Tree Volume Tape To Support Private Forest Sustainability

Volume tape of standing tree to support private forest sustainability


Budiman Achmad


Agroforestry in West Java is becoming popular as a way for landowners to diversify income opportunities, improve management of forest resources, and increase biological diversity. This practice has both advantages and disadvantages over conventional forestry (Chamberlain et al., 2009). Agroforestry can lead to improve forest health by increasing biological diversity, removal of damaged and infected vegetation, and more active management of forest resources. It can result in additional and diversified forest income opportunities by producing products for more markets with greater diversity. At the same time agroforestry requires more intensive management, which demand greater skills and more time. Therefore, to gain the advantages, agroforestry practise has to be managed more intensively. Unfortunately, agroforestry practise is often unsupported by thinning practise as the most important parts of the tending in agroforestry management.

Most farmers in West Java have a misleading interpretation in planting trees, whereas they cultivate as many as trees even in small size of land (less than 0.5 hectare). Among farmers there is believing that the more trees they plant, the more result they obtained. Besides, it is also caused by an incentive system developed by the local forestry institution (DISHUTBUN) which distributes tree seedlings as assistance to the farmers. From a project point of view, seedling is the form of assistance which is more easily monitored because the long term results (trees) are measurable, the growth can be monitored and the progress can be evaluated. For the purpose of accountability, seedlings are strongly sugested to be cultivated in the private land even though the land has already full of trees. From the ecologycal point of view, this condition of private forest is good for maintaining the quality of environment but not for the economic one. To sustaining private forest both ecologycal and economical factors have to be concerned equally (Niemmanee, Kaveeta, & Potchanasin, 2015).

Sustainability of private forest has not yet been become a serious concern in Indonesia, primary due to unavailability of the information about stand increment and unclearness responsibility to monitor the development of private forest. Without supporting data about stand increment, it is impossible for institution in charge to set up annual allowable cut of private forest. Therefore, the scarcity of timber due to over-demanding trees cannot be anticipated and it is potentially leading to the depletion of private forest (Pirard & Irland, 2007). Now a days, the scarcity signal actually has appeared, pointed out by the size of trees sold at wood market are getting smaller. This tells us that big size of tree diameters are getting difficult to find in the field.

Recently, to trade private timber, buyer simply holds a bill from farmer which is generally issued after buyer receiving a permission letter for cutting trees from a head of village. The information attached in the letter consists of the trees location, trees species, number of and volume of trees. The institution which responsible for planning the development of private forest in a district is Dinas Kehutanan dan Perkebunan (DISHUTBUN), while for issuing tree cutting permit is the village office. According to its important role, Dishutbun and Village office should build a good team work related to the development of private forest. Unfortunately, cooperation between these two institutions does not work smoothly. Therefore, the harvesting timber from private forest cannot be directed to consider the growth capacity of the forest resulting the sustainability level of the forest is uncertain.

It is ordinarily happened in West Java that most forest farmers face two dilemmatic conditions namely economic pressure and forests maintenance. There were four main factors , i.e. small scale land owned; less experience in farming system; over-dense stands; and lack of capital which made the income of farmers from doing forest business remain low (Achmad, 2016). Analisis of the relationship between such factors with farmer incomes is needed to better understand their impact and to target intervention aimed at improving livelihoods in rural area.

Small-holders are vital for rural economy, defined as those marginal and sub-marginal farm households that own or/and cultivate less than 1.0 hectare of land.  Holding a small-scale forest, the farmer’s family belonging 2 or 3 children have to work hard to overcome their daily needs, because the average income from the private forest is often insufficient for living. Small-scale farmers in Ciamis District averagely manage 0.7 hectare of forest land, gain the income contribution between 22 and 28 % to total income. Therefore, to meet their livelihood needs, and farmers have to find 72 to 78 % more income from other sources.

In order to cope with their economic problem, farmers uniquely always be able to attain their own strategy by allocating their time proportionally wheter managing private forest or working at other sectors such as service sectors, paddy field, fish pond, husbandry, and other family incomes. Service sector defined as informal jobs which produce intangible good such as public bikecycle driver (ojeg), construction labour, small shop holder, etc. Rural livelihood strategies may be considered as dynamic adaptation process through which rural people seek first to survive and then to improve their well-being over time (Adam, Pretzsch, & Pettenella, 2013). Relevant with that statement, to improve their livelihood, small-scale forest holders could not lean on forest product merely, but they allocate the time to work at service sectors.

For farmers who manage less than 1.0 hectare forest, the biggest income usually comes from service sector followed by forest sector. Recently, farmers holding small scale forest (less than 1 hectare) always face dificulty to improve forest yield, because the growth of trees is getting slow quickly. Why does it happen ? Because farmers have passion to cultivate vary species densely, even in small size of land resulting the lack of growing space. Under this crowded trees, the growth of trees diameter are suppressed. This is the main reason why the income from small size of forest is lower than from service sector.

Conversely, for the ones who manage more than 1.0 hectare forest, the biggest income comes from forest sector, followed by service sector. For this size of land, the density of trees is bit lighter because farmers face the capital problem to buy many seedlings which is going to be cultivated at their whole space of land. For that reason, the trees spacing at a wider size of land is usually wider too which gives more advantages to many trees to grow without stressed by others. This condition is triggering better yield from the forests.

To enhance yield from private forests, farmers should practice intensive management especially thinning activity, but it has almost never been practiced. The farmers feel financially being suffered when some of the suppressed trees among their dense vegetation are thinned despite the fact that thinning is very required to give adequate growing space for promoting more potential trees. Factually, most private forest farmers cultivate trees at very close spacing, averagely by 1.5 x 2.0 m2. As a result, the growth of trees is getting slow, reaching the peak of growth quickly at around age 4 years and then stagnating (Figure 1). Under this condition, it seems to be less financially valuable yields can be expected from the trees because the price of timber depends on the size.

Growth of dense private forest stands

Figure 1. Growth of dense private forest stands

Low formal education level of the farmer becomes a barrier to create new innovation and to adopt new technology especially on silviculture; accordingly, the conventional technology still going on. For instance, the decision to adopt new technology in Ethiophia was influenced by education level and gender, whereas male-headed houshold is more aceptable to new technology than female one (Mengistu, Simane, Eshete, & Workneh, 2016). Considering the rapid development of farmer’s daily demand, conventional technology is likely unsuitable anymore implemented on the small scale of forest to fulfil daily farmer’s needs. Therefore, innovative technology such as cultivating high yielding tree species, arranging growth space and practising appropriate species composition should be made them possible being adopted by farmers under direction of extension officers. Unfortunately, some extension officers recently are getting retired while regeneration process is not smooth enough.

A process of getting knowledge or skill in vegetation development (experience) is an important capital for the promotion of private forest management. In relation to that, to examine the effect of farming experience on the understanding of the management of private forest, interaction between farming experience with income was investigated. The study found that farming experience in Ciamis District had significant correlation with farmer’s income (Achmad, 2016). Farmers in Southern region of Ciamis District who migrated from Central Java Province used to be the labour at palm plantation industry. Departing from that background, farmers in this region have better skill to manage forest than farmers from other regions of Ciamis Distric. Fortunately, they could develope more productive forest and gained more beneficiaries. The type of farming experiences defined not limited on the physical activities only, but also including the training experiences or communication with experts. Farming experience is useful in early stages of adoption of given technology when farmers are still testing its potential benefits, wich later determine its retention or disadoption overtime (Ainembabazi & Mugisha, 2014). From this fact suggest that, experiences on farming system is important to improve farmers income.

Density of stands play an important role in controlling diameter growth and trees mortality. At lower elevation region and during drier period, the greater density of stands increase the opportunity of mortality. Meanwhile, in mid-to upper- elevation forests, increase density was more often associated with decreased probability of mortality, especially during wetter periods (Van Gunst, Weisberg, Yang, & Fan, 2016). Ciamis Distric covers low land to high land elevations, spreads from Souhern to Northern regions respectively. Species composition of the trees are dominated by Falcataria moluccana or local name is Sengon. This is a fast growing species which is very easy to develope and has high price at local market. Regarding this characteristics, private forest farmers in West Java especially in Ciamis intend to develope at every single land they have. This progessive development made Ciamis Distric was declared as the center of private timber for West Java region. Unfortunately, this label does not exist anymore due to diseases outbreak which made the population decrease sharply. This is because the stand density is too high resulting humidity was more suitable for fungi growing. Secondly, harvesting level of private timbers is increasing from time to time making the growth rate of stands cannot compete with. To turn the brand up, special treatment mainly thinning is a must. Otherwise, the trees size would remain small and this type of stand diameter distribution does not lead to sustaining forest and incomes.

Tending activity needs capital which is often unavailable at farmers budged planning. Realized this dilemma, I try to help them refining their capability in managing forest by introducing tree volume tape. The idea was based on my experience during conducting research in the field. During interview, farmers informed that they were very weak in negotiating tree prices in the transaction process with middle man. The total prices from selling trees were mostly not based on the factual trees volume, but usually based only on the middle man estimation. As a result, the farmers cannot plan the number of trees should be cut inline with the amount of budged needed, because they lack of information about the volume as well as the value of every single tree.

Standing tree volume tape is a very simple tool and it can be operated very easily by farmers without needed supervision. By twisting the tape to the tree at breast height, the volume will be directly shown on the tape (Figure 2). A standing tree volume tape is basicly transformed from a standard volume tabel. In a standard volume table, to estimate a tree volume, farmer firstly has to measure the diameter at breash heigh which is most of them do not have the equipment and unfamiliar how to operate. Secondly, farmers have to find out the volume in the table based on the value of diameter measured. The problems are, farmers are not oly reluctant to read the table, but they are also rare possesing the table. The other drawback is that the table is not pactical and easily lost or damaged.

Meanwhile, In a volume tape, farmers only need to twist the tape to the tree and the volume can be directly displayed from the tape. The tape is very practical and not easily losses.

Measuring standing tree volume by using a volume tape

Figure 2. Measuring standing tree volume by using a volume tape

According to the figure 2, the volume of tree was 0.29 m3 at 70 cm tree arround, obtained by twisting the tape to the tree at breast height. By knowing the financial value each tree, farmers could eliminate cutting the whole trees (clear cutting) but they are able to select appropriate trees based only on their need. Therefore, the remaining trees still have enough time to grow for future need. More importantly, the remaining trees make the quality of environment is always being maintained.


In order to socialize the new invention to farmers of private forest, the volume tapes have been distributed freely to farmers and extension officers whose responsible for advocating farmers (Figure 3).

Simbolic giveing of volume tape to a leader of farmer group in Ciamis

Figure 3. Simbolic giveing of volume tape to a leader of farmer group in Ciamis

The disseminations were conducted during meeting with farmer group, exhibitions, or training in some regions including West Java, Central Java, Yogyakarta and East Java. The interest of farmers to the tape is very high showed by the demand to this tape is always incline at every exhibition. Before farmer having volume tape, buyers often measured tree diameter not at breash height (1.30 m from land surface), but at as high point as they can (figure 4). Therefore, tree volume becomes underestimated and farmers loss their partial incomes. This condition does not only financially raise negative impact for farmers but also cheat on them. To fulfil their income, farmers usually practicing clear cutting to their forest which was defined as one of the farmer’s disadvantages. By operating the tape, the bargaining position of farmer during transaction of tree can be improved. More importantly, farmers are able to design the number of trees should be cut based on their need. In other word, the harvesting system has been turned from clear cutting into selective one. These changes, therefore, encourage the enhancement of environmental quality which is very important for keeping upper stream condition. To increase the efficiency of the tape, we plan to further develop the capacity of tape from previously estimating tree volume become estimating sawn timber volume. This development may decrease gap between farmers and buyer in terms of volume estimation and everyone would be happy.

Point measurement of tree diameter by buyer

Figure 4. Point measurement of tree diameter by buyer

Sustainable development requires stimulating revolutionary technological innovation through environmental, health, safety, economic, and labour market regulation (Ashford & Hall, 2011). Recently, we have developed volume tape for four tree species i.e. Falcataria moluccana (sengon), Swietenia macrophylla (mahoni), Pinus merkusii (tusam), and Tectona grandis (jati). Hopefully, introduction of tree volume tapes to farmers of private forest can raise farmer’s economy while keeping of the quality of environment. Therefore, rural development trough sustaining private forest can be attained. To strengthen the farmer’s position, the tapes may be duplicated by DISHUTBUN institution and then distributed to farmer groups. Furthermore, the usages of the tapes are formally strengthened by a regulation prepared by local government. Lastly, the regulation should also cover the designing of annual allowable cut of timber from private forest, otherwise all of the efforts would be useless.


Achmad, B. (2016). Tingkat Kelestarian Dalam Pengelolaan Hutan Rakyat Untuk Peningkatan Kesejahteraan Masyarakat : kasus di Kabupaten Ciamis. Yogyakarta: Universitas Gadjah Mada.

Adam, Y. O., Pretzsch, J., & Pettenella, D. (2013). Contribution of Non-Timber Forest Products livelihood strategies to rural development in drylands of Sudan: Potentials and failures. Agricultural Systems, 117, 90–97.

Ainembabazi, J. H., & Mugisha, J. (2014). The Role of Farming Experience on the Adoption of Agricultural Technologies: Evidence from Smallholder Farmers in Uganda. Journal of Development Studies, 50(5), 666–679.

Ashford, N. A., & Hall, R. P. (2011). The importance of regulation-induced innovation for sustainable development. Sustainability, 3(1), 270–292.

Chamberlain, J. ., Mitchell, D., Brigham, T., Hobby, T., Zabek, L., Davis, J., & Garrett, H. E. G. (2009). Forest Farming Practices. North American Agroforestry: An Integrated Science and Practice, 219.

Mengistu, M. G., Simane, B., Eshete, G., & Workneh, T. S. (2016). Factors affecting households’ decisions in biogas technology adoption, the case of Ofla and Mecha Districts, northern Ethiopia. Renewable Energy, 93, 215–227.

Niemmanee, T., Kaveeta, R., & Potchanasin, C. (2015). Assessing the Economic, Social, and Environmental Condition for the Sustainable Agricultural System Planning in Ban Phaeo District, Samut Sakhonn Province, Thailand. Procedia - Social and Behavioral Sciences, 197(February), 2554–2560.

Pirard, R., & Irland, L. C. (2007). Missing links between timber scarcity and industrial overcapacity: Lessons from the Indonesian Pulp and Paper expansion. Forest Policy and Economics, 9(8), 1056–1070.

Van Gunst, K. J., Weisberg, P. J., Yang, J., & Fan, Y. (2016). Do denser forests have greater risk of tree mortality: A remote sensing analysis of density-dependent forest mortality. Forest Ecology and Management, 359, 19–32.


About the Writer: Dr. Ir. Budiman Achmad, M.For.Sc