Written by Yohanes Prahara, BNF’s Content Creator and Media Liaison

That afternoon the sun was furious, the heat making the eyes sting and the skin burn as we arrived at Tuwung Village, Kahayan Tengah District, Pulang Pisau Regency, Central Kalimantan. The village can be reached by road from Palangka Raya and is approximately 45 minutes away.

Wooden houses with tapered roofs at the top form a cross (X), which is one of the characteristics of the houses of Dayak people in Central Kalimantan. A number of Sandung (traditional Dayak ossuary in South and Central Kalimantan) and Sapundu (sacrificial totem pole of Dayak Ngaju people) made of old ironwood still stand firmly in the corners of the village.

This time the Borneo Nature Foundation (BNF) Indonesia team together with the Production Forest Management Unit (KPHP) of Kahayan Tengah, and the Village Forest Management Unit (LPHD) of Tuwung, as well as a number of community members carried out surveys in the village forest of Tuwung to identify the existing potential of the forest.

To get to the forest of Tuwung, we have to use a kelotok boat with a travel time of about 30 minutes. While riding the kelotok, a unique view of the forest on the banks of the Kahayan River beautifully presents itself: big trees, and rattan stems become natural curtains to the canals that is our only access to the forest.

The tea-coloured water in the canal was a sign that the team had entered the peat area, very different from the brown, murky water of the Kahayan River. The team could not reach the previously determined area for the camp by kelotok as the water level was too low due to the start of the dry-season.

Every now and then we tried to force the Kelotok through, but one of them lost its propeller because it got stuck in log of wood at the bottom of the canal. The calf-deep mud in the canal was one of the obstacles we faced. Together we pulled the kelotok along the canal at many points of our journey where it was too shallow for it to move.

Soon we all arrived at the end of the canal which was the only place that we could set up our camp considering we needed a source of water. We immediately divided the tasks to clear the area of bushes and branches. Meanwhile, some of the other team members prepared lunch.

One of the residents of Tuwung who was also a part of the survey team was named Rafles, and was a former expert hunter. For the Dayak people, hunting has been a common practice from times immemorial.

One of his targets is the wild boar. Usually, Rafles hunts alone accompanied by his favourite dog. Apart from wild boars, other wildlife is not the target even though they often meet rare animals.

“I often meet bears or clouded leopards. There are also orangutans, gibbons, red langurs, and even deer,” said the man with blue cap.

In addition to hunting wild boars, continued Rafles, he often looks for forest honey at night. To climb to heights more than 15 meters, he only uses ironwood foot pegs nailed to the tree trunk.

According to him, the amount of forest honey available indicates the health of the forest. Large trees, such as ramin, jelutung, belangeran, and belawan produce flowers that are natural food for honey-producing bees.

“In the second site of the village forest (further away from the Kahyan River), there is more honey in the trees, while kelulut (stingless bees) honey is not much because there are more natural predators, such as bears. There are more kelulut in the first site of the village forest (banks of the river Kahyan), as there are more flowers from fruiting trees and there are no natural predators left,” he said.

Currently, Rafles is no longer hunting wild boar or extracting honey because he is starting to realise the importance of protecting the forest as a natural habitat for animals that are now starting to be threatened.

“After there was a regulation regarding the existence of village forests, I never hunted again. It turns out that using forests to improve the economy of the community can be done in other ways, such as what I saw when I went to the Tangkahen village forest some time ago with BNF Indonesia,” he said.

Rafles hopes that more and more people in Tuwung become aware and will begin to participate in developing and maintaining the village forest they have for their future generations.

On the other hand, BNF Indonesia’s Social Forestry Coordinator Lilik Sugiarti revealed that the survey being carried out is to identify what can be developed in the forest of Tuwung without destroying it. In addition, this is also to make the community aware that village forests can be managed by village communities so that they can benefit from it economically and sustainably.

“Once we know the potential, we will develop it according to the needs and ideas of the people themselves. Here BNF Indonesia only facilitates activities and provides help to the LPHD such as training and support in their activities,” she said.