Interviewed by phone on December 21, 2021
 Interviewed by phone on December 25, 2021
 Interviewed by phone on December 26, 2021
 Interviewed by phone on December 26, 2021
 Soedomo S, Putro HS, Nugroho B, Suharjito D. 2021. Forest stands as collateral in Indonesia. Small-scale Forestry. https://doi.org/10.1007/s11842-021-09491-8