Reforestation and Wildfire Prevention, Indonesian Borneo

Yayasan Alam Sehat Lestari (ASRI) promotes healthy human communities and rainforest ecosystems in Indonesian Borneo.Their Garden to Forest programme works with farmers to reforest these gardens into habitats of native fruit and hardwood trees that are productive for both the farmer and wildlife.

Gunung Palung National Park (GPNP), is a 108,043 hectare protected area of tropical rainforest which serves as habitat for 5-10% of the world’s remaining Bornean orangutans. It is also a vital watershed for more than 100,000 people living on its borders. GPNP is, however, threatened by illegal logging driven by poverty, unsustainable agriculture, slash and burn, and wildfires. Over the past 30 years, GPNP has lost 19% of its peat swamp, mostly due to fire and farming in the Sedahan region. In addition to the peat swamp, GPNP contains thousands of hectares of degraded hillside rainforest due to illegal garden plots.  EOCA funding is requested to support the reforestation program so that more land can be returned to rainforest. Specifically, funds will be used to: Use 18000 seedlings to reforest 25 ha of illegal gardens in Mentubang; maintain 162 ha of previously reforested sites; engage eco-tourists and volunteers in reforestation; equip and train half of the Forest Guardians and community representatives to fight wildfires, monitor the forests, and provide quality conservation education to communities.

The Update

This project has now been successfully completed with some fantastic achievements! Between May 2020 and May 2021, five hectares of garden has been converted to forest through the planting of 3,050 seedlings. This was a mix of over 70% native fruit tree species and the remainder being native forest trees, which will help to restore the forest canopy.Including the five hectares supported by this grant, ASRI was able to convert 37 hectares of gardens into forest through the planting of 23,127 seedlings from May 2020 to May 2021.

The target survival rate for new seedlings is 70% and following their planting, farmers are provided with training to help look after and maintain the new trees. The overall survival rate in the Garden to Forest planting area is very good at just over 75%. Some of the landowners, including Samuri (you can read his story here), have chosen to expand their garden to forest areas further by searching for seedlings on their own.

Although Covid-19 has restricted what can be done with regards to eco-tourism opportunities, this gradually started to change at the end of 2020. Ten students from Tanjungpura University went to ASRI for internships to study and participate in the reforestation program, new employee orientation was carried out for 25 people and 40 young people took part in a field trip. Activities included reforestation education, planting and monitoring techniques, and planetary health education.

To ensure successful reforestation, monitoring, maintenance and fire prevention were key parts of this project. As 2020 was incredibly wet, there was no ‘dry season’ so fires did not pose the usual threat. To help prevent future wildfires, Forest and Land Fire Management Training was delivered to 41 people. Included in the training were representatives from the local communities of 39 sub-villages, which are at high risk of forest fires, in addition to 30 Forest Guardians. Basic wildfire management equipment such as boots, water pumps, sprayers and tarpaulin ponds were also provided. The tarpaulin ponds are used as water reservoirs to help extinguish forest fires.

Camera traps have also been set up to help with overall monitoring and have caught some impressive images of an orangutan, forest cat, long-tailed macaques, monitor lizard, mouse deer, and many birds!

The reduction of illegal logging has made some good progress. Between May 2020 – 2021, monitoring was carried out three times across 39 sub-villages that border Gunung Palung National Park. From the first to the last monitoring activity, villages labelled as red (high logging activity) had reduced from nine to five, yellow (moderate logging activity) had seen a slight increase of three, and green (no logging activity) had only risen by two.

Well done to everyone involved in this project’s achievements!

Image: Seedling Nursery