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30. FORDA: Forestry research and community development in Indonesia
Rudi Subarudi
[43] and Maman Mansyur Idris[44]


Indonesian forests are facing a serious threat for its existence due to illegal logging, forest fires, forest encroachment and mismanagement. Most of the destructive factors could be linked to poverty. Therefore, the Ministry of Forestry (MoF) has launched a social forestry programme as an umbrella of its five priority policies. Forest Research and Development Agency (FORDA) is an Indonesian government institution under the MoF, which has a mandate to conduct research and development in forestry. Therefore, FORDA has to support and back up the MoF for the successful implementation of its policies by providing reliable, relevant and accurate information based on scientific findings. In order to improve its institutional capacity and to address poverty reduction, FORDA had taken many actions such as the establishment of new research stations, improvement of research design, assessment of institutional performance, and formulation of strategies for maintaining its existence.


Indonesia has the second largest tropical forest area in the world after Brazil. Its forest area is 113 million ha and accounts for 60 percent of total land area of Indonesia and 14 percent of total forest area in the Asia-Pacific region. The forest is rich in biodiversity and is home to 16 percent of the world's bird species, 11 percent of plants and 10 percent of mammals.

The forests have been threatened by serious problems of illegal cutting, forest fires, forest encroachment, unmatched wood demand, land tenure problem and ineffective supervision. Recent decentralization of production forest management has increased the complexity of problems; however, this decentralization is a political decision that needs to be implemented gradually and consistent with other existing laws. All these have caused, in the last ten years, deforestation at an estimated rate of 1.8 million ha per year (Departemen Kehutanan 2002)

Forests have important functions for life supporting systems and other social and economical functions. Indonesian forestry aims to achieve sustainable forest management for sustainable development. The unwritten goal is to have forests as an inter-generational heritage because of its uniqueness, social and economical values, and other uses.

The pressure on natural forest is due to: (i) lack of understanding of government on community's needs, (ii) limited access of the local people to participate in forest management, (iii) unbalanced benefit distribution, and (iv) poor institutional capacity. As a result, the local people living in surrounding areas of forest are still poor and remain good observers rather than active actors or economic movers.

In order to reduce the pressure on natural forest, and to alleviate the poverty of local community, social forestry is a good alternative solution. Social forestry programme has been supported through the Ministry of Forestry Decree Number: 31 (2001) for empowering local people in forest management by maintaining forest function and living environment in the context of their prosperity improvement.

At present, the Ministry of Forestry (MoF) has set the social forestry programme to be the umbrella programme for implementing five priority policies. The five policies are: (i) combating illegal logging activities, (ii) controlling and suppressing forest fires, (iii) restructuring forestry sector, (iv) establishing plantation forest and reforestation, and (v) decentralizing the forestry sector.

Forest Research and Development Agency (FORDA) is an Indonesian Government institution under the MoF, which has a mandate for doing forestry research and development. Therefore, FORDA has to support and back up the MoF for the successful implementation of its policies by providing reliable, relevant and accurate information based on scientific findings.

This paper tries to explain (i) the current situation of FORDA in connection to the improvement of its institutional capacity, (ii) the establishment of its new research stations, (ii) the improvement of its research design, (iii) the assessment of its institutional performance, and (iv) the formulation of strategies for FORDA's future.


FORDA was originally established in 1913 as an institute called "Proefstation voor het Boswezen" located in Bogor, West Java. Currently, FORDA has four centres, ten institutes and three stations. The centers are: (i) Centre for Research and Development of Forest Product Technology, (ii) Centre for Research and Development of Forest and Natural Conservation, (iii) Centre for Research and Development of Biotechnology and Forest Tree Improvement, and (iv) Centre for Social, Culture and Economic Research on Forestry. The institutes are: Forest Research and Development Institute (FRDI) of Manokwari, FRDI of Makasar, FRDI of Samarinda, FRDI of Kupang, Institute of Reforestation Technology (IRT) of Banjarbaru, IRT of Palembang, Institute of Watershed Management Technology (IWMT) of Surakarta, IWMT of Ujung Pandang, and Seed Technology Research and Development Institute (STRDI). The stations are: (i) Research and Development Station (RDS) of Monsoon Forest, Ciamis, West Java; (ii) RDS of Non-Wood Forest Product, Kuok, Riau; and (iii) RDS of Primate, Samboja, East Kalimantan.

The vision of FORDA is to be the centre of excellence for forestry science and technology, capable to provide knowledge as a basis of strategy for sustainable forest development and provide options for solution of both current and future forestry problems. The missions of FORDA are: (i) to provide science and technology that support sustainable and optimal use of forest resources for the people welfare, (ii) to coordinate, supervise and evaluate forestry R&D activities, supported by professional human resources and competence R&D institutions, and (iii) to disseminate forestry science and technology for the improvement of value added and competitiveness of forest products.

In line with its missions, FORDA's research activities are directed to provide scientific background in supporting the policies of MoF as well as managing forest resources toward sustainable forest management (SFM). The research focused on activities that may provide the best options on handling both the national issues and global concerns on forest resources in Indonesia.

FORDA has a total staff of 1380, of which 605 are administration staff, 410 researchers and 365 research technicians. Its annual budget from the government is Rp. 40 billion (US$ 700 000).

There are many criticisms from the stakeholders, such as: (i) FORDA is not user-oriented in its research activities especially for improving prosperity of local communities, (ii) FORDA produces many spatial and non-integrated research activities, (iii) Parts of the research are not "one step ahead" orientation, (iv) FORDA is not the centre of excellent but the centre of silent, (v) No guarantee for doing multi-year R&D, and (vi) most of research managers has low professionalism. Therefore, FORDA has to improve its performance to win the competition among research institutions in gaining financial support.


Due to multi-dimensional crisis, social conflicts in forest management have emerged in all regions. These social conflicts escalate in the implementation of regional autonomy through Law No: 22-1999 due to the unprepared framework of its implementation. On the one hand the central government is not ready to shift its power to local government. On the other hand, the local government has limitations in human resource quality and in making local regulations due to the unavailability of the guidelines.

Actually, many social conflicts in forestry management were mainly caused by the poor social and economic conditions of local people leading to illegal logging and forest encroachment.

In anticipation, in 1999 FORDA established a new centre called the Centre of Social and Economic Research in Forestry (CSERF) in Bogor, West Java. The emergence of the centre is in response to increasing demand for research on the social and economic aspects of forestry.

The research topics related to poverty reduction addressed by CSERF are presented in Table 1.

Table 1. Research topics on poverty reduction conducted by CSERF in 2001-2002

Research topics in 2001-2002

Research output

Study on private forest and poverty alleviation.

Private forest contributes significant revenues from primary to secondary wood industries.

Study on land tenure system in forestry.

Land tenure is obtained by communities converting forests into their farm areas and demarcated by certain tree species. The needs of land are increasing due to autonomy implementation.

Policy analysis on export tax of round wood and processed wood.

Policy on log export ban is not effective to combating illegal logging. Log export tax has an effect on sawn timber and moulding but not for plywood.

The impact of fuel subsidy reduction on wood production and consumption and SFM.

It has no effect on them because they are determined by other factors such as log prices and level of exchange rates.

Analysis on variability of private forest management.

There are three types of private forest: (i) self reliant, (ii) partnership, and(iii) government's subsidy. A wide range of revenues among districts range from Rp. 1.5-10.0 million/ha/year.

The potential of rubberwood as a raw material alternative for wood-based industries.

Rubberwood from the regeneration of rubber tree plantations is only used for firewood. It can be used for wood industries such as plywood mill, woodworking and furniture.

Market and price stabilization on raw rattan for downstream rattan industry.

The opening of raw rattan export policy depresses the domestic price of raw rattan and resulted a loss to rattan farmers.

Review of forest community management in production forest.

There is a big variation in forest community management. Some of them have their own regulations for achieving the sustainability of their forests.

Economic performance of common agroforestry system in Southern Sumatera, Indonesia: Implications for Carbon sequestration services.

Four agroforestry systems (rubber agroforestry, cinnamon multi-cropping, oil palm monoculture, and dammar agroforest) are financially and economically attractive.

Study on utilization of indigenous knowledge to improve forest resource productivity.

Dayak Bentian ethnics have their own forest management system that is divided into implementation stages (1-100 years).

Study on utilization of ex-forest fire areas.

No correlation between reforestation activity and rehabilitation of ex-forest fire area. Ex-forest fire area should be handled by forest management units.

Opportunities and constrains of ecotourism on enhancing community welfare and district domestic revenues.

Ecotourism has several constraints such as(i) difficult access to the location,(ii) no attractive landscapes in the location, (iii) non professional management of ecotourism and(iv) unprofessional ecotourism guides. It contributes to community revenues from Rp. 25 000-Rp. 500 000 per day and clean water for drinking and other purposes.


FORDA has made many improvements on research design especially in the formulating of research need, submission of research proposals to international donors and collaboration with other parties.

At present, FORDA has several research coordinators (42 persons) to coordinate and group similar research topics into research grand proposals. Every coordinator is responsible for designing, implementing, monitoring, and evaluation of research topics related to the grand proposal.

In 2002 FORDA collaborated with CSIRO (Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization), Australia, in conducting a workshop on research priority and management. This workshop aimed to enhance the capacity and capability of prospective researchers and managers from all FRDI and RDS to become professional researchers and managers. In 2002 FORDA, in collaboration with CIFOR and GTZ, also conducted training in preparing research proposal to donors. Training participants (20 persons) were from the four centres. It is expected that the participants can impart the training to other researchers in their working places.


There was a big difference between the importance and performance values for all research aspects as revealed by an internal survey in FORDA (Table 2).

Table 2. Importance and performance values of various research aspects


Research aspects





Quality of science





Value for money





Understanding customer needs and constrains





Accessibility of research staff





Intellectual property protection





Quality of documentation





Availability of unique and/or quality facilities





Responsiveness to customer needs and constrains





Deliver on time and budget





Usability of the information, tools and material provided




The big differences are for research aspects 8, 7, 3 and 10, in descending order. Therefore, these gaps should be further investigated and clarified for improvement of research aspects. This can be put as priority for FORDA to improve its working performance in the eyes of its own staff. FORDA has an activity in 2003 to assess the existing institutions in relation to the spirit of regional autonomy (Law No: 22-1999) and the issuing of a national policy to change the structures of all research institutions in every department.


FORDA's future should be in line with the future scenarios of Indonesian as well as global, especially the Asia Pacific and global, forestry sectors. The future scenarios of Indonesian forestry sector are: (i) forest conservation and rehabilitation will dominate forestry action plan, (ii) the sustainable natural forest management will be achievable, (iii) plantation forest will fulfill the growing demand of wood products, (iv) local community will participate in the forest management system, and (v) forest services will meet people's need (Haryatno et al. 2002).

FAO (1998) has projected the future scenarios of forestry in the Asia Pacific as follows:

FORDA should also follow up the SWOT analysis for improving its research management. This can be done by optimizing its strength and opportunities and by eliminating its weakness and threats for its research priority. Mulyadhi (2001) has proposed some strategies for the improvement of FORDA's performance. They include:


Forest Research and Development Agency (FORDA) is a government institution under the Ministry of Forestry (MoF) which has a mandate for doing research and development on forestry. FORDA management has not seriously implemented its vision and mission. FORDA has anticipated the needs of social and economic research on forestry by establishing three new research institutions/stations, CSERF, RDSMF and RDSNWFP. Many research topics conducted by CSERF are in line with the community development and poverty reduction programmes. An evaluation showed that FORDA has a low level of performance. This is indicated by a big difference in total scoring between importance and performance values. FORDA has taken many steps to continuously improving its institutional capacity, such as the establishment of new research stations, the improvement of research design, the assessment of institutional performance, and the formulation of strategies.


Departemen Kehutanan. 2002. Informasi Umum Kehutanan. Jakarta, Departemen Kehutanan.

FAO. 1998. The Asia-Pacific Forestry Sector Outlook Study. RAP Publication 1998/22.

Haryatno, D., Gunarso, P., Subarudi, R. & Mc Dicken, K. 2002. Nature conservation and forest rehabilitation: Indonesia strategy to achieve sustainable forest management. Policy brief for the Ministry of Forestry. Unpublished.

Mulyadhi, D. 2001. R&D dan inovasi teknologi. Diskusi Internal Lingkup Badan Litbang Kehutanan. Puslitbang Sosial, Budaya dan Ekonomi Kehutanan, Bogor.

[43] Monsoon Forest Research Station, Ciamis, West Java.
[44] Forestry Research and Development Agency, Jakarta, Indonesia; E-mail: [email protected].

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