FAO-EU FLEGT Programme

How a piece of paper changed lives in a carpenter village in Central Java


Slamet Setiono has spent almost his entire life in Jetis, a small village close to the tourist hub of Yogyakarta. The region is famous for its furniture and craft industry, thanks to its teak trees and concentration of artisans. 

Fascinated by the region’s rich culture of woodcraft from an early age, Slamet learnt carpentry and woodturning while working with his neighbours after finishing elementary school. This work allowed him to pursue his interests whilst contributing to his family’s income, eventually starting his own business.

“I saw opportunities. I reached out to my friends who had graduated in carpentry from vocational high school. They were quite skilled in producing furniture frames. I learned from them in exchange, as they also needed my skills for carving and turning. Initially, we started with a carved wooden table; then we began gaining more regular buyers”. 

Slamet continued to build his business and now has over 30 years’ experience, focusing on making wooden chairs using local teak together with rattan or strap leather. During this time, he made around 100 chairs per month for local customers. 

Working through associations to access new markets

In 2019, Slamet joined the Association of Indonesia Furniture Businesses (Asmindo) to expand his network. Through Asmindo, he was invited to join an exhibition which would allow him to promote his products to a wider international market. 

At one of these exhibitions, a French buyer became interested in Slamet’s product and made a deal to purchase chairs for export to France. Initially, Slamet partnered with another company to export his products on his behalf; however, he learned that acquiring a timber export license would enable him to attract more buyers from European countries and the United States. However, to get this license, Slamet had to meet a number of requirements in his business and craft. 

Illegal logging is one of the leading causes of deforestation in Indonesia. Under the framework of the Indonesia-European Union (EU) Forest Law Enforcement, Governance, and Trade (FLEGT) voluntary partnership agreement, the Ministry of Environment and Forestry of the Republic of Indonesia established a national timber legality assurance system (Sistem Verifikasi Legalitas Kayu, SVLK) to promote sustainability in the legal timber trade. As part of this, all timber exports from Indonesia must be accompanied by V-Legal Documents attesting to their legality. 

Recognizing the value of timber legality certification, Slamet joined a technical assistance program with Asmindo, along with a group of six other small and medium enterprises (SMEs) in Klaten. The training guided participants through SVLK requirements for all aspects of production, from raw materials to processing, trading, labour safety and well-being. After completing the training and securing the SVLK certificate in 2019, Slamet was able to export to international markets with all the necessary V-Legal documents. Since then, Slamet’s furniture business has been unstoppable. 

One of many

Slamet is just one of the hundreds of small and medium-sized carpentry businesses in Indonesia that have benefitted the support of the FAO-EU FLEGT Programme, a global demand-driven initiative that provides technical support and resources for activities that further the goals of the EU’s FLEGT Action Plan.

The Programme has supported the training of about 505 SMEs, including furniture and handicraft enterprises, community forestry owners, small sawmills, and social forestry license holders on SVLK requirements, using V-legal documents, and accessing markets in Indonesia and beyond Indonesia. To date, 86 SMEs from six Indonesian provinces have passed SVLK certification auditing processes. 

During COVID, the closure of international trade fairs led associations to develop business portals (www.woodenasia.com, www.lesehan.org, and www.kayutopia.com) promoting SVLK-certified products.  These portals have enabled business continuity throughout the pandemic and offered a further incentive for legality. 

“I have to be honest, open and accountable”

One thing that Slamet learned is that legality is essential. It has allowed his business to flourish. 

“To get the SVLK certificate, I have to be open, honest and accountable. I need to know the source of the timber, how the timber is being processed, and how it is being traded. I need to check the administrative receipt showing the timber's origin. It must be taken from legal sources”. 

In addition to legality, he must also pay attention to the well-being of his staff. 

“They need to work with masks to protect them from dust. In some sections, they also need to use proper shoes and gloves”. 

Slamet has also prepared evacuation routes and installed a fire extinguisher in his workshop. 

According to Asmindo Executive Indrawan, “when the government announced the decree about SVLK in 2014, many Small and Medium Enterprises (SME) faced difficulties due to the expense of the requirements. They did not have the capacity to reach the required standards. So, we reached out to FAO for help”. 

Asmindo worked with the government to make SVLK certificates accessible to groups of SMEs, not only individuals. This process has proven much easier and cheaper, allowing many Asmindo members to receive SVLK certification. 

Forests for our children 

Aside from making the chair frames himself, Slamet also orders chair frames from a supplier, who provides administrative receipts demonstrating the legal status and source of the raw materials or half-processed products. 

The chairs are then sent to where they will be processed and finished. Finally, the chairs are put through the Quality Control (QC) process. For this, Slamet works directly with his clients and local people whom overseas buyers have hired to check Slamets products before they are exported. 

“Our clients need the SVLK, especially those from Europe. It is one of the conditions for our export to be accepted. Without the SVLK we cannot export the chairs”, says Wulandarini, a QC officer who works with clients worldwide.  Wulan has worked with European clients from US, The Netherlands and UK for more than 14 years and has worked with Slamet since 2019. “The most important thing is whether he can fulfill the deadline with quite demanding quality,” she said. 

For Slamet to meet the demands of the international market, he has recruited workers at his workshop and works with nearby suppliers. But this is not a difficult task for him; his village is full of skilled artisans with knowledge passed from generation to generation. 

Young people seeing Slamet’s success are eager to join him as his workers. Arief Nugroho (19), a leather artisan, graduated from vocational school with a major in architecture in 2021. He has worked with Slamet for four months, making USD 6 per day, enough for him to spend time with his friends and save a little. “Now I’m trying to gain a lot of experience”, he said. 

Arif is among around 20 leather artisans who work with Slamet. In total, Slamet employs around 57 members of his small village, exporting more than 1 400 chairs and generating USD 50 000 per month. With continuous orders, Slamet will recruit more workers. The SVLK has changed not only his life but also the livelihood of his village.

Slamet also shares a strong vision for the future based on sustainable forest management, where timber legality assurance has created a balance between the trees that are cut down and replanted. 

“Our children and grandchildren will still enjoy the forests”. 

The FAO-EU FLEGT Programme of the Food and Agricultural Organization of the United Nations is a global demand-driven initiative that provides technical support and resources for activities that further the goals of the EU’s FLEGT Action Plan. The Programme is funded by the European Union, the Swedish International Development Cooperation Agency, and the Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office of the United Kingdom.


Photo: FAO/Harriansyah Djuwahir