Professor Kim Looks for Incentives to Protect Forests

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Professor Kim (left) with students from the University of Mataram.

Professor Yeon-Su Kim in NAU’s School of Forestry has been championing conservation with development. “I believe there is no other way,” she says. “We cannot choose to conserve a forest without the people in it.” Providing communities in developing countries with incentives to protect their forests could slow down deforestation.

Working in Indonesia

Dr. Kim’s latest research focuses on Indonesia, the world’s third-largest emitter of greenhouse gases (behind the United States and China). The majority of these emissions are coming from the destruction of Indonesia’s vast forests and peatlands.

Kim and a team of collaborators from Korea and the University of Mataram in Indonesia are in a middle of a three-year project to assess the feasibility of a REDD+ project on the island of Lombok in Eastern Indonesia. REDD+ (Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Forest Degradation) is an international effort to mitigate climate change in developing countries. It is part of the United Nations Framework of Climate Change (UNFCC), which seeks to compensate developing countries for their carbon credits.

 “We cannot choose to conserve a forest without the people in it.”

The first year of the project the team analyzed satellite imagery to assess changes in the forest cover. In 2012, they identified encroachment from bordering villages as the cause of the deforestation. Next year the goal is to develop a strategy of economic incentives that might slow down forest degradation and, by extension, reduce global warming. This strategy could become a blueprint for working with other communities facing similar challenges.

Encouraging agro-forestry

Apart from money from verifiably tradable carbon credits, Kim hopes to encourage other income streams that can help the village people directly. One idea is foster agro-forestry, such as coffee, cacao, and bananas that can be grown in the shade of the trees in the buffer area adjacent to protected forest lands. Another is to encourage forest communities to manage and protect watersheds by assessing end users a small fee for these services—money that the community can then use to buy seedlings and farm tools.

Beyond such immediate measures, Kim is committed to cultivating local forestry experts for long-term sustainability. “My plan is to help Indonesian students and faculty gain access to better education and international research,” she says. “NAU is now working with University of Mataram to promote the exchange of students and scholars.” 

For more information about Professor Kim’s work in Lombok, Indonesia, see her article “Integrating Conservation with Development: Cultivating Expertise among the Local Inhabitants of Forests” on page three of NAU Global, the magazine of NAU's Center for International Education at


--Sylvia Somerville