Boosting productivity and income from smallholding teak systems in Indonesia

Although smallholders’ teak systems in Indonesia provide 40% of household income, a number of constraints limit their productivity. An article published in Forests, Trees and Livelihoods by, including others, the World Agroforestry Centre’s James Roshetko, Aulia Perdana and Gerhard Sebastian, highlights what smallholders, the government and support agencies can do to overcome constraints while boosting productivity and incomes.


Teak, jati, Indonesia, Java, smallholder, production, forest, agroforest

Teak agroforests on the island of Java, Indonesia. Photo: ASB Partnership for the Tropical Forest Margins

Teak (Tectona grandis) is arguably the best-known, most valuable and widely produced tropical hardwood species. It occurs naturally in India, Myanmar, Laos and Thailand, and was introduced to Indonesia in the second century CE. The demand for teak timber has been high for centuries and plantations now exist in at least 43 countries, covering 4.3 million hectares globally. Eighty-three percent of these plantations are in Asia, with India, Indonesia and Myanmar having the largest teak-covered areas.

Indonesia is the second largest producer of teak, behind India. In Java, the centre of the Indonesian teak industry, the industrial demand for teak timber is 1.5 to 2.2 million m3 per year. Perum Perhutani, the state-owned forest enterprise produced 477,000 m3 of teak in 2008, most of which was sold to the teak industry. The shortfall in supply is sourced from smallholding and community producers on Java, other teak-growing regions, imports and illegal harvests from Perhutani plantations.

The increasing difference between the demand and supply of teak creates opportunities for smallholding production. Smallholders’ teak plantations became common on Java in the 1960s and, over time, smallholding teak production has become an important source of raw material for the Javanese furniture industry and of income for rural families. In Java, approximately 1.5 million smallholders manage 444,000 hectares of agroforestry systems where teak is the dominant tree crop. In other parts of Indonesia, 800,000 hectares of smallholding agroforestry has teak as a component of multi-species, tree-based systems. Besides food products for home consumption, smallholders’ teak systems generate 40% of overall household income from agriculture and timber products. These systems are not just an important source of raw material for the furniture industry in central Java but make significant contributions to livelihoods, industrial timber production and environmental rehabilitation.

While the current role and potential for smallholders’ teak systems is good, there are some significant impediments, including poor silvicultural management, limited market links, and policy disincentives. To overcome these, it is important to identify and promote the silvicultural practices and socioeconomic and policy conditions that support smallholders. Scientists from the World Agroforestry Centre, the Center for International Forestry Research and partner institutions, studied smallholders’ teak systems in Gunungkidul in central Java with this precise objective. Working to improve smallholders’ systems and markets, with a focus on the productivity and sustainability of forestry and agroforestry, is a key focus of the CGIAR Research Program on Forests, Trees and Agroforestry.

Gunungkidul was selected as the research site because it has a long history of successful teak production by smallholders. Virtually every family grows teak. Two hundred and seventy-five teak-farming families from seven villages, managing 1,074 land parcels on a total of 276.50 hectares were studied to identify the socioeconomic conditions and farming characteristics of their systems. Twenty-one percent of the respondents were women. An inventory of 227 teak farms covering 47.10 hectares documented species’ composition, tree density and management practices.  A rapid market appraisal identified smallholders’ teak-marketing practices and related opportunities. Farmers’ demonstration trials showed the advantages of silvicultural management under smallholding conditions. Interviews helped to triangulate information, fill information gaps and gain a comprehensive understanding of key issues.

A number of recommendations emerged from this research:

  • farmers should use the best seeds and seedlings available
  • pruning and thinning are an important practice and timing is critical; the article provides detailed guidelines for pruning and thinning
  • farmers should strengthen marketing practices by accessing information, learning market specifications, engaging in group marketing and instituting minimum diameter standards for harvesting
  • government, support agencies and industry should facilitate smallholders’ adoption of better silvicultural and marketing practices, for example, they can provide silvicultural training, advisoryservices and access to log grading and pricing systems; they can also work to reduce transaction costs
  • third parties can play a role in capacity building and mentoring to help transform farmers’ marketing groups into competent, independent organizations
  • government agencies should address policy disincentives that inhibit smallholders’ motivation to improve their teak systems

The conclusions and recommendations from this study are relevant to smallholders’ teak and tree-farming systems across Indonesia and the tropics and can be adapted to local conditions.


Read the article

Roshetko JM, Rohadi D, Perdana  A, Sabastian G, Nuryartono N, Pramono AA, Widyani N, Manalu P, Fauzi MA, Sumardamto P, Kusumowardhani N. 2013. Teak agroforestry systems for livelihood enhancement, industrial timber production, and environmental rehabilitation. Forests, Trees, and Livelihoods 22 (4).


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This work is linked to the CGIAR Research Program on Forests, Trees and Agroforestry'

Rebecca Selvarajah

Rebecca is a science writer, manager of publishing projects, trainer in science writing, and novelist — working partly from Nairobi, Kenya and partly from Morwell, Australia. With over 15 years of experience in writing, advertising/marketing, publishing and social media, she takes on varied assignments, travelling, if needed, to conduct relevant research and interviews. Originally from Sri Lanka, Rebecca holds a BA honours in Psychology, with minors in Gender Studies and Sociology. Email Rebecca on

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