Rubber farming already exists in the project area, having been introduced to Hutan Harapan in the early 20th century.
With rubber’s potential to help fulfil its goals, PT REKI turned to work already done by the Global Platform for Sustainable Natural Rubber (GPSNR), an industry collective of some 200 stakeholders founded in 2019 with the support of BirdLife International, Pirelli and BMW, among others. The idea was to develop a pilot project for the sustainable supply of deforestation-free natural rubber, which, if successful, could be replicated elsewhere.
The GPSNR has looked at the current state of smallholder rubber farming and created a list of “Desired States” that sets standards for rubber production that take into account the most critical environmental, social and economic factors. The standards are interconnected and range from promoting “healthy, functioning ecosystems and resilient agro-ecosystems” to community rights and value-chain equity.
“Some 85 per cent of natural rubber is produced by smallholder farmers, mostly in Asia, with plots of around 2 hectares,” says Sue Mulhall, BirdLife International’s global lead for biodiversity and business partnerships. “So it is only by working with these smallholder farmers that the industry can be transformed.”
The Living Rubber project incorporates these standards and is focused on helping farmers within an area in the north of Hutan Harapan, in particular the Batin Sembilan people, to produce rubber sustainably.
The project specifies targets that are assessed on a monthly, quarterly and bi-annual basis against 12 key performance indicators (KPIs) to track progress. The findings are included in reports that can be used to promote the aims of the collaboration and encourage further participation.
“Hutan Harapan represents a challenging and complex situation with systemic issues,” adds Mulhall. “There is no magic wand or simple fix within three, six or 12 months. However, great foundational progress has been made and we are on track to achieve our KPIs in year three.”