Since most of the region in Kalimantan is surrounded by large areas of forest, it is no surprise that local people’s lives depend heavily on nature. However, illegal logging, land conversion and mining have become the new emerging trends of the economy in recent years and such activities may threaten the environment to near extinction.
Considering this reason, Borneo Nature Foundation (BNF) has been working endlessly in educating people and raising awareness to keep the environment safe, which is fundamental not only for the wealth, but also for wellbeing. The presence of BNF has successfully transformed and inspired some local people to care more about preserving the nature they live by.
Local people are encouraged to be involved in BNF conservation activities. By doing so, we expect them to have a better understanding of protecting the environment and gaining benefits without leaving any harm.
To illustrate, Armadianto has gone through a life-changing experience from illegal gold miner to a sustainable environment supporter. He has been living in Mungku Baru village since 2001. It is an administrative village near the Special Purposes Forest (abbreviated as KHDTK), a part of Rungan Landscape, under Muhammadiyah University of Palangkaraya (UMP) to whom BNF has partnered with in research and project activities. Siti Maimunah, the Dean of Faculty of Agriculture and Forestry, has helped us to establish the partnership.
From 2001-2013, Armadianto worked as a gold miner with people from the village that depend on this business. Until now one can still find such mining activity carried out by the local community in the river of Rungan Forest. Not only has this brought a new threat to the surrounding environment, but the mining activity has also contaminated the river as people use mercury and cyanide to process the gold. The activity has also made the land degraded. People leave large holes in the land after mining activity, which are difficult to reforest.
Being struck by this fact, Armadianto started to think of finding alternatives for making a good life. He realizes that the long-term consequences of the environmental damage, such as contaminated river and the annual smoke from forest fires, are dangerous for our wellbeing.
In 2014, he was recruited as the UMP’s Forest Field Coordinator and started to get involved in BNF research and conservation activities as Senior Field Staff Specialist in the KHDTK and Rungan Landscape.
“I believe any economic motive should not be an excuse to exploit the environment. Joining BNF has been eye-opening. We can even make a better living than just taking the things that nature has given to us,” said Armadianto.
BNF is not merely concerned about biodiversity or research in the forest, but we also focus on building the capacity of local communities, like Armadianto’s village, to understand the benefit of preserving the environment. As Senior Field Staff, Armadianto has learnt many things about the forest and sustainable environment.
He also collects the resin from the forest to sell for making money. The trees are tapped for the resin substance, but remain healthy. In one day, Armadianto could collect as many as 20kg of resin from the Rungan Forest that he can sell to the market. It shows us that without even harming the forest, we can make a living from it.
Armadianto is an inspiring figure that has experienced a life-changing role. He also brought 15 gold mining friends to leave their former job. He trained them to make profit from the available natural resources in the forest.
Currently, people in the village make a living from the mushroom cultivation, honey bee harvesting, and many more eco-friendly economic activities. UMP together with BNF has been working together in a positive collaboration to build the capacity of local people.
Armadianto also adds that the village has benefited from the activities carried out by BNF. For instance, the regular expedition in the Rungan Landscape by researchers has helped socialise better forest management to the people in Mungku Baru village. (AE)