CIFOR focus group discussion with community development practitioners

On 14 September 2018, CIFOR hosted a focus group discussion (FGD) with representatives of the World Wildlife Fund (WWF), Jikalahari, Jaringan Masyarakat Gambut Riau (JMGR), University of Riau, Association of Digital Entrepreneurs Indonesia (Riau chapter), Association of Forest Concession Holders (APHI), practitioners and business people. During the session, participants shared their experiences and expectations in developing community programs and partnerships. In the context of fire prevention and peatland restoration, the FGD revealed many possibilities for balancing fire prevention and peatland restoration with community welfare. However, social capital, interest and community willingness to voluntarily participate and engage, remain a challenge.

Peatland ecosystem commodities were highly specific, due to the requirement to maintain peatland water level so as to allow for sustainable development. A business model for peat ecosystem should therefore be specifically tailored and accommodate the necessary biophysical and socio-economic characteristics. Comprehensive planning is also required to capture and add value to generated products. The FGD showed that investment and persistence were highly important in business development processes. Likewise, identification of off-takers and target consumers are crucial to seize market opportunities.

As an exercise, participants drafted and formulated a business model canvas, a method to systematically develop a business model by Ostewalder and Pigneur (2010). Participants engaged in brainstorming and formulated business models for agarwood and pineapple. Participants shared many ideas and insights during the process, for example, that networks must be built and human resources must be put in place before markets can be accessed. They suggested that establishing an institution, for example a koperasi, would enable an emerging business to put in place formal agreements with partners, and that farmers could utilize e-commerce, which is readily and extensively available, as a digital marketing platform. Product diversification, standardized products, unique and high-quality packaging were all highlighted as necessary components of the business plan.

Finally, participants suggested further study to evaluate biophysical aspects prior to cultivation of intended commodities. They recommended evaluation and assessment of how a reduction in fire hotspots would increase community welfare. They further stated the importance of having a large-scale plot for testing and evaluation purposes. For stakeholders wanting to contribute, the FGD findings suggested that a focus on strengthening local institutions and increasing community capacity would be beneficial. This should involve socio-cultural transformation, with focus on sustainable development.