Have you ever heard of a hospital that grows its own vegetables? Our partner Alam Sehat Lestari (ASRI) not only grows trees to plant in the rainforest - they also grow fruit and vegetables! ASRI's garden, which is currently being re-designed and expanded, also showcases organic gardening techniques to families who want to learn.
Health In Harmony Program Director Ashley Emerson recently visited Borneo and brought back this update from our next program site there:
Dear Friends of Health In Harmony,
I recently returned from an extended trip to Borneo to work with our partner Alam Sehat Lestari (ASRI) and support the launch of our second site in the beautiful rain forest communities of Bukit Baka Bukit Rya National Park (BBBR).
This past February I had my first opportunity to visit our partner ASRI and colleagues. I’d like to tell you about one new and particularly innovative initiative I saw called the Garden to Forest program. It’s illustrative of how we approach the conjoined challenges of human development and conservation of our natural world.
Internships with local high schools and universities allow our partner ASRI to share their knowledge of safe, sustainable farming practices with the broader community. In return, these young interns bring fresh ideas and innovation to the program, keeping ASRI at the forefront of the Planetary Health movement through an influx of talent from all backgrounds.
Receiving an invitation for the Independence Day Ceremony in the Presidential Palace was something that Pak Noor never dreamed of. Yet, on August 17th, 2016, he was there - invited by Indonesian President Joko Widodo as one of the "Outstanding Farmers" representing the Kayong Utara Regency in West Kalimantan. So, who is Pak Noor?
Guest blog by Mike Kanaga
My wife Peggy and I recently had the privilege of traveling to Indonesia to tour the ASRI facility in Borneo as part of the 2015 Health In Harmony Friendship Tour. We both had a bit of trepidation about this trip – half way around the world, different culture and language, unfamiliar food and surroundings, etc. However, after completing the trip I can say without reservation that I found every aspect of the 3 weeks to be fascinating.
After attending ASRI's sustainable agriculture trainings, the farmers who would form the organic farming cooperative HarapanBaru ("New Hope") were skeptical. Even if it were better for the environment, how could farmers possibly get good yields without expensive chemical fertilizers? They decided to do an experiment: they would plant a rice paddy using ASRI's organic techniques, and compare it with a conventionally farmed plot.
And we need to make room for the steadily-increasing number of patients. The high volume of patients is evidenced in long wait times for treatment and crowded waiting areas (indoor and out).
This month at Health In Harmony is dedicated to Forest Guardians, respected members of their local communities who represent powerful bridges helping villagers to improve their health and livelihoods and protect their watershed. Inaugurated with a prestigious Whitley Conservation Award, Forest Guardians are the connectors between ASRI and communities around the park, helping to mutually identify and create livelihoods that promote conservation of Gunung Palung. To date, over 330 villagers in 20 communities have, as a result of working with Forest Guardians and ASRI, developed organic farming initiatives that have decreased illegal logging in the park, boosted local incomes, and improved household nutrition.
Rising before dawn, we run, do our yoga, listen to the swish of brooms and the buzz of saws from the louver and door makers down the street. Roosters having been silent through most of the night begin their cacophony, the Imam calls believers to prayer and the motorbikes begin their buzzing like flies along Sukadana's few main streets. Everything starts early here, before the sun pours down molten hot and life is forced to slow.
I want to send you some love medicine. I want to share with you some of the amazing healing that has been happening in Borneo over the last five years.
I am stunned by the changes we've accomplished with your help.
For the one year anniversary of the Forest Guardian program, Hotlin Ompusunggu, DDS, co-founder of ASRI, talks about its inception. Based on the core values and philosophy of HIH and ASRI - that community be at the center, involved in and own the solutions of change – Forest Guardians have inspired a 45% increase in villages that have totally stopped logging. Livelihoods and the fate of the Gunung Palung National Park, home to 2500 orangutans, are at stake. You can help by supporting a Forest Guardian for only $50 per month!
Guest blog by Hotlin Ompusunggu, DDS and Alexandra Ristow
Alexandra Ristow, a Yale Medical Student, shares her volunteer experience with the ASRI project in Sukadana, and I reflect on trust.
Guest blog by Christina Fitch, DO, MPH
As a doctor, I work in several settings. But, the thing that everyone wants to talk to me about is my volunteer work with Health In Harmony (HIH). Likely this is because it is the component of my work that I feel most passionate about and it shows. Having just returned from six weeks in Sukadana, I am still radiating with joy at what we were able to accomplish and what I am at the heart of in my service to HIH as a member of our dedicated Board of Directors.
Last week was full-up with organic farm training. Part of that was going out to the farms that the participants started after the last training. The participants all immediately adopted organic methods after the last training, and...the gardens are huge! There are so many vegetables being grown! And people are now really making money. They all say that organic fertilizer is not only cheaper but also more effective: their vegetables are growing much better than they used to. In one garden, the price of the ingredients for the organic fertilizer was $1 for 600 plants; previously they would have paid $26 for chemical fertilizer for a result that they say was not as good.