UN World Wildlife Day: working with small-holder farmers in Indonesia, for sustainable results

UN World Wildlife Day: working with small-holder farmers in Indonesia, for sustainable results

Today marks UN World Wildlife Day which aims to raise awareness of the world’s wild flora and fauna.

Highlighting a project that has helped coffee farmers in Indonesia move to wildlife friendly farming, Professor Anna Nekaris and Dr Marco Campera share the impact of their work.

What’s the background to this project?

Professor Nekaris: “Java is home to 60% of Indonesia’s population and many species thrive there. Successfully managing agriculture, human well-being and biodiversity are the key challenges. We worked with 400 coffee farmers in West Java, Indonesia, to develop wildlife friendly farming methods. The farmers were able meet stringent requirements to gain wildlife friendly certification between February 2019 and October 2020.”

What were the key issues in changing to wildlife friendly methods?

Professor Nekaris: “We identified problems and found common solutions with the Indonesian farmers and local government. A big issue was the coffee berry borer beetle, a pest harmful to commercial coffee plantations - it can be devastating to crop yields if it is left uncontrolled. This was a prime cause of concern to the farmers and we needed to find organic alternatives to chemical pesticides and fertilizers to tackle the issue.

“Our priority was also ensuring that the values of our programme aligned with those of farmers, so as not to alienate their local culture and traditions. This was achieved through identifying which conservation methods they supported and ensuring they were included when establishing the “rules” and “values” of the programme.”

What methods did you use to effect improvements and encourage wildlife?

Dr Marco Campera: “Previous to this project, The Little Fireface Project (led by Prof. Anna Nekaris) delivered several education and conservation projects to increase knowledge of wildlife and importantly, focus on the Critically Endangered Javan slow loris. As a result, hunting and trapping became limited in the area. Also, 25 farmers began a programme in 2016 to gain organic certification.

“Native species of shade trees were identified which could improve the soil and attract pollinators. Farmers suggested local law to stop hunting and trapping. Training increased knowledge of high quality organic fertilizers, with no additional costs for shifting to wildlife friendly farming.

“Land sharing (or wildlife-friendly farming) was promoted in this project. This involved producing both food and wildlife in the same parts of the landscape, by maintaining or restoring the conservation value of the farmed land itself.

“The benefit of this strategy is that wildlife-friendly farming areas contain much higher biodiversity than intensive farming areas.”

What is the benefit of land sharing in coffee farming?

Dr Campera: “Land sharing is really effective when applied to coffee plantations since, traditionally, coffee plants were cultivated under a canopy of native trees. Shade coffee plantations host higher biodiversity than sun exposed coffee plantations. Shade coffee plantations may also bring other benefits such as providing alternative wildlife habitats and serving as corridors between forest fragments for arboreal mammals or increasing survival of migratory birds.”

What are the key results from the project?

Professor Nekaris: “Farmers felt empowered by collaborating with us and further expanded their network. A key factor driving the success of our programme was the established conservation work and community involvement by the Little Fireface Project beforehand. This allowed for positive involvement of the local farmers that showed pro-environmental behaviors from the start.

“The farmers used significantly less chemicals and hunted/trapped or asked to hunt/trap less, if they thought that wildlife was beneficial to them.”

You can read the full research paper: Fostering a Wildlife-Friendly Program for Sustainable Coffee Farming: The Case of Small-Holder Farmers in Indonesia, in the journal Land.

Events and resources are available on the UN’s World Wildlife Day website

Find out more about Primate Conservation in the Oxford Brookes University School of Social Sciences