Air Seeding: An Innovative Reforestation Method


Posted : October 6, 2017

South Konawe – More than 24 million hectares of land in Indonesia are critically damaged, according to the Ministry of Environment and Forestry (KLHK). Rehabilitating such a vast area of land requires an effective measure and concerted efforts by multistakeholders. Air seeding, or spreading tree seedlings from a flying helicopter, is one of the innovative ways to address land degradation that continues to spread at an alarming rate. Hilman Nugroho, Director General of River Bank Control and Protected Forest, KLHK, shared his views during the ‘Air Seeding Inauguration’ in Landono Sub-District, South Konawe District, Southeast Sulawesi Province on 15 September 2017.

The total area of critically degraded land in three districts in South Sulawesi, namely East Kolaka, Konawe, and South Konawe Districts, reaches up to 291,669 hectares – comprising 122,471 hectares of forest area and 169,198 hectares of areas beyond the forest. This number is expected to increase if rehabilitation efforts are not improved. Kalla Foundation through co-funding partnership with MCA-Indonesia is rehabilitating 7,000 hectares of critically degraded land in those three districts in Southeast Sulawesi Province, combining air seeding as well as manual planting methods.

Hilman commends the air seeding activity as an innovation in reforestation efforts in Indonesia. “The Ministry of Environment and Forestry will replicate air seeding in other areas if it is proven effective. One of the potential areas for air seeding is the mountainous areas around Citarum River in West Java Province.”

Rochmat Jatmiko, Kalla Foundation’s Project Leader, explains that reforestation through manual planting will cover 1,500 hectares of land while air seeding will cover 5,500 hectares of land.

Technically, 55 tons of seeds will be scattered from a flying helicopter for two weeks, taking up a total of 55 hours. Every hour, air seeding will cover 100 hectares of land. The seedlings to be planted include Sengon wood, Gmelina, Akasia Mangium, Red and White Kaliandra.

Long before the air seeding activity, a series of trainings for communities have been conducted. “We are fully aware that forest rehabilitation requires capacity building for community. Without the community, the ecosystem balance that we aim for will never be achieved,” said Rochmat.

Air seeding method is particularly useful to reach areas that are difficult to access such as hilly areas or steep valleys. According to Ali Imran, Kalla Foundation’s Reforestation Manager, air seeding is faster and cheaper compared to manual planting. To illustrate, 30,000 seedlings are scattered over one hectare of land. Out of that figure, 800-1000 trees will grow. This is more efficient compared to relying on manual labour that are unable to access difficult terrains and take a much longer time to cover the vast areas.

MCA-Indonesia’s Associate Director for Partnership Grants Hery Kameswara hopes that the partnership in Southeast Sulawesi Province can contribute to the government’s national reforestation efforts, particularly to cover larger areas through air seeding method while at the same time empowering the community.

The reforestation activity is part of a partnership between Kalla Foundation and MCA – Indonesia under the Green Prosperity Project that aims to reduce poverty through low-carbon economic growth. Since January 2016, the project has been implemented in 90 villages in the three districts. Aside from reforestation, Kalla Foundation trained 7,000 farmers on agroforestry, 260 cocoa farmers on seed fermentation as well as rehabilitated 10,500 hectares of cocoa field.

Bupati of South Konawe District, Arsalim, applauds the initiative to launch air seeding. He believes the effort is highly beneficial for the community and forest sustainability in the long run. To ensure optimal result, the district government will coordinate with different stakeholders as well as the provincial government.

For farmers like Zaenuddin (31 years old) and Mastin (37 years old) who live in Landono Village, reforestation helps them obtain seedlings to be grown in their fields. “Previously, it was difficult to obtain these seedlings. Thanks to this program, we received many seedlings for our fields. We hope reforestation activities will be increased in the coming years,” said Mastin. (Amir Gofur and Intan Febriani/MCA-Indonesia)