The Mosaik Initiative: Finding new models of small-scale rural production systems for nature and society

The Mosaik Initiative aims to protect and restore landscapes while improving the welfare of farmers and Indigeneous people. These landscapes are also the places where globally important commodities, such as oil palm, rubber and copra are produced. The Seruyan-Kumai Landscape incorporates the two districts of Seruyan and Kotawaringin Barat, in Central Kalimantan which is home to wildlife such as orangutans, proboscis monkeys, gibbons, and sun-bears.

For consumers, it is no longer sufficient to know the country of origin, but they need to know the landscape of origin. Landscapes are places where nature and society interact. These interactions are visible through the mosaics of different land uses and natural features across the landscape. Landscapes are also places where commodities are produced. The production of commodities, however, has too often been at the expense of nature and society.

The Mosaik initiative aims to change this and make the production of commodities more sustainable and inclusive. Through jurisdictional certification, consumers know that the product was produced in a way that protects forests and other ecosystems, reduces poverty and upholds human rights. The Mosaik initiative focuses not only on certifying palm oil but also eventually all commodities in the landscape.

Working at the landscape (jurisdictional) level

For this to work, it needs the leadership of local governments, working with the private sector and non-government organizations, supported by the national government and donors. Central to this approach is the concept of jurisdictional certification.

Trying to stop deforestation and environmental degradation only through supply chain initiatives has had limited effectiveness. One of the main reasons is that ecosystems need to have large, connected areas in order to provide services such as wildlife habitats and corridors, water regulation and provisioning, soil protection and carbon sequestration. Degraded areas are also more prone to wildfires, which can spread into farmland as well as cause haze. Without the services provided by healthy ecosystems, farms and plantations will be less productive and more susceptible to hazards such as droughts and fires. To address these problems, we need to work at a larger scale, which is known as the landscape scale. To address many issues at the landscape scale, we need the support of the government. Subnational governments, either provincial or district governments, are the best placed to address landscape-level issues through jurisdictional approaches.

The main tools for ensuring healthy ecosystems are: protection, restoration and sustainable management. Protecting forests and ecosystems requires a mix of rules, laws and incentives. Restoration requires activities such as tree planting and restoring hydrological functions. Sustainable management requires plans and rules based on scientific evidence to ensure that resources can be used for current and future generations

Theory of Change

New models of small-scale rural production systems, consequently, are needed that benefit both nature and society.

Rural production systems are neither sustainable nor profitable for smallholders because they face systematic challenges, including market access, policies, access to information, technology and finance. This situation disadvantages rural households and their ability to access and benefit from their resources. Overcoming these challenges will require both understanding the causes of disadvantages as well as proposing beneficial models of rural production, in collaboration with rural households, the private sector, civil society organizations, and governments.

Farmers are actors who directly use the land for producing agricultural commodities. Farmers often compete with other actors such as big corporations in using the lands. Farmers face different challenges depending on the type of commodities produced, their connection to the market, and the behavior of farmers influenced by geographical and demographic conditions. For instance, palm oil farmers are connected to the international markets that apply strict standards when purchasing products from farmers. Farmers are forced to meet these standards or they will be excluded from supply chains. On the other hand, indigenous and local farmers have traditionally cultivated crops such as coconut and sugar palms in their customary forests. With the absence of market incentives for these traditional commodities, farmers often choose more profitable monocultures.

Under the Mosaik Initiative, we use a collaborative approach to research, technology development and institutional development to address the underlying environmental, social, economic and agronomic problems faced by farmers (Figure 1). Using the approach, we work with the following typologies of farmers to improve the rural production system:

  1. Fire-free agricultural practices for indigenous farmers
  2. Restoration-based village economies including for instance fast-growing timber and other valuable crops
  3. Sustainable production of commodities with international markets (including oil palm, rubber, clove, cacao and timber)
  4. Non-timber forest products in conservation areas (including honey, vanilla, nutmeg, sago and palm sugar)
  5. Sustainable fisheries and aquaculture as alternative livelihoods to reduce pressure on forests

Figure 1. Our Theory of Change