The Community Carbon Accounting (CCA) action research project in Indonesia

Semoyo Village (Gunung Kidul District), Terong Village (Bantul District), Yogyakarta Province, Indonesia
Started in 2010
Facilitator trains community members to use MS Excel for data processing
Facilitator trains community members to use MS Excel for data processing, Terong, Indonesia
Key Lessons 
  • The monitoring approach used in the Community Carbon Accounting (CCA) action research project in Indonesia can be described as ‘collaborative monitoring with local data interpretation’.
  • The biomass estimates generated using community measurements fall well within the range of uncertainty for estimates generated by an expert study, demonstrating that well-trained community teams can collect accurate data.
  • If monitoring activities are to be sustained, the activities and the information they generate need to be beneficial to the communities, such as by facilitating their access to voluntary schemes for forest management, or adding value to their products.
  • Local forestry officers have found that the CCA approaches can strengthen community forest management and support local forest information systems. Community management could increase further when computers become available in the villages.   
  • To scale up the CCA approaches, it is critical to examine how local communities can contribute and benefit, and also to identify pragmatic links, given that the current Indonesian national framework for monitoring forest resources is strongly centralised. Local authorities can play a key role in bridging community initiatives with formal systems.

The Community Carbon Accounting (CCA) Action Research Project in Indonesia is based on the premise that activities to reduce emissions from deforestation and forest degradation and enhance forest carbon stocks (REDD+) will not be sustainable unless communities and indigenous people are provided the opportunity and capacity to participate in a fully informed manner in the design and implementation of REDD+ activities. The involvement of local communities in forest monitoring could be one meaningful way through which they can take on responsibilities for REDD+, and also strengthen their forest management. It is also anticipated that through their understanding of forest carbon dynamics that the project aims to generate, communities will be in a more informed position to participate in REDD+ policy dialogues.

This action research project takes up these challenges by developing and testing approaches to involve local communities in the measurement and monitoring of forest biomass using sample plots.

The CCA in Indonesia was launched in 2010 by the Institute for Global Environmental Strategies (IGES), the National Forestry Council of Indonesia (DKN) and ARuPA (an Indonesian NGO supporting community forestry), with funding from the Ministry of Environment of Japan and the Asia-Pacific Network for Global Change Research (APN). ARuPA and DKN have strong stakeholder networks in and around Yogyakarta Province. After an intensive consultation process with community leaders and local authorities, Semoyo and Terong Villages were selected and have rapidly become important partners in the design and implementation of the Action Research Project.

After the training, 100 permanent sample plots were established in each village, and forest biomass has been continually monitored (annually or once in two years) by the communities. The CCA has also built the capacity of the communities by involving them in the national dialogue about forest management and REDD+, where they have shared experiences and lessons learnt from monitoring actions.

International Forest Agenda/s 
Monitoring Theme/s 
Carbon biomass
  • Biomass in living trees
  • Litter thickness
  • Standing and lying deadwood initially measured but found to be insignificant
Ecosystem services

Water provision:

  • Condition of forest stands and vegetation around water sources (observation)

Natural resources

Commercial Timber

  • Timber species
  • Volume of commercial trees
  • Annual growth of commercial trees to estimate allowable annual cut

Policy context

In Indonesia, efforts to support community-based forest management began in the 1990s. Since then, the roles of local people and communities in managing and restoring natural resources have been gradually recognised in the policy context. In 2012, the government completed the National REDD+ Strategy, in which community involvement is acknowledged within the strategic framework. Community empowerment is also highlighted in the scope of the Forest Management Unit (KPH) system, which is a key national policy for sustainable forest management objectives.

Semoyo and Terong Villages are located in the regencies of Gunung Kidul and Bantul, respectively, on Java Island. Land-use management in the villages takes place within a traditional Javanese institution (wonodusun) in which a unit of land is managed for multiple purpose including agriculture, animal husbandry and forestry. Wonodusun is practiced in lands classified by the government as people’s forests (hutan rakyat), which are usually privately titled.

While community forestry is a fundamental element of the local economy, providing raw materials for local industries, handicrafts and other products, the communities often face a challenge to keep a balance between harvesting products and protecting the environmental conditions that their forests provide. Community forestry in Semoyo is certified by the Indonesian Ecolabelling Institute (LEI) under its schemes for community-based forest management. Certification by LEI requires a detailed forest inventory and monitoring plan. Terong is now undertaking efforts to become LEI certified.

The concept of community participation in forest monitoring has not been addressed in Indonesia’s forest policy. Under the REDD+ system, the government has been making efforts to build a robust forest resource monitoring system, which encompasses multiple objectives including timber and non-timber resources, and other ecosystem services. However, the current inventory and monitoring framework is strongly centralised, and the potential roles of local actors, including local people, in biomass monitoring have not been seriously discussed.

Community participation

The CCA Action Research Project has been developed by building collaborative relationships between the local community members, NGO and researchers. Central to this project is the effort to involve communities as co-researchers through a cyclical process of planning, action, observation and reflection, to develop and test approaches for engaging communities in forest biomass monitoring.

Following the monitoring typology proposed by Danielson et al. (2009), which is based on the type of participation required from local communities and external professionals, the monitoring approach designed in the CCA can be viewed as 'collaborative monitoring with local data interpretation'. The CCA is designed to fully engage with local communities in all aspects of forest monitoring process. It also focuses on identifying practical contributions from the monitoring to local forest management systems and rural livelihoods activities, by considering how the information generated is understood and managed by communities for their decision-making.

Building local capacity is one of the most important elements in the CCA process. The training modules cover issues from awareness-raising (about sustainable forest management, legal frameworks for forest management and timber trading, climate change and forests, and monitoring principles), training in technical components of tree measurement (setting up a sampling plot, measuring diameter at breast height (DBH) and tree height, and recording data) and data management (inputing and managing data using Excel sheets).

As a key strategy for building local capacity and sense of ownership, community leaders (both male and female) were trained first of all, so that they could become local trainers and guide other members. This approach is particularly effective, as the local trainers are able to explain the concepts using local idioms and analogies. They are now using local radio programmes to share lessons from their biomass monitoring activities. Monthly meetings of women’s groups have been useful to raise awareness on climate change and encourage more women to be involved in the CCA.

In addition, a technical manual for community members has been drafted, inviting community leaders to participate in the writing process to confirm whether the contents and wording are adequate for local communities.

Monitoring methodology

Lands managed by communities are plantation forests dominated by timber species such as albicia (Paraserianthes falcataria), mahogany (Swieteniam acrophylla) and teak (Tectona grandis). The forests are found both as woodlots on drylands, which are normally located at a distance from the houses, and in home gardens, which are normally found around the houses. The monitoring has two objectives. First, it will provide a more accurate understanding of timber stocks and tree growth, enabling the villagers to time the harvest of their trees to maximise income. Second, the monitoring will provide an estimate of forest biomass, which can be used to calculate the potential REDD+ benefits that the communities could receive by delaying their harvesting to achieve higher time-averaged carbon stock in their forest.

Forest Biomass Monitoring

After the training, 100 permanent sample plots (PSPs) were established in each village, in both dryland woodlots and home gardens. 20 m x 20 m single square plots were used. The sampling unit was determined as a unit of land owned by community members. This was found effective since the sampling frame could be easily mapped from the statistical data at the Village Office. Trees planted on the edges of agricultural areas were sampled across 10 metre intervals (i.e. trees along the first 10 metre interval were sampled, the trees along the next 10 metre interval were skipped, the trees along the next 10 metre interval were sampled, and so on).

The variables measured are DBH, total tree height and thickness of the litter. The communities have been trained on the use of measurement tapes, Haga Meter, Christen hypsometer, and GPS.

Biomass stocks were calculated using the species specific allometric equations from the research results of the Ministry of Forestry and the Forestry Faculty of Gadjah Mada University in Yogyakarta.  

Accuracy of data

With proper training, community teams can take and record forest measurements to provide accurate and precise forest carbon stock estimates. Table 1 shows that the estimates from community measurements fall well within the range of uncertainty for estimates in the same forest type generated by another study (Roshetko et al. 2002).

Table 1. Accuracy of community data compared with expert data


Forest type Above-ground biomass estimates from community measurements, for all living trees with DBH* > 5cm

Above-ground biomass estimates from another study (Roshetko et al. 2002), for living trees with DBH > 5cm, Lampung Province

Semoyo village, Yogyakarta Province, Indonesia

1. Dryland  woodlots

2. Home gardens

1. 33.3 tC/ha**

2. 32.3 tC/ha 

1. No data

2. 35.3 ± 21.2 tC/ha

*DBH: diameter at breast height **tC/ha: tonnes of carbon per hectare

Source of funding

The funding for the CCA Project has been provided by the Ministry of Environment of Japan under annual budgets related to climate change mitigation, and by the Asia-Pacific Network for Global Change Research (APN) for a three-year project entitled ‘Participatory Approaches to Forest Carbon Accounting to Mitigate Climate Change, Conserve Biodiversity, and Promote Sustainable Development’.

Achievements and challenges

Key achievements of the CCA are the development of approaches for community participation in monitoring plantation forests in the region and the training modules to provide a systematic training course for community members. Building local capacity is essential, and the modules explain the concept of community-based forest monitoring, community forest composition, biomass measurement, and data processing and analysis. Monitoring objectives, sampling design and measurement techniques have to be intensively discussed with the participating communities so that forest monitoring framework reflects the views and needs of local communities, and the sense of local ownership increases.

The CCA demonstrates that through well-designed training and support programmes, the capacity of local people can be built to take forest measurements for accurate and precise estimates of forest carbon stock changes. In addition, the communities are currently taking on the role of transferring the data they have recorded on field sheets to MS Excel spreadsheets. Initially, community members may find it difficult to understand the concept of sampling, use the measurement instruments, and interpret data, but they become increasingly competent through the training process and monitoring practices. It is a challenging task to design appropriate training, which leads towards the building of a forest resource information system that can be handled by the community members for their forest management and livelihood activities.

By providing a more accurate understanding of timber stocks and tree growth, the CCA has the potential to encourage communities to strengthen their forest management. However, forest management by local people is often exposed to financial stress. Monitoring activities and the information generated need to be beneficial to the communities, such as by facilitating access to voluntary schemes for forest management and adding value to their products.

The project has held several workshops involving national and regional governments, and communicated with other key stakeholders (e.g. UN REDD Programme, KPH managers). The community leaders have been invited to present their views and experiences on the CCA approaches within the national dialogue about REDD+. Local forestry officers have found the CCA beneficial for strengthening community forest management and also supporting local forest information systems.

However, the current Indonesian national framework for monitoring forest resources is strongly centralised. For scaling up the CCA approaches, it is critical to identify pragmatic linkages and to examine how local communities can contribute to and benefit from existing forest information systems, which encompass different forest functions such as timber and non-timber resources and other ecosystem services, safeguards for REDD+, and implementation of community forestry, while addressing local needs and the capacity of local people. 

Community view

This video is from another research site of the CCA project: Madang Province in Papua New Guinea. It follows a course on tree species identification for leaders of seven clans. The participants explain the value of the forest in the own words, showing how each clan has distinct uses and names for trees. The video contrasts the local knowledge with scientific knowledge, demonstrating how these can be combined to support community-based forest monitoring and management. A representative of IGES explains the threats that face the communities and their forests, and the opportunities presented by the course.