06 Sep 2022 - News
Getting to Bahenap, a small, remote village in West Kalimantan, Indonesia, is not easy. Setting off from the district’s capital, Putussibau, it is a 45-minute drive to Kensuray, the nearest village approachable by car. Then… well, then, it depends on the weather.
With a blue sky, you can make the hour-long trip to Bahenap by motorbike, using treacherous clay roads and bridges, traversing over 20 rivers and eight valleys. If it’s raining, though, you must go on foot.
However, you arrive, it’s more than worth the wait. Ten thousand seven hundred hectares of Hutan Desa (village forest) surround the village like a beautiful green necklace. Tall, dense trees burst with vivid shades of green. A chorus of birdsong is music for the villagers’ ears. Fresh water streams run down to houses. There is rubber, coffee, papaya, pineapple, banana, honey, and an abundance of vegetables. There is meat to hunt and fish to catch.
It is the villagers’ free and natural shopping mall.
The people living in Bahenap believe in Manura Raden Jaya, a spirit that owns all the beautiful land, water, rocks and woods surrounding them.
These natural riches are guarded by another spirit, which takes the form of a tiger. And if you explore the forest with ill intentions, you should take heed of the “kung kung kung” sound it makes.
The villagers are clear: the forest should be respected at all costs. Because it is sacred. But also because of its free and abundant natural resources. A family of four can live comfortably on 2,000,000 rupiah (USD 140) a month.
But there’s a problem. According to Ermius Edi, head of the village, the average household in Bahenap earns less than half that.
Local wisdom is not the only protector of the forest.
Hutan Desa or Village Forest is a license under the Social Forestry scheme of the Ministry of Environment and Forestry. Communities who have obtained the permit can manage their forest area in accordance with the applicable Forest Zoning.
In the Protection Forest, where the Bahenap village is, the community is allowed to harvest Non-Timber Forest Products, while in the Production Forest, the community is allowed to carry out Sustainable Forest Management after obtaining approval from the Ministry.
With the current average earnings, it makes perfect sense that the community wants more. With the land passed down from their ancestors, it also makes sense that they are confused (and at times don’t agree) with the government licenses which were created to protect the forest in the modern era.
Helping the community to understand and comply with the licenses is a challenge.
The Rimba Collective builds nature positive supply chains, which means supporting local communities and protecting and restoring local landscapes.
In Bahenap, we are working with project operator, Bentang Kalimantan Tangguh, to implement programs that rehabilitate degraded forest areas with an agroforestry approach. We will also build community resilience capacity and development, supporting the development of non-timber forest products (NFTPs) and ecosystem services in the village.
“Another reason is: because Rimba Collective gives long-term funding. There are paper works to prepare, plans to make, people to change. These things take time. With a 25-year program, all preparations would make sense. We are eager to see how the program impacts the community, as this has never been done before.”
Won’t it be beautiful when the community is able to earn comfortably through sustainable cultivation of the forest?