“I feel this, you know that I am hurting / seeing all the dead in front of me and all that is left is dust / We have to replant…”
Much like the desolate scenes described by Indonesian band Nosstress in their hit song Tanam Saja (‘Just Plant’), fires can rip through forests at a terrifying pace, leaving nothing but dust and toxic smog in their wake. Only hours before, a thriving ecosystem; now, reduced to ash. Above the scorched earth, a thick haze blankets the skies, imbuing everything with a sickly yellow tinge and making it hard to breathe.
While the region has long been subject to dry season fires, Central Kalimantan in Indonesian Borneo is seeing more and more of these outbreaks, which can burn for weeks on end. The dry season is becoming hotter, fueled by climate change and increasingly severe El Niño events. Peatland drying as the result of past drainage makes swampy forests more susceptible to fires, with disastrous consequences for both people and wildlife. While the fate of Borneo’s endemic species still hangs in the balance, there is a glimmer of hope as habitat restoration efforts begin to take root on a grand scale.
In 2015, and again in 2019, large areas of the Sebangau National Park were badly damaged by forest fires. In 2021, the Sebangau National Park Agency (BTNS) and the Borneo Nature Foundation (BNF) mobilised two community nurseries (CN) in Habaring Hurung Village, Sebangau National Park Management Section (SPTN) I.
The nurseries are each run by eight local community members and were established in support of an ambitious reforestation programme to plant one million trees by 2025. Also developed by the BTNS and BNF in service of this goal is a 24 x 9 metre nursery with capacity for up to 20,000 seedlings. Many trees planted in the Sebangau National Park’s reforestation zones are purchased directly from CN managers, creating a steady flow of income for local families.
“Most members of the Habaring Hurung CN are also part of Habaring Hurung Village’s Fire Care Community (MPA),” informs Koesmiyadi, BNF’s Community Nurseries Coordinator.
To develop their plant care skills, nursery members in Habaring Hurung received training from the Kahayan Watershed and Protected Forest Management Centre (BPDASHL Kahayan) on March 18th, 2022.
“Community members are trained in how to select quality tree saplings from the forest, and how to carefully remove and care for them until they are ready to be planted in our reforestation zones,” Koesmiyadi explains.
DASHL Evaluation Section Head, Janatun Naim, tells us the training delivered to Habaring Hurung CN is the same as those sessions given to Sabaru CN and Kereng Bangkirai CN in March 2021.
“Beyond seedling selection and care, we plan to offer follow-up training on grafting methods,” says the Section Head, more familiarly known as Ms. Janet.
Janet hopes that this training will help develop CN initiatives, providing economic benefits to all members. On top of cultivating young trees for replanting, CN members can turn an additional profit by harvesting surplus seeds and selling them at the market.
“Alternative income streams generated by CNs will bring greater financial security to communities living on the frontline of rainforest conservation,” Janet says.
This sentiment was echoed by the Head of SPTN I, Lisna Yulianty, who summarised: “Cooperation with communities is paramount to meeting our targets for ecosystem recovery. Community members continue to benefit from CN initiatives, which create green jobs and boost the local economy. However, what’s just as important is that people feel empowered by their role in protecting and restoring the forest.”
It really does take a village!
Photos and story by: Yohanes Prahara, Content Creator and Media Liaison BNF Indonesia