fashion forest timor

In Timor, a project is underway to establish a forest of kapok, cotton and other trees that will be used for natural dye extraction. The dyes will then be used by women in Timor to color the yarns they use to weave traditional cloths.

Deforestation and forest fires left only tough tallgrass (alang-alang) overgrowing the depleted soil. With combined efforts, a lush productive forest is being created.

Unlike West Sumatra, Timor—located in eastern Indonesia—and is dry and barren, and lacks the pioneer vegetation of alang-alang. To replenish the humus layer,, Gliricidia, also known as the rain tree, is being used. This plant is found throughout Timor and is ideal for restoring land as it is not liked by cows and deer. The plant also fixes nitrogen which promotes plant growth.

Proven method

This method of using Gliricidia to restore land has been proven to be effective. By putting tall branches 1.5 to 2 meters deep into the ground, they quickly grow into trees with abundant leaves that fall off during the dry season. Lots of leaves means lots of biomass, so the humus layer grows considerably. Humus gives the soil a granular structure and consists largely of carbon, which helps retain water.

In Timor, the planting process of economic valuable trees begins after about two years when the humus layer has grown thick enough from the Gliricidia cuttings. Farmers plant corn and various tree species during the rainy season, and a local cotton variety is grown among the maize plants, which thrives under the protection of the maize. Thanks to the Gliricidias, the microclimate is favorable with shade and leaf fall limiting evaporation. Before long, indigo is planted and farmers will choose other native species to plant. CO2Operate has also opened up a new market for kapok, which will allow the kapok tree to return to the area.

Colorful cotton

Timor is known for its traditional fabrics made of cotton. Together with Sukkha Citta, we are experimenting with various varieties of cotton that support the local textile industry and can grow without irrigation, making it a sustainable and environmentally-friendly crop.

Kapok is an increasingly popular sustainable alternative to synthetic fillings and can be woven with cotton using innovative techniques. The market for kapok is currently being explored, and the kapok trees in the Fashion Forest are thriving. If the market offers prospects, the farmers in Timor plan to plant more kapok trees. The first large branches have already been planted in the ground.

We are currently exploring the potential of Gliricidia as a good source of income for farmers. The annual pruning of Gliricidia trees provides a significant amount of biomass that could be used in the national biomass power plant.

Furthermore, we plan to plant indigo shrubs in the Gliricidia forest towards the end of 2023. Indigo is an important natural dye, and its cultivation will further enhance the development of the Fashion Forest.

We are considering expanding the variety of trees in the Fashion Forest by planting more tamarind trees. Tamarind is a common tree species in Timor, and its fruits are highly sought after and valuable for farmers. The sale of tamarind is an important source of income for those who already have the trees, and we hope to increase the availability of this valuable resource through further planting.

Fashion of significance

Sukkha Citta is a social enterprise based in Indonesia that has received numerous awards for its work in sustainable fashion. The e organization is a proud participant in the Fashion Forest initiative, contributing funds to plant saplings and actively seeking out cotton varieties that can be grown without irrigation. Sukkha Citta uses the natural dyes produced in community-based projects for their clothing, making a positive impact on the environment and local communities.

All projects are led by women, using natural resources to create beautiful colors. Indigo leaves produce blue, Terminalia bellirica fruit creates yellow, mahogany provides red, and the sappan tree gives black.

Gliricidia Sepium: A potent resource

The Timorese people benefit greatly from the fast-growing Gliricidia Sepium tree.. It thrives in degraded and infertile soils, and is an excellent source of biomass—producing both wood and leaves that provide a significant amount of organic matter to the soil.

In addition to its role as a nitrogen fixer and biomass producer, Gliricidia also has deep roots that allow it to access water and nutrients that other crops may not be able to. This reduces competition for resources and makes it a valuable addition to agroforestry systems. Furthermore, the deep roots of Gliricidia help to improve water infiltration into the soil, regulating surface water runoff and reducing the risk of soil erosion and flooding.
Intensive pruning of Gliricidia is possible due to its ability to develop new branches quickly, leading to increased foliage and organic matter for the soil.

These branches are also suitable for weaved fencing and firewood.

Gliricidia is a cost-effective option for farmers to restore fertility to degraded land, with experience showing that 1.5–2 meter branches take root easily in the ground. Moreover, the tree responds well to intensive pruning, providing a large amount of organic matter for the soil. 

This makes Gliricidia an important component of natural soil regeneration and restoration of ecosystem functions. It is anticipated that after two to three years, the soil will be sufficiently restored for farmers to plant economically valuable crops.

Source: Gliricidia-sepium-Factsheet.pdf (

Joined forces: Rimbo Pangan Lestari (RPL)

CO2Operate has been working with local experts from its beginning. In 2016, these experts united to form the independent NGO Rimbo Pangan Lestari (RPL). Together, we are constantly developing, improving and implementing our Gula Gula Forest Programs.

RPL consists of a dedicated team of young people who maintain a close friendship and bring a range of expertise and experience to our work. Some are university graduates, and all are passionate about creating a more sustainable future for Indonesia and the world.

RPL's team includes experts in GIS/remote sensing, (organic) agriculture, tree nurseries, and financial management. The GIS/remote sensing unit maps farmers' land to ensure that our operations are limited to village land (adat) and do not encroach on State Forestry Administration land. This approach provides clarity on land ownership to ourselves, the villagers, and the government. The GIS team consists of geographers and anthropologists who play a crucial role in meetings with farmers. Agricultural technicians advise farmers and us on environmentally friendly methods of forest restoration, including organic cultivation techniques and tree care. RPL has also hired a tree nursery and seed raising expert who oversees the growing nursery. Finally, financially skilled individuals manage the increasingly complex mix of funding sources.

Under the inspiring leadership of a geographer, RPL employs nine full-time staff who oversee the complex reality of ecosystem restoration in every detail and with a helicopter view.

Meanwhile, RPL employs nine people full-time under the inspiring leadership of a geographer. She oversees the unruly and complex reality of ecosystem restoration with her helicopter view.

Compost, the black gold

With co-financing from the Dutch government agency RVO, a large compost unit has been set up to produce 6 to 8 tons of top-quality compost per month. The demand for this black gold is enormous not only among "our" farmers, but also among other farmers who mainly grow vegetables. Compost provides many benefits over inorganic fertilizer. It works longer, costs less, and doesn't wash away as easily during rainstorms. Final tests have shown that the compost produced matches the national quality standard for compost.

The benefits of compost

Using compost instead of inorganic fertilizers benefits farmers in two ways: it reduces their fertilizer expenses and decreases the negative impact of too many inorganic fertilizers on the environment. With less fertilizer use, above- and below-ground biodiversity is improved.

Additionally, it saves CO2 emissions, as the production of inorganicfertilizers requires the use of fossil fuels.

Plan Vivo

Plan Vivo, the leading international standard for local community-based CO2 projects, has been recognized by the ICROA Code of Best Practices. ICROA is the world's leading accreditation organization for climate action.

Plan Vivo prioritizes the active participation of local communities. Plan Vivo projects work with the communities facing major challenges and an increasingly degraded natural environment.

Plan Vivo certifications

Plan Vivo certifications represent the CO2 captured in the process of improving natural and social conditions and are sold as Plan Vivo certificates (PVCs). PVCs are more than just CO2 credits. The revenue from PVCs provides access to financial, technical, and organizational support for achieving more sustainable land use and cooperation. At least 60 percent of the income from PVCs must be directly invested in the project and its participants on the ground. This requirement promotes long-term sustainable land use by local communities and future generations.

  • Gula Gula Forest Programs offer Plan Vivo-certified PVCs that help reduce poverty
  • restore and protect the natural environment,
  • build local capacity,
  • and preserve biodiversity.

The PVCs are strictly controlled and evaluated by Plan Vivo staff and external independent parties, with operational costs covered.

facts about the SDGs

The Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) are a set of 17 global goals designed to make the world a better place by 2030. Developed by countries affiliated with the United Nations (UN), including the Netherlands, the SDGs were created with input from organizations and individuals around the world.

Launched in 2015, the SDGs provide a framework for addressing critical challenges such as poverty, education and the climate crisis. As a global compass, they guide efforts to create a more sustainable and equitable future for all by 2030.

CO2Operate is committed to achieving the SDGs, and we are working intentionally and collaboratively with Gula Gula to make progress toward three of the key goals. Together, we are taking action to build a more sustainable future and create positive change for communities and the planet.

End poverty

Fighting poverty is not just about money; it's also about improving people's lives, health, working conditions, education, housing and the natural environment. At CO2Operate, , we recognize the multifaceted nature of poverty and work to combat it through the planting of economically valuable trees on degraded agricultural land through our Gula Gula Forest Programs.

Through our programs, communities gain access to a diverse range of food items, including fruits and spices that they can grow, eat and sell for income. Additionally, by processing these products locally, farmers are able to earn a higher income from selling finished goods. This not only helps to improve financial stability but also access to nutritious food and more sustainable agricultural practices.

Through these efforts, we make progress toward ending poverty and creating a more equitable and sustainable future for all.

Tackling Climate Change

In 2015, the world came together in Paris to recognize the urgent threat of climate change and the need for action. The Paris Agreement, signed that year, outlined the steps that must be taken to mitigate the effects of climate change and create a more sustainable future for all.

At Gula Gula Forest Programs, we are proud to be contributing to this effort by sequestering large amounts of CO2 through the development of new food forests on barren, degraded land. By planting trees and restoring damaged ecosystems, we are not only helping to mitigate climate change but also creating a more biodiverse and resilient landscape.

Our programs demonstrate the power of nature-based solutions to address complex global challenges. Join us in the fight against climate change and help create a more sustainable future for generations to come.

Life on land: Protecting Biodiversity and Ecosystems

Healthy ecosystems and biodiversity are essential for building resilience to the challenges of population growth, land use intensification, and climate change. SDG 15 aims to protect, restore and sustainably manage life on land in all its forms, with a focus on safeguarding ecosystems and biodiversity.

At Gula Gula Forest Programs, we are committed to this mission and are conducting action research to understand the impact of forest reduction on above- and below-ground biodiversity. Our findings show that as we restore degraded land through the planting of new food forests, the diversity of plants and animals is increasing.

Through our programs, we are working to protect and restore biodiversity, reduce land degradation, and create more sustainable landscapes. By taking action to protect life on land, we can ensure a more resilient and equitable future for all. Join us in this important work and help build a healthier, more sustainable planet.

Assisted Natural Regeneration (ANR)

ANR, or Assisted Natural Regeneration, is a low-cost and effective method for restoring degraded land without ploughing the land. The specific approach used depends on the conditions of the land. In wet tropical areas of West Sumatra, a lodging board is used, while in drier areas like Timor, a different method is required. ANR is becoming increasingly popular in the fight against climate change and to achieve reforestation.

0-12 months: light and air

During the first year, the alang-alang is flattened using alodging board, weakening the long grass and allowing germinated seeds of native rainforest trees to take root. The saplings grow quickly as they receive more air and light, while the weakened tallgrass dies off from below, nourishing the soil and making it more fertile, adding carbon to the soil.

12-36 months: new plantings

During the second year, the now fertile soil is ready to be planted with coffee, spice and fruit trees and other commercially attractive crops. Their yields provide good income and a diverse food supply.

36–48 months: animals return home

In the third year, the ecosystem continues to recover and flourish. The area becomes increasingly attractive to a variety of insects, mammals and birds which settle in the area where biodiversity is improving by leaps and bounds.

48-60 months: ready for the future

After five to six years, the ecosystem on previously degraded land has largely been restored, and it is now thriving. The forest provides various ecosystem services, offering long-term benefits to the local population, the flora and fauna.