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Staff at our pilot program Alam Sehat Lestari (ASRI) have witnessed a dramatic decrease in logging in Gunung Palung National Park over the past 11 years. By offering affordable health care and training in organic agriculture, ASRI has enticed almost all of the loggers who used to operate in the park to put away their chainsaws for good. But that has left a minority - about 12% of logging households according to our latest calculations - who have continued to log.
Last year, ASRI launched a new business development program called Chainsaw Buyback to help those remaining loggers find a livelihood other than illegal timber. This is how the program works: in exchange for their chainsaws, loggers and their families receive seed money, mentoring, and business planning assistance from ASRI staff. They get everything they need to successfully transition to small business entrepreneurship. So far over 65 logging families have "sold" ASRI their chainsaws and switched to a sustainable livelihood!
Some former loggers are being trained in efficient organic farming techniques. Others are raising livestock like chicken or catfish. With increased income from these businesses, they're able to afford life's necessities without having to resort to logging the rain forest. Thanks to this compassionate approach, and support from the local community, more loggers have been coming forward, wanting to switch professions.
"Being a logger is not easy," one program participant told us. "It's dangerous and illegal. And you have to constantly be worried about what will happen if you are caught by Park Rangers." While law enforcement is extremely important, we focus more on the "carrot" and less on the "stick." And our approach has been successful because we can offer loggers and their families a real opportunity to break their dependence on illegal timber.
Right now ASRI staff are continuing to find and engage with illegal loggers to help them transition away from logging. This has changed the landscape in more ways than one. As more families participate in Chainsaw Buyback, we've seen improvements across the board in quality of life, the local ecosystem, and the local economy.
Chainsaw Buyback Coordinator Agus Naviato and Health In Harmony Executive Director Jonathan Jennings filmed this short video to share some of these amazing results:
Your support is critical for continuing and expanding this innovative program. Thank you!