March 26, 2020

Ministry, business join forces amid COVID-19 outbreak

JAKARTA ( - Indonesian Environment and Forestry Minister Siti Nurbaya has mobilized a joint force with forestry and palm oil business associations dedicated to providing direct assistance to communities in fighting the spread of COVID-19.

The main principle, according to the minister, is that business groups which are members of the two associations produce their own relevant products that are needed by the public with respect to efforts to prevent the transmission of the coronavirus. 

“This includes soap, medical masks and other relevant products. The business groups eligible to join this initiative are only those that are able to do self-production, not buying existing stocks in the market and then donating them," she explained.

“The first move is planned for this Friday (Mar 27) when the distribution of self-produced assistance from several companies will begin. Other companies in the two associations will follow," the minister asserted. 

Furthermore, Minister Nurbaya has also mobilized the purchase of honey-based products in large numbers from a wide range of community groups which for years have been assisted by pulp and paper companies. These are to be distributed to targeted communities that need them due to COVID-19. 

“This effort is also aimed at maintaining the local livelihoods of communities living in and around forests and forestry concessions as the impact of the coronavirus becomes increasingly widespread," she said.

Below are photos of an exhibition of community group products, including honey, from the social forestry program held at the ministry building together with Minister Nurbaya and Minister of Cooperatives and MSMEs Teten Masduki in late November 2019.

At the Implementable level

The Ministry's Director General for Environmental Pollution and Degradation Control MR Karliansyah emphasized that Minister Nurbaya's move has already been acted upon and is now at the implementable level.

The first phase of engagement with the Palm Oil Business Association (GAPKI) has been conducted and GAPKI is confirmed to be joining forces with the ministry to distribute soap produced by its own members to targeted communities in order to prevent the expansion of the coronavirus outbreak. 

“The Musim Mas Group is in the loop now for the first stage. Unilever will also join. Then PT Acidatama, which is based in Solo (Central Java), will also team up with the joint force," he explained in writing (Mar 25).

He pointed out that community groups which produce their own products that can be used to prevent the spread of the coronavirus also continue to be identified and mobilized.

“Our minister's initiative will certainly become even more extensive, involving relevant companies and community groups," said Karliansyah.

The following are examples of palm oil plantations in Indonesian Borneo, which can be used as a source of raw material for making soap. This concession also lies among forested areas allocated as habitat for 150 Bornean orangutans. 

Medical mask production ramping up

Meanwhile, the Ministry's Secretary General, who is also acting Director General of Sustainable Production Forest Management, Bambang Hendroyono stressed that the ministry is encouraging pulp and paper companies under the Forestry Business Association (APHI) to participate in the production of medical masks.

“This will certainly take some time, but we expect it to be realized quite quickly. The criteria are clear –the masks must be self-produced and then distributed to the community," he explained.

Current data (Mar 26) indicates that the coronavirus has spread to Indonesia’s palm oil and pulp and paper producing provinces, although it is mainly concentrated in Java.