A tiny plantation village at the heart of Indonesia’s forest-rich Kalimantan Island is setting a national model of a community initiative to protect its surrounding tropical forests whilst improving livelihood on farming.
Like many rural areas in Indonesia, residents of Bangun village consider agriculture as the backbone of its economy. But rather than encroaching on the protected tropical forest for new farming land, the villagers have decided to set up a village cooperative (KUD) to maximize their crops from the existing agricultural land.
Lying about 300 km from West Kalimantan capital city Pontianak, Bangun residents mostly work on the rubber plantations or in the palm oil industry. Plantation areas such as Bangun village typically attracts big companies looking to convert the surrounding natural resources into new sources of livelihoods.
Despite the ‘lucrative profit’ offered by the big companies - in exchange of the land - the village of 223 families, remain stand firm with their commitment to conserve the surrounding lush tropical forests.
Villager and farmer Darius Anu is one of the founders of the cooperative called Rajaswa which aims to boost the capacity and know-how of the local farmers in managing their own farming land.
“Our long-term purpose is for the local farmers to establish their own independence on managing their own farming land. Through the cooperative, local farmers have more power economically to open their small scale farming and implement local wisdom to manage the land,” Darius said,
The cooperative works on a consensus system where members work towards a common objective of finding a balance between fulfiling the economic results of farming, while maintaining the forests’ sustainability. The cooperative supports the farmers with their land, without converting part of the forests into farming field.
”The cooperative enables farmers to have decision and not to apply large corporations schemes that might not be on the farmers’ interests,” Darius noted,
The cooperative currently has 78 members, with the smallest farming land ownership of 10,000 sq m to 40 acres, with total members’ ownership land of 298,71 acres.
“We are on the right starting point at the holistic monitoring of forests located outside state forest zones. This initiative requires multi-stakeholders cooperation to create a more sustainable result in the near future,” said Belinda Arunawati Margono, Director of Inventory and Monitoring of Forest Resources, at the Ministry of Forestry’s Directorate General of Forest Planning and Environmental Management.
Bangun village, is surrounded by three protected forests: Bukit Tempurung, Pengawan, and Bukit Nurin. Heronimus Imus, The head of Buih Nasi Cooperative, discusses the work completed so far. “The three forests are currently under land tenure rights for commercial use (HGU-Hak Guna Usaha) and the non-state forest area (APL-Area Penggunaan Lain). The local people through the head of village has proposed to the company to exclude the forests from the company’s HGU permit,” said Heronimus.
The cooperative, with support from UNDP’s KalFor Project, also delivers added value trainings for its members and family members, such as financial literacy training. It is part of its objective to raise the standard of living for the local people.
Kalimantan Forest (KALFOR) Project, funded by Global Environment Facility (GEF), in partnership with the Ministry of Environment and Forestry and has been working on implementing biodiversity conservation and climate change adaptation practices with the aim of protecting the forest in the long term. The project works in partnership with a local NGO called Solidaridad in Bangun village to promote the management on non-state forest area which can help reduce deforestation and forest fragmentation, as a result of development plantation crops.
For the farming community in Bangun village, conserving their home forest remains a clear case for their conscience.
“We continuously advocate for the importance of guarding our forests, because they are the source of our lives, for the water, and the ecosystem in overall,” Darius says.
Written by: Enggi Dewanti
Edited by Tomi Soetjipto and Ranjit Jose