Health In Harmony and our partners at ASRI take an integrated approach to rainforest conservation.
Logging in Gunung Palung National Park is dangerous and illegal. Besides offering healthcare discounts, one of the ways we encourage locals not to log in the park is to train them in alternative livelihoods.
Communities near the park depend on agriculture. But traditional slash-and-burn techniques are devastating the ecosystem. During our radical listening sessions, locals asked us for training in organic farming instead. So ASRI began training farmers in sustainable agriculture. Using more efficient and eco-friendly methods, families were able to grow more produce and sell the surplus for additional income.
What started with organic farming led to women's empowerment, livestock, small business entrepreneurship, and more!
Over the years we have learned that rainforest conservation is not a simple issue. Human concerns - like health, poverty, and education - have a huge impact on conservation. With our help, communities created integrated, win-win solutions for both human health and ecosystem health.
Goats for Widows
Traditionally, in rural Borneo, wives whose husbands have died are left with few options for making a living. The Goats for Widows program empowers these women and gives them economic independence. Goats not only provide vulnerable families with an additional source of income, they also produce manure, a valuable fertilizer.
Similarly, ASRI's Kitchen Gardens program empowers housewives to better feed their families and earn extra income by growing organic produce.
The Chainsaw Buyback program targets loggers who want to start their own businesses. ASRI buys their chainsaws, develops business plans for the family, and provides seed money to get their business ideas off the ground.
The ASRI team also manages a Reforestation program, which focuses on restoring plots of land in Gunung Palung National Park. To date, they have re-planted 28 hectares of rainforest. Also, many of the seedlings that they planted originally came from patients who paid for healthcare with seedlings at the ASRI hospital
The Forest Guardians program designates a locally-selected leader from each village who monitors illegal logging activity on the ground, educates community members one-on-one about alternative livelihoods, and serves as a point of contact between ASRI and the villages around the Park. The data collected by the Forest Guardians helps inform ASRI’s “green-credit system” which gives community members discounts on healthcare, if the village has verifiably ceased illegal logging activities.
ASRI Kids and ASRI Teens
In addition to these programs, ASRI also manages an after-school education program called ASRI Kids, which aims to educate the next generation about the importance of protecting the rainforest and gives them the opportunity to see orangutans and their habitat for the first time. The program has since expanded to include an ASRI Teens program: students who have graduated from ASRI Kids and now help teach the curriculum to the young newcomers. In fact, the ASRI Kids conservation education curriculum is now being taught to students at more than 12 schools in the Kayong Utara Regency.
*Photo credit: Chris Beauchamp