SDD Member Dito writes about doing fieldwork in Indonesia on Forest Certification

It should always be a good feeling to go back to my home country Indonesia. However, this time it’s somewhat a little different. I did my fieldwork for my thesis on the topic of forest certification in Indonesia.  Although I am actually aware that my country is well-known with its arduous bureaucracy, I still felt uneasy even prior to getting back  to my country. I would do several interviews with important figures as my key informants that usually are a struggle to get in touch with.

I am doing my thesis with forest certification topics in Indonesia namely Timber Verification and Legality System (TVLS) using discursive institutional analysis. Although I had a bachelor degree in Forestry Management in Indonesia, this discursive institutional thing seems like an alien to me. But, I guess I should not worry with assistance from the supervisors and colleagues by my side. Moreover, I have to do interview a lot of stakeholders from the government, scientists and researchers, NGOs and the users (the auditor and auditee). Given limited time and expected serpentine bureaucracy ahead, I may end up facing a lot of obstacle during the journey, but I believe hard work will not betray us.

The first starting point of my thesis journey was when I joined Indonesia Forest Congress in Jakarta at the end of November 2016. I primarily intended to obtain as many key informants contacts as I can there, and secondly, I’d like to see how  the current conditions of the Indonesia forest is from the congress seminar It ended up being pretty impressive for me since I got to know a lot of contacts there and I obtain more information and knowledge than I expected. I also even got several important discussion points regarding my thesis topics.

Next, I was busy contacting people and organizing  appointments with them. This phase was quite troublesome for me since some of them were not replying my email or messages. Although most of them replied my messagess, I have to deal with a harsh schedule for my interview. I originally reside in Yogyakarta, it is a city in the middle of Java. Meanwhile, some of my key informants are in Jakarta and also in Yogyakarta. This makes me have to go back and forth to Jakarta and Yogyakarta (FYI, Jakarta and Yogyakarta are 500+ kms apart). I also still have to go to Jepara which is well-known city with many furniture industries that are located in the north of Java. Last minute, I had to do interviews with the users there but fortunately managed to get plenty.


In the end, lets say I succesfully obtained all of the key informants that I needed, but there is a striking point that I can forget. Interviewing people is never easy. Even having the  same nationality doesn’t make interviewing people easier either. Additionally, this is my first time doing an interview as data collection method. Thankfully, I obtain more key informants than I anticipated so that I can do some trial and error. So when I conducted a not so very successful interview, the second time when I did it with other people, I tried different approaches or even different questions to make it work. The funny part is I realize that small talks could play an important role in your inteview success. I even got the important story after I end my interview session in a relaxing conversation afterwards.

It is true that my field work of my thesis was a bit different than others, as they are probably really going out into the ‘field’. Being a forest and nature conservation students doesn’t make you always  do work in the real field, though. I choose forest certification topics which are closely related to the timber industry, so that is why I did not go to the real forest. I did most of the interviews in office, people houses, and even in small timber factory. It is not as boring  as you may think because, in my opinion, it is very interesting to see how policy instruments in the views of the “white collar” in the central office as the maker looks very promising. However, in reality, or at the user level, we may see something unexpected happening.


A follow up blog will present a summary of the thesis, results and conclusions of Dito’s research. 

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