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Last year, our partner Alam Sehat Lestari (ASRI) piloted a new Chainsaw Buyback Entrepreneurship program. This micro-enterprise development program was launched to target the remaining ±180 loggers living around Gunung Palung National Park and help them find an alternative, sustainable income for their families. ASRI selected 10 individuals who already had side jobs that had the potential to scale-up and held a 5-day training with entrepreneurship experts from Jogjakarta, which included developing business plans and distribution of start-up funds. The loggers' wives were also required to attend the training in order to foster accountability and have joint buy-in for these new enterprises.
The results from the pilot were encouraging: after just a few months, 60% of the participants stopped logging entirely while 40% were logging occasionally while they waited for the businesses to become profitable.
Now almost a year later, ASRI has made the program official with an added touch: to participate in the program, loggers must sell their chainsaws to ASRI. The money from selling their chainsaws serves as part of the start-up costs for starting their own businesses. This month, ASRI signed on their first participants, Herwandi and his wife Darus Sita.
Last week, Partnership Coordinator, Sara Helms, interviewed Herwandi to learn what drew him to the program.
Sara: What did you do before joining ASRI’s Chainsaw Buyback Entrepreneurship Program?
Herwandi: The logging I did in the forest was for wood used in construction (to be made into beams, boards, posts, etc). I also harvested the gaharu tree (Agar wood), the rotten wood which can be used in perfume. I logged in eight villages total. My wife makes cakes to sell in shops, usually for school children.
S: Why were you a logger?
H: I logged because I didn't feel like I had any other skills, and the income from logging can be quite good.
S: So what changed your mind?
H: I’m tired now and cannot log anymore. There is a big health risk for logging and it is not safe. It also does not provide any security from accidents, or from forest rangers. Safety and security are the main concerns.
S: How did you find out about ASRI?
H: I found out about ASRI from relatives. They told me that ASRI protects the forest.
S: What’s your impression of ASRI’s approach?
H: I think ASRI’s approach is very fun and creative!
S: Tell us about your new business. Why sugarcane juice?
H: It’s a joint business. I make and sell sugarcane juice, but I also now farm for rice and vegetables. I chose this because the opportunity for success is quite large with these businesses, depending on the weather.
S: What are your hopes for the future?
H: My hope is to grow the businesses so that we can fulfill our financial needs and be successful.
S: How do you think this will affect your family?
H: I will be able to spend much more time with my family since I no longer need to go out into the forest to log. This will be good for the unity of my family.
S: Would you recommend the program to other loggers?
H: I would invite other friends to join. ASRI has a good approach and does not force people to join the program.
With your support, we can continue to grow this program and help others like Herwandi start successful businesses. Will you make a gift today to provide families with safe and sustainable employment?