Unlocking the value of the illipe nut

In Kalimantan, Indonesia, Partnerships for Forests is supporting Forestwise to develop a market for illipe butter. With its commercial potential unlocked, the illipe nut could improve the living standards of local communities, and protect the remaining forest.


In Kalimantan, the financial incentives for converting forests to oil palm plantations often make it the most attractive source of livelihood for indigenous communities. But the forest does offer some alternatives.

For decades, locals have been supplementing their incomes by harvesting and selling illipe nuts. These large nuts fall once every three to five years from the tengkawang tree: which only grows in the forests of Borneo. Each tengkawang tree can produce up to 800 kg of nuts per season and has the potential to live more than 100 years.

Since 2016, Forestwise has been processing these nuts into illipe butter – a product very similar to shea or cocoa butter, which makes it highly suited to the cosmetics industry. Yet despite illipe’s abundance and valuable properties, it lacks a well-established market and supply chain.

The project

Partnerships for Forests (P4F) is supporting Forestwise to scale-up its successful illipe pilot and increase the economic value of the standing forest for local communities.

Photo: Varuschka Reinsfield-Lord


With P4F’s support, Forestwise completed a feasibility study on the illipe market and production potential. They reviewed current production capacities and determined the viability and requirements needed to scale up the business model. Since then, they have designed and built a processing unit and storage facility where production from the 2019 harvest is underway.

Specialising in forest-friendly products, they work in close partnership with the local community. They have trained local producers on drying and testing to achieve the highest quality nuts, which can fetch as much as six times more than previous buyers might have paid.

The next stage of the project will focus on developing a consumer brand as well as new raw materials. Forestwise is busy securing further private investment and expanding its portfolio of buyers.

The aim is to scale the initial pilot to produce 50 tons of illipe butter per year. By 2020 an estimated GBP 2 million private investment will be mobilised, benefitting 2,000 people and protecting 142,000 ha of threatened standing forests in the Melawi, Sintang and Kapuas Hulu regions. Up to 1 million ha of Ecosystem Restoration Concessions in Kalimantan stand to be protected through further development of this industry.

Lead organisation: Forestwise

Implementing organisations:

Private: Forestwise

Civil society: Credit Union Keling Kumang, Tengkawang network West Kalimantan, Langan Village, Upit village

Sintang Regency, West Kalimantan
Current status