Da Lama para a Energia
|Powerful reward for erosion control|
Sumberjaya farmers with a sediment trap they constructed to reduce the flow of silt into the river Photo: Rachman Pashsa / World Agroforestry Centre
The story of how a government-owned organization and the community came together to solve an environmental problem in the uplands of Sumatra, Indonesia is now providing a model for similar projects across the country and internationally.
The lush Bukit Barisan mountain range of Sumberjaya, Lampung Province is where the Way Besai watershed originates. It feeds one of Lampung Province’s three major rivers, the Tulang Bawang, and supplies a hydropower dam.
While protection forest and national park dominate, coffee gardens now occur on around 70 percent of the total area. Believing that deforestation and conversion to coffee farms had increased erosion and was threatening the operation of the Way Besai hydropower dam, as well as reducing the amount of water available for irrigated paddy rice downstream, the government evicting thousands of farmers between 1991 and 1996.
Subsequent studies by the World Agroforestry Centre showed that the coffee farms were actually controlling erosion in a similar way to natural forest. Plus, they were providing much-needed livelihoods to local people. However some over-weeding was resulting in erosion after heavy rains.
When the Centre’s Rewarding Upland Poor for Environmental Services (RUPES) Program began working in the area in 2004 it was initially to support communities in gaining access to land tenure so they could cultivate protection forest in exchange for adopting environmentally friendly farming practices and protecting the forest.
RUPES program staff then began investigating how the community and the Way Besai hydropower company could work together at the landscape level to reduce sediment flowing into the dam.
“We believed that if the community could reduce the erosion then the company would be willing to provide them with some form of reward,” explains Beria Leimona, RUPES Project Coordinator. “It would be a classic example of a Payment for Environmental Services (PES) scheme aimed at alleviating poverty and protecting the natural environment.”
“RUPES had already been successful in the area with its work on land tenure; land value had increased, there was less corruption and farmers were practicing agroforestry and soil and water conservation.”
RUPES set up a pilot ‘RiverCare’ project to identify sediment sources and look at what could be done to reduce runoff. A formal agreement was brokered between the hydroelectric company and the community. It specified that if there was a 30 percent or more reduction in sediment then the community would receive their own micro-hydropower system. For a 21 to 29 percent reduction they would receive around US$700, and diminishing rewards for lower sediment reductions.
Farmers built small dams in the river to constrict flow and constructed infiltration pits and terraces in their coffee gardens. They planted trees and grass strips to reduce sedimentation and feed cattle. The community and Centre scientists monitored water quality and sediment levels to track progress.
At the end of project, there was around 20 percent reduction in sediment. Rather than being disappointed that the 30 percent target had not been achieved, the hydropower company recognized the community’s efforts and rewarded them with the micro-hydropower installation, giving them electricity for the first time.
“The company saw the willingness of the community to create a clean watershed and recognized their social responsibility,” Leimona says. “They understood that heavy rains had washed away some of the structures they put in place.”
As a result of the goodwill the project generated, the community has pledged to continue their conservation efforts.
According to researchers who have been studying the Way Besai case study, this PES scheme has many lessons for other such projects. “Most importantly, there must be involvement by all parties: local government, beneficiaries, communities and independent honest and transparent intermediaries,” Leimona emphasized.
“If you go into it just in terms of economics then you are set to fail. Trust must be at the core of any business agreement.”
For more information, visit the RUPES website or download the film, Mud to Power
Story by Kate Langford