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

This approach, developed in collaboration with the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), encourages natural processes of reforestation without ploughing, the use of pesticides or fertilizers. With ANR, maintenance also requires much less labour than you might think, making it a cost-effective and efficient solution for restoring degraded land.

Simple and effective

The first step is to flatten the tough, tall grass known as alang-alang using a flattening rap sheet or a lodging board. This weakens the long grass and creates space for present, but small native rainforest trees to grow that have ended up there through seeds in bird droppings and other animal faeces.

After three to four months after pressing the grass, the saplings begin to emerge and grow strong because they are exposed to air and light that previously couldn't penetrate the thick layer of alang-alang. As the weakened long grass dies off from below, the soil absorbs the plant remains, becoming more fertile in the process.

Overall, ANR is a cost-effective and efficient method for restoring degraded land, as it requires no ploughing, pesticides or fertilizers and less labour than traditional reforestation methods.


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.

By the third year, the ecosystem is showing signs of recovery. The site becomes an attractive habitat for a variety of insects, mammals, reptiles and birds, which begin to settle in the area. This helps to further restore biodiversity.

After five to six years, the ecosystem services of a forest on the previously depreciated land are largely restored. The forest grows and thrives, providing the local population with the prospective of a long-term and sustainable livelihood. This is a testament to the effectiveness of ANR and the importance of restoring degraded land to combat climate change and promote sustainable land use.

A rich harvest

Before joining the cooperative, farmers decide what crops to plant based on demand and their own preferences. Fruits such as durian and avocado are in high demand. Cloves are also a good trade, as the leaf also contains oil with eugenol, a raw material used in perfumes and soaps. The cooperative provides farmers with a guaranteed price for their coffee harvest.

The proceeds from selling cinnamon can finance various expenses, such as education for children, weddings or funerals. In addition to these commercial crops, hardwood trees act as a saving for the (grand)children. This rich harvest not only provides a diverse food supply but also generates income for the local population, promoting sustainable and resilient communities.

With united forces

With the help of Rimbo Pangan Lestari (RPL), farmers have come together to form cooperatives in each village. The cooperatives make decisions on new members and receive support and advice from RPL on various matters, such as selecting seedlings that produce the best results. For example, RPL recommends that a cinnamon plant should be at least 20 centimeters tall with a branched root system and at least six leaves when planted to ensure optimal growth.

In addition to cinnamon, there are also selection criteria for coffee beans. Only the best beans are sent to the nursery by RPL, where the plants are raised before being distributed to farmers. Through these cooperatives and with the guidance of RPL, farmers have access to high-quality seedlings and technical assistance to help them grow a successful crop. This united effort not only supports sustainable agriculture but also strengthens the community by promoting collaboration, learning, and shared resources.

The Forestry Department and Department of Agriculture and Estate Crops provide various fruit and hardwood trees, such as avocado, mahogany, mango and coffee, among others. Gula Gula, in collaboration with RPL, assists farmers in applying for these seedlings. Additionally, the University of West Sumatra, Andalas and the Brawijaya University of Malang in East Java facilitate various research activities, including on soil biodiversity which is crucial as healthy soil is the foundation for success.

Sustainable enjoyment.
Thanks to our own Gula Gula food forest
we offer Holland
CO2 neutral coffee to the cup!


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.

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.

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 (

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.