Local communities benefitted from the training for sustainable livelihoods


In a province with dense forests like Central Kalimantan, people are very dependent on what nature provides. The food, water, and livelihoods all come from nature. This has made a very strong connection between local people and the forests which are just a few minutes walk from their neighbourhood. However, the economic shift has neglected this immense value of the forest where society prefers the easy-money practices which are frequently unsustainable.

Therefore, locating people at the heart of conservation is deemed necessary for the best practices of forest management. As for this reason, Borneo Nature Foundation (BNF) has recently initiated Community Development (ComDev) Programme for local communities who live side by side with the Rungan forest. The programme provides access for the local people to learn the alternative and sustainable livelihoods from the experts.

With generous support from our partners, Save The Orangutan and Civil Society in Development (CISU), Rainforest Trust, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, we’re able to carry out ComDev programme in four administrative villages in Rakumpit District which is a part of the Rungan Landscapes. These are the village of Bukit Sua, Panjehang, Petuk Berunai, and Mungku Baru.

Participatory survey and focus group discussions in Bukit Sua & Panjehang
Photo by Borneo Nature Foundation (BNF)

The BNF ComDev Team have completed participatory surveys and focus group discussions on those four villages that will be used to identify the objectives and strategies for the ComDev programme. Local people were asked about how they organize the land and the forest use, the local land-use history of the forest, the land conditions, and their current livelihoods.

Based on the data collected, the majority of the communities have shifted from the rubber plantation to the mining practices as the primary source of their income. Mining operations have been practiced for the past years since the decline of the rubber price in the market and the remote access of the village has made the transport cost unaffordable. As a result, the lands that used to be the rubber plantation are left and abandoned. Although gold mining is considered to be more promising, the business has also put serious threats to the environment as mercury is frequently used to leach gold from ores.

The challenges of the rubber plantation: price decline & remote access of the village
On the picture: Mbak Nona (ComDev Coordinator)
Photo by Borneo Nature Foundation (BNF)

To tackle the issues, ComDev programme is aimed at the alternative livelihoods through permaculture training for the local communities. There are three expected outputs for the facilitation of the training. First, the community members are expected to enhance their knowledge and technical skills for the improvement of their livelihoods through diversification, marketing and added value of community products. Second, these communities are aware of sustainable subsistence and income-generating activities that would fit their specific local conditions. And the third, the people would be expected to gain practical experiences of managing sustainable livelihood activities.

Group pose after farming practice
Photo by Borneo Nature Foundation (BNF)

The majority of the participants in this training are the female members from the local communities. The training has been seen as the opportunity for women to be equally involved in the economy. It is because women are frequently stereotyped based on their domestic roles (i.e. taking care of the children, cooking, and cleaning the houses) which removes them from decision-making role in the family.

The training has been kicked off since 2018 and will continue for several months ahead. The participants benefitted the farming knowledge of agricultural commodities such as mustard leaf, spinach, tomatoes, beans, and other local vegetable products. They were not only engaged in theoretical sessions but were also encouraged to do the farming on individual lands that should be monitored and checked regularly because later they will have to present the progress report of the farming practices to the team. In addition to that, the participants also received the seedlings for agricultural commodities from the BNF teams that fully support the training.

In the long run, the training will be aimed at the long-term agricultural products that will be expected to be income-generating for local communities. The future design of the programme will also be attempted at the establishment of the group farming for these agricultural products. Through this programme, it’s expected that the local communities will shift from the unstainable economy to green income-generating activities.