Welcoming Yohanes, BBBR’s Project Program Manager

Yohanes Ginting is the new Project Program Manager at our replication site in Indonesia, near Bukit Baka Bukit Raya National Park. He will be working on the implementation of three main concepts at ASRI:

  • Providing affordable health services to the community
  • Stopping illegal logging activities, promoting forest restoration and sustainable organic farming
  • Educating the community on planetary health concepts

Can you share a bit about your background? Tell me about the area of Indonesia you and your family are from.

I am originally from Binjai City of North Sumatra Province, where my family also lives. However, my childhood was spent in a remote village named Kuta Buara, located in Tigabinanga District of Karo Regency.

Yohanes in front of Galway Cathedral, in Ireland (2017), while attending the Ocean & Climate Scholars Programme II at the National University of Ireland, Galway.

Binjai is a small city that connects three municipalities of Medan, Deli Serdang, and Langkat. The city is known for the best-tasting rambutan fruit. If you want to see wild Sumatran orangutans or Sumatran elephants, you must pass through Binjai City.

I got my Bachelor’s degree in Forestry from the University of North Sumatra in 2014. My undergraduate work focused on the analysis of mangrove forest degradation.

I pursued my Master’s degree at IPB University and earned an MSc in Applied Climatology in 2018. For my Master’s project, I studied sedimentation and soil carbon accumulation rates in tropical mangrove forests, and their responses to rising sea levels on the east coast of North Sumatra, Indonesia.

What are you most passionate about?

I am obsessed with wetland ecosystems, especially peatland and mangrove. I think understanding how these ecosystems respond to climate change is essential – especially in the implementation of mitigation and adaptation strategies.

In addition to that, whenever it comes to issues related to nature, the environment, and the forest, I am eager to contribute, not only in research, but also in direct contributions to the community and the environment.

Because of this, I joined ASRI as Project Program Manager for the replication site near Bukit Baka Bukit Raya National Park (BBBRNP).

What motivated you to apply for a position at ASRI?

There are similarities between the program I ran when I worked at Conservation International (CI) in 2015, and the program that is running at ASRI. At CI-Indonesia, we worked with farmers in several remote villages in Pakpak Bharat Regency in North Sumatra Province to reduce deforestation and the use of hazardous materials.

The program at ASRI is extraordinary to me in how it provides affordable health services to everyone who stops logging illegally. After watching Dr. Kinari Webb’s TED talk, I strongly agreed with her process: to find out why people are involved in illegal logging activities through Radical Listening. Let them (the community) be the experts. It helps us to find a win-win solution.

What do you think is unique about ASRI’s approach and culture?

The idea of prioritizing Radical Listening is something very unique. The wisdom of local and indigenous communities who coexist with tropical rainforests is crucial in determining what actions should be taken to protect the forest ecosystem.

Furthermore, attending a morning meeting every work day is also new to me. However, it is indeed important to get updates and feedback about the programs from all staff.

Yohanes surrounded by North Sumatran mangroves in Langkat Regency while conducting fieldwork in 2016.

How do you plan to spend some of your free time at BBBR?

I have wish lists! I’m looking forward to learning directly about Dayak culture and having the opportunity to wear traditional Dayak clothing. I also want to enjoy the natural beauty and take some landscape photos of BBBR.

What are you most excited about in starting your new role at BBBR?

I would say the opportunity to work with an extraordinary team at BBBR. Several programs have already been running there, and more will be coming in the near future, such as offering non-cash payment options for health services, including payment with seedlings.

We are building two nurseries located at two sub-villages with a capacity of 20,000 seedlings in each nursery. The seedlings obtained from patients will be placed in these nurseries and planted in restoration sites around BBBR National Park. I am looking forward to applying forest restoration techniques at BBBR!

What do you think will be challenging in your role at BBBR?

Two things will be challenging at BBBR: applying the Radical Listening concepts in my work and adapting to living in the Dayak culture.

How has the pandemic changed things in your personal and professional life?

Yohanes and his father, Malemta Ginting, at his graduation ceremony from IPB University (January 2019).

In general, the pandemic has changed my lifestyle. I have been making health choices in my daily routine, including staying at home when possible, diligently washing hands, wearing a mask, and keeping a minimum distance of 2 meters from others.

I experienced hard days during this pandemic because my father passed away just three weeks ago. My father had been fighting cancer for almost six months. On the day of my father’s death, I got news that there would be no customary death ceremony for my father. My father also had to be buried on that day, due to the government regulations in Binjai City because of COVID-19.

I am thankful that my father still received a funeral liturgy from our church. I had to make the difficult decision not to go back to see my father for the last time. Although hard, I believe that was the wisest decision and helped keep my family safe.

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