RAFT: Growing Responsible & Climate-Smart Forestry from the Ground Up

IGES is participating in the Responsible Asia Forestry and Trade (RAFT) programme, which brings together a coalition of established organisations active in promoting responsible forestry and trade in the Asia-Pacific region. This month, we hear from Allison Lewin of RAFT on its unique initiatives and activities for protecting forests.

Bringing Together Six Expert Organisations

--- What is unique about RAFT?


I think there are probably three things that really set RAFT apart from other programmes. The first is partnership. We all hear the word "partnership" a lot, but I think it’s actually quite rare to see the kind of collaboration and commitment on the part of multiple organisations that is at the centre of RAFT. With RAFT we have six organisations(*1) that work together under the guidance of a regional strategic coordination team to better align our work to promote responsible forestry and trade, avoid duplication and increase our impact by playing off each others’ strengths. The second aspect is the trans-boundary nature of the timber trade. This demands a regional response to the problem of illegal and unsustainable forestry and trade in Asia Pacific. Working in partnership allows us to have a presence in most major timber trading countries in the region. This gives us an unusually comprehensive understanding of the issues facing stakeholders right across the region. We also maintain a regional set of activities that includes creating opportunities for countries to learn from one another’s experiences (e.g. through study tours and learning exchange visits) and acting as a resource for regional organisations like ASEAN and APEC. Thirdly, we create links between policy and practice. RAFT brings together multiple partner organisations each with their own strengths and areas of expertise, ranging from technical expertise in a specific area (e.g. Reduced Impact Logging, Chain of Custody, etc.) to engaging with regulatory processes at the national and/or sub-national level. This gives RAFT a unique ability to link our on-the-ground capacity building with policy development and reform so that training programmes are aligned with policy requirements and policies are well informed by practical realities on the ground.

I think it’s also worth highlighting that RAFT is not a one-off project. It has been a multi-donor programme, supported by both the Australian and U.S. Governments over the course of two phases. We recognise the importance of sustained investment in and commitment to eradicating the drivers of illegal and destructive forest management and are working to harness the resources of an even larger group of partners for a continued programme of work that delivers a significant, lasting impact at regional and national levels.

Developing Practical Activities to Meet Regional Needs

--- What types of activities are RAFT partners involved in?


RAFT partners undertake a fairly wide range of activities, designed primarily to do two things: 1) Strengthen the policy and market signals promoting responsible forestry and trade (thing like timber import laws in major markets and political momentum around REDD+), and 2) Build the capacity of stakeholders in Asia Pacific to respond to these strengthened signals with better land management. This takes a number of different forms, but I’ll highlight a few examples here:



  • Providing technical support to stakeholders involved in the development of a national timber legality verification system for China, including facilitating a study tour to test and refine risk assessment guidelines for timber from PNG, China’s largest supplier of tropical wood.

  • Developing and delivering a Reduced Impact Logging (RIL) training programme with the PNG Timber and Forestry Training College (TFTC) as a first step toward institutionalising a larger, national training programme in RIL.

  • Providing training to help 45 communities in Lao PDR, Indonesia and Viet Nam to either get their forestry operations certified or engage more effectively with timber companies operating where they live.

  • Developing and deploying training materials to help hundreds of wood and paper products suppliers in China, Indonesia, Lao PDR and Viet Nam understand how they can meet the legality requirements of their buyers in Australia, Europe and the United States, including a "training of trainers" programme so that local and national institutions can take the lead in providing such training in the future.

--- How does RAFT contribute to the global objective of protecting forest for climate mitigation?


The short and broad answer is that we are developing the capacity and informing the regulatory frameworks needed to reduce deforestation and forest degradation, without which REDD+ – a key global mitigation strategy – will not be possible. In a country like Indonesia, where around half of the remaining forest area is designated as production forest, achieving national emissions goals requires reducing greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions from the forest sector. RAFT’s more specific contribution to this so far has been to demonstrate Reduced Impact Logging – Carbon (RIL-C) practices that reduce GHG emissions from logging by up to 45% while maintaining timber yields, and to develop a methodology for measuring those reductions.

This work has been focused in Berau District in Indonesia’s East Kalimantan Province where The Nature Conservancy is working with partners in Indonesia to implement a jurisdictional REDD+ pilot programme called the Berau Forest Carbon Program (BFCP), of which reducing emissions from logging is one part. The RIL-C practices being tested include: 1) not felling defective trees, such as hollow trees that cannot be turned into timber and sold, and are left to decompose; 2) using a ‘monocable’ winch to remove logs from the forest instead of a bulldozer, nearly eliminating skidding damage to the forest; and 3) narrowing haul road corridors, meaning less unnecessary uprooting of young trees. The methodology is now going through the Voluntary Carbon Standard (VCS) peer review process. We anticipate that it will soon be validated and available for others to test in other places. In the meantime, TNC is also initiating work to better understand the economic feasibility of adopting RIL-C practices for companies.

---Thank you very much.

  1. *1: IGES / The Nature Conservancy / The Forest Trust / The Tropical Forest Foundation / TRAFFIC – the Wildlife Trade Monitoring Network / WWF’s Global Forest & Trade Network (GFTN)
About "Monthly Asian Focus: Observations on Sustainability"

Until 2010, IGES released "Top News on the Environment in Asia" on a yearly basis. For over 12 years since its establishment of IGES in 1998, "Top News" collected and organised information about environmental issues and policy trends in the region.

In January 2011, IGES launched the new web-based series "Monthly Asian Focus: Observations on Sustainability" in which leading environmental experts deliver their take on latest trends of sustainable Asia.

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