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Hello Monday #17 : “Working for the forest – from logging to planting” with Udin (Nursery Coordinator)

Udin is our Nursery Coordinator and a core part of the OuTrop team and family. He started working for OuTrop in 2008 and working for our partners CIMTROP since their beginnings in 2002-2003. He now works for both teams, managing the Nursery for OuTrop, scheduling the re-planting and processing thousands of seedlings, ready to be planted. For CIMTROP, he continues to take part in the patrolling activates, including fighting fires , building and maintaining the canal dams and digging bore holes to be able to access water for fire fighting in dry season. Udin likes the work he’s been doing for these past years – just check that smile!..

Udin and his general attitude… and
this is pre-coffee! 

“The forest is where I want to be. Lots of the work I do is variable and my schedule can include a lot of different aims and working hours , but I am always working near by the forest. My knowledge of the forest has developed for many years and now I am able to identify lots of forest tree species, including identifying seedlings, which is very useful for the reforestation project. Together with my knowledge of forest plants, my understanding of environmental conditions and importance has also developed – though I always knew the forest and species in it are important – it’s why I want to work in the forest!”

Udin teaches a volunteer how to plant the seedlings
from the Nursery out on the forest edge…

Udin lives in nearby Kereng, the local village to the OuTrop camp. As many of our local staff live here and since 1996-9, have developed a very good working relationship with the community, helped by important people in the community like Udin. Not only is an environmental message able to be conveyed by our staff members that live there, but also CIMTROP and thus Udin himself take part in ‘socalisation’ with the local people, talking about the forest, the species and why (although they’ve seen it every day and it seems to be never ending) the forest and it’s protection are important. It’s fantastic that such fully informed people have the chance to hear from CIMTROP. In recent years, there has been very good recent developments educating local Indonesian communities about the modern day global environment – teams like CIMTROP are vital for this.

Udin got to know the OuTrop Nursery very well when he helped Laura Graham with her PhD project on Successful germination of seeds following passage through orangutan guts.  Together they worked in the nursery diligently to understand which species grow well and quickly in the nursery; “to fix the forest…” says Udin. Specifically, Laura and collaborators study showed that, although it remains unknown how many seed species are dispersed by orang-utans in Sabangau, the total number of dispersed species is likely to be high. The study supported the theory that orangutans are important seed dispersers in Bornean and Sumatran rain forests.Before working for OuTrop, Udin was an illegal logger, far west and upriver from the OuTrop camp but within the Sabangau forest. Years ago, as he searched for work, he found two options – hunting or logging in the forest. He joined a small group of independent people, who would live in a pondok for about two weeks, logging around four specific species of tree to sell the timber. Around five men would stay in this pondok, not very deep in the forest, logging the trees with hand-saws. They then rolled the timber out of the forest, and Udin would visit home for maybe five days. He enjoyed the work because the money was very good and the source reliable – there were very few other options of employment for him, so he was happy to be earning. Working well for one or two months, or when you cut down a certain number of trees, you got a pay rise within your team. Udin knew there were environmental problems with what he was doing – he had to choose not to think about it…

“Me and one other partner would log around ten trees a day, about 40cm in diameter. All these species with desirable wood to sell take a very long time to grow – the wood is strong, which takes a lot of nutrients and time to grow. In a peat swamp ecosystem, trees of these species, of these size take many years to grow!”

Udin chose not to work for a boss, who manage larger team of loggers. “Everything was up to us and no one could tell me what to do. There would be other teams working much deeper in the forest. They had a boss who was an Indonesian from another community – from somewhere else in Kalimantan, sent here to manage a logging team. They would log the same species of tree as us, but use canals to float the wood out of the forest. These teams were paid a lot of money. The canals are exactly the same ones bisecting the OuTrop grid, due to the previous logging that happened near the camp, up till 2004.“After half a year of logging, I grew tired of it. I was working far away from my family, the work was tiring and we had to work despite a lot of problems. Although we weren’t hunters, I heard stories of many loggers hunting and eating forest animals during their work, including eating orangutans. I worked with a Muslim team (I’m Muslim as well, so it kept things simple) – so we never hunted due to our diet! As well as this, the police and authorities would always be looking for us, to arrest and fine us for logging. We would hear movement in the forest and run and hide –I would hear stories of problems with police all the time and the likely hood at some point it would happen to my group was really high. The other big danger was the hunters. Groups of hunters would be nearby and you wouldn’t see them. They wouldn’t see you. If they saw an animal (or thought they saw one!) they’d shot into the trees, so loggers got shot all the time. I came back home and searched for other work, as well as building a house for my family. I didn’t have to search for long before I started speaking to Hendri and Chris from Kereng. I knew them as we are all part of the same community, and they told me that working for CIMTROP was a good idea. CIMTROP worked really close to Kereng, protecting the forest. For the first time, I could think I was helping the environment and didn’t have to stop myself thinking about habitat problems. 

Monitoring the transects outside the forest

“Talking to the local community meant I could use my knowledge of the forest as a teacher and put the years I had spent learning about working around forest species to good use!
“Working nearer to home and with a group of good people, I made a lot of friends who I am still able to see all the time – even if they left CIMTROP, we have a very solid community in Kereng. So far I have enjoyed working with CIMTROP and OuTrop – it hasn’t got to difficult yet! Each person who I meet with OuTrop is different so the variety keeps me happy – as does of course still working in the forest!”

Udin monitoring the
planted and now flooded seedlings

Udin doesn’t know when the reforestation project for OuTrop will come to and end – it needs a lot of time and care. We are currently planting seed number 5961 for it to germinate and grow, and the nursery still has room for more! After about 1 and half years of careful care by Udin in the nursery, these can be planted near or on the edge of the forest, monitoring the species after planting and hoping to contribute to the extension of the forest edge in a small way. Udin plans to work for OuTrop into the future, saving for a new house with a big kitchen which he may make himself or not – it depends when he saves enough money… perhaps when his two year old son grows up a bit!
Thanks so much to Udin for this fascinating glimpse into forest regeneration and history of his work in Sabangau – OuTrop are very lucky to have his experience and cheerful attitude around camp everyday 🙂 . 
Thea Powell and Salahuddin