Electricity company expands ecosystem services’ scheme to 10 provinces in Indonesia

Thanks to a pilot established by the World Agroforestry Centre, Indonesia’s state electricity company is now expanding ecosystem services’ schemes throughout the island of Sumatra


The State Electricity Company of Indonesia (Perusahaan Listrik Negara/PLN) has mandated the replication of the World Agroforestry Centre’s River Care program at all of its hydroelectric sites throughout Sumatra’s 10 provinces, which host a total population of more than 54 million people and some of the most biologically diverse landscapes on Earth.

‘We are very pleased with this outcome of our research’, said Dr Beria Leimona, leading ecosystem services researcher with the Centre’s Southeast Asia program. ‘The pilot River Care scheme was developed in the Way Besai watershed to address multiple problems affecting farmers, hydroelectricity companies and the environment. The full roll-out by PLN throughout Sumatra is a great outcome of the initial research project. We expect a lot of benefits to ensue to all involved, including a big win for the environment’.

The River Care scheme was initiated in 2011 as part of the Rewards for, Use of, and Shared Investment in Pro-Poor Environmental Services (RUPES) project, a 10-year, seven-country research-for-development project funded by the International Fund for Agricultural Development and the CGIAR Research Program on Forests, Trees and Agroforestry.

Sumberjaya, River Care, RUPES

Some of the River Care work in Sumberjaya. Photo: World Agroforestry Centre

Dr Leimona, leading a multidisciplinary team of researchers working with RUPES, was faced with the problem of degraded environmental services in the watershed of Way Besai in the sub-district of Sumberjaya, Lampung province. The degraded land lead not only to massive sedimentation in the reservoir of the hydroelectricity dam but also to the maintenance of high levels of poverty and poor yields among the farmers of the watershed.

The hydropower plant, known as Pembangkit Listrik Tenaga Air (PLTA), was under the management of PLN’s Lampung sector (Sektor Bandar Lampung/PLN-SBDL). It cost PLN-SBDL around USD 1 million a year to dredge the dam of sediment. PLN-SBDL desperately wanted to reduce the cost of keeping its turbines unclogged and the farmers were very keen to improve their livelihoods. Everyone wanted to see the environment providing high-quality services.

To reach these multiple goals, the RUPES team set up a pilot project with the community in one sub-catchment, at Buluh Kapur village. In partnership with PLN-SBDL, the villagers and the RUPES team developed a scheme of payments for reducing sediment through what they dubbed a ‘River Care program’. In essence, this meant that farmers constructed small check dams and built drainage ditches along pathways and terraces to reduce water run-off and erosion. The RUPES team helped with the technical side of monitoring sediment in the river and doing the calculations.

The principle underlying the contract between the two parties was ‘conditionality’, which meant that the River Care group would receive payments if they met the condition of reducing the load of sediment in the river: the target was a reduction of 30% with a reward of USD 1000. But lesser achievements would also be recognised: USD 700 for a 20–30% reduction; USD 500 for 10–20%; and USD 250 for less than 10%.

By the time the project reached its agreed end, the community had executed the contract with an 86% activity success rate, which was high, demonstrating the villagers’ commitment. Analysis of sediment concentration by the RUPES team showed a 20% decrease by comparison with the initial baseline. Unfortunately, the target of reducing sediment by the maximum 30% wasn’t met.

‘However, PLN-SBDL very much appreciated the community’s efforts in reducing the sediment concentration in the Air Ringkih River and gave a micro-hydropower unit as a reward, regardless of the results’, said Dr Leimona. ‘The appreciation showed by PLN-SBDL had a big impact on the community. They were inspired to continue to improve their environment, in particular, their watershed’.

This was the main result of the scheme: the community kept on managing their land using soil and water conservation techniques to maintain the healthy functioning of the natural resources and reduce sedimentation.

PLN-SBDL were enthused by the success and keen to continue, so the RUPES team helped set up another agreement between the electricity company and West Lampung Community Forestry Farmers’ Group Communication Forum (Forum Komunikasi Kelompok Tani Hutan Kemasyarakat), which was formally signed on 28 October 2011, for a total amount of USD 27 000 over two years (2011–2013), and another community contract was signed on 28 December 2011 for implementing River Care phase 2 in Talang Anyar village. The design of the program was a replication of the previous River Care phase 1, with activities mostly combining soil and water conservation with development activities as the reward, such as training and assistance in breeding goats, developing seedling nurseries, cultivating rattan, establishing home industries and planting a demonstration coffee garden.

The schemes have been so successful, PLN has decided to extend them throughout the island.

‘With PLN’s decision to extend schemes like this throughout Sumatra, we expect that these agricultural conservation activities will be seen more and more in the landscapes of the island’, said Dr Leimona. ‘And will bring benefits to all’.




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This work is supported by the CGIAR Research Program on Forests, Trees and Agroforestry’s component on Landscape Management of Forested Areas for Environmental Services, Biodiversity Conservation and Livelihoods




Rob Finlayson

Robert Finlayson is the Southeast Asia program's regional communications specialist. As well as writing stories for the Centre's website, he devises and supervises strategies for projects and the countries in the Southeast Asia region, including scripting and producing videos, supervising editors and translators and also assisting with resource mobilization.

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