Introducing: ASRI’s Chainsaw Buyback Entrepreneurship Program

Almost 10 years after ASRI was founded, the number of loggers living outside of Gunung Palung National Park is down to ±180*, a significant decline from an estimated 1,300+ in 2007. At this point, the ASRI staff knows each of the remaining loggers personally and is working to find solutions that are tailored to each logger’s needs.

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As a result, a few months ago the ASRI staff approached 14 loggers in the villages of Pangkalan Buton and Sutera to see if they’d be willing to participate in a program that would help transition them to an alternative livelihood. After hours of chatting over sweet tea, the ASRI team better understood the challenges faced by this particular group of loggers. From the 10 loggers who expressed interest in the program, a baseline socioeconomic survey was conducted, showing several key findings:

  • 92% of the loggers and 77% of their wives only had elementary school level education
  • Average monthly expenditures of $290, while the average monthly household income was $270 – ranging from $63-$500
  • Only 18% of the loggers own farmland or fruit gardens

When you look at these numbers, it is easier to understand why many of them turn to logging. For many, their monthly expenditures are higher than their income. When it comes to health care, which drives up household expenditures (up to $5,000 per month for some), it's no wonder why they turn to logging for fast cash to support their families.

The survey had another interesting finding: 82% of the loggers already had side jobs that had the potential to be improved and scaled-up. As such, ASRI launched a family entrepreneurship training to focus on micro-enterprise development for the 10 loggers and their wives.

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Entrepreneurship experts from Jogjakarta led a 5-day training that included the development of business plans for each household and distribution of start-up funds of roughly $330 to each household. With these funds, the households have invested in their new enterprises, which include poultry husbandry, restaurants, grocery shop owners, traditional snack stands, barber shops, fishing, and carpentry.

The results from the first-round of “entrepreneurs” is encouraging: 60% of the participants have stopped logging entirely. 40% of participants still log occasionally while they wait for their businesses to become profitable.

One individual managed to match his previous level of income from logging with his chicken farming business, saying; “It has been a whole year since I climbed the mountain to log. Now I make almost 5 million rupiah (~$370) each month from my chicken business. I feel good that I was able to stop because I know it is bad for the whole community.”

For those who are still logging, they face social pressure from the community. One logger’s wife says that she feels confident in convincing her husband not to log because she feels he no longer has an excuse to do so after receiving funding from ASRI. And with fewer loggers in the forest, the remaining loggers don’t have a network of informants to rely on, making the risk of getting arrested too high for some.

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This initial success of ASRI’s Chainsaw Buyback Entrepreneurship Program is a testament to the importance of “radical listening” - creating a space where programs are developed and led by the communities affected by them. With this approach, ASRI predicts that the holdout loggers will cease going into the forest by the end of this year.

*Results are based on a survey completed in late 2015 and are approximate estimations.

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About Darya Minovi | View all posts by Darya Minovi

Darya is the Communications and Outreach Manager at Health In Harmony, based in Portland, OR. After studying Public Health and Environmental Policy at the College of William and Mary, Darya knew she wanted to dedicate her career to protecting human and environmental health. When she's not at work, you can find Darya enjoying the great outdoors, exploring Portland's farmers markets, or watching live music.