TNC In Indonesia

TNC In Indonesia

27 March, 2017
Incredible Efforts and Conservation Journeys
Ecozine Meets Country Director Rizal Algamar to Discuss
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Ecozine got a chance to sit down and talk about this challenging problem of eco-conservation with Rizal Algamar, who has been with The Nature Conservancy since 2012. As Indonesia Country Director, he oversees all aspects of TNC’s Indonesia strategy and operations, from external and government relations to corporate outreach and the conservation programs. Rizal has a very accomplished and diverse background, which includes working in big private sector industries, including banking, where he has notably designed and implemented successful and wide-ranging CSR programs.

TNC recently celebrated over 20 years of partnership with Indonesia, and Rizal provided us a great overview of the projects that are currently underway. He started by explaining the magnitude of the problem of ecosystem destruction and biodiversity loss he is faced with. 1.8 million hectares of Indonesian forests are cut down each year — for perspective, that’s an area 16 times the size of Hong Kong. An astonishing 72% of Indonesia’s original forest cover has already been lost. Moreover, these high deforestation rates in Indonesia make the country the world’s third largest greenhouse gas emitter, placing it just behind the U.S. and China.

Providing the seeds of change for Indonesia’s rainforests is therefore a pivotal part of TNC’s work in Indonesia – most notably through their the Berau Forest Carbon Program – but another priority is turning the tide on the wide-scale degradation of marine ecosystems. Thus, they also foster ‘The Coral Triangle Initiative’, which focuses on upholding the health of coral reefs, fisheries and food security for local communities. Additionally, they have a programme specifically aimed at saving the dwindling shark populations in the region.

However, there are many difficulties they face with the work that they do. For the time-being, they are up against a still relatively profitable economic model that means alternative business strategies need to be fostered. As long as deforestation remains a lucrative industry in the region it will continue to happen, and Rizal emphasized the need for stronger incentives for sustainable industry, including cheaper financing and an effort to de-risk the green banking sector. The private sector will continue to perform “business as usual” until sustainable models of growth become financially competitive.

Because these industries generate a lot of economic wealth it is difficult to simply ask them to stop, and makes it tough from a juridical lens for governments to enforce more stringent regulations. Rizal offered a metaphor, explaining that coordinating conservation efforts with both private and public actors is like conducting an orchestra; many actors are playing in different rhythms, and he must find a way to balance interests to create harmony, in this case with the natural environment.

The TNC therefore goes beyond its eponymous role as a conversation actor, working actively towards viable solutions that align markets with greener development. This can be seen clearly by their efforts on the ground, engaging local populations with conversation efforts and providing education about the issue. Their ‘Adopt a Tree’ program helps in funding schools and scholarships for local students, where students interact directly with the issue by planting trees themselves. They have also created a conservation curriculum now being used by teachers in the rainforests of Lore Lindu to educate local students on the intrinsic value of nature.

We also discussed the impact of corruption in effectively implementing conservation efforts. According to 2015 figures from Transparency International, Indonesia was ranked 88th on a global scale measuring corruption between countries. Indeed, it well documented that a lot of the undergoing logging is in fact illegal. The notorious ‘Southeast Asian Haze’, which affects Indonesia and its neighbouring countries, is largely caused by illegal agricultural fires due to industrial-scale slash-and-burn practices, especially from the provinces of South Sumatra and Riau. Rizal confirmed to us that Indonesia still suffers from significantly weak governance issues, as well as a lack of transparency in public affairs.

He also emphasized that it is not simply a question of the private sector aligning itself with sustainable practices, and the public sector becoming more efficient and transparent – NGOs must also be willing to change their mindsets and modernize. He believes one solution is stronger co-existence with local investors, a technique that has worked well for TNC in Indonesia, and the promotion of more co-investment opportunities.

While the challenges are significant, his tone remained optimistic and he is confident things are improving, notably due to the global traction for environmental conservation garnered through the Paris Agreement. Rizal strongly believes that mindsets are rapidly changing. People on the ground are becoming more aware that while deforesting industries may be a quick way to earn much needed cash, there are bigger issues at hand too. Still, there needs to exist viable financial options for the local population, the same way that green business development strategies need to become competitive with the current conventional (and destructive) models.

Finally, Rizal told us about the TNC’s Conservation Journeys, which are starting this month in Indonesia but have already seen huge successes in the past in other parts of the world where the TNC has offered them. They aim to inspire donors, staff and other valued TNC supporters to greater levels of engagement by offering them the unique opportunity to visit their priority sites, meet the people on the ground, and witness the work of the Conservancy first-hand, immersed in the ecosystems they fight to protect.

The main facets of these journeys are firstly educational, which involves philosophical and ethical modules on why the issue of eco-conservation is so critical today. Participants also take part in ‘Conservation Labs’, which provide practical ways to learn conservation by identifying the wildlife in national park and engaging in other ways, putting theory into practice. Finally, there is the retreat and relaxation aspect of the journey, where participants get a chance to enjoy the natural surroundings they’re helping preserve, all the while becoming more informed on the relevant issues at hand.

The Nature Conservancy’s self-proclaimed mission is “to conserve the lands and waters on which all life depends”. Therefore, in many ways the work they and Rizal do is literally about saving the world. Ecozine highly commends their initiatives and encourages people to get involved however they can!

To find out more about TNC’s efforts in Indonesia and their recently launched Conservation Journeys, please send any enquiries to: hkengage@tnc.org

By: Ecozine Staff
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