Every year, staff and community members at Alam Sehat Lestari (ASRI) celebrate Green Day. It's not only an opportunity to plant trees, but also to strengthen relationships among ASRI staff, the community they serve, and the local government. This year, Green Day participants helped plant trees in a special zone of Gunung Palung National Park, an area called Rantau Panjang.

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We have received strong evidence that our work in partnership with Alam Sehat Lestari (ASRI) is preventing and reversing deforestation in Gunung Palung National Park. Just this week, new research conducted by ASRI staff revealed that deforestation in Gunung Palung has slowed significantly. Summing up their findings, the authors wrote: "Community empowerment, forest rehabilitation, and health care incentives as payment for ecosystem services can help reduce deforestation."
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Nina Finley shares another blog post with us - this one focuses on Alam Sehat Lestari's reforestation program and the progress at the Lamong Satong reforestation site. This is the second in a series of blog posts from Nina. (Read more about Nina's travels on her blog Natural Selections.)

Heat rises from the wet ground and pulses down through black shade cloth. I can feel thermal energy surrounding me in waves. Welcome to the tropics.
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Dr. Krista Farey is a physician from California who has visited our pilot program Alam Sehat Lestari (ASRI) on several occasions.  Here is a recent update from Dr. Farey:

Greetings from Sukadana, West Kalimantan, Borneo, Indonesia, where I have the good fortune and privilege to be serving for a third time as teaching support for the excellent team of young Indonesian doctors at ASRI clinic.  The environment is as luscious as ever and my work at ASRI clinic, a non-profit linking human health and planetary health, is fun and gratifying.  Medicine here remains a calling and is not just a job.
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“This is my first time seeing an orangutan in the wild with my own eyes,” said Tian.

Tian is one of several students involved in ASRI Teens, an after-school conservation education curriculum for high schoolers through ASRI's Planetary Health Education Program. Similar to ASRI Kids, which targets primary and middle schoolers, the ASRI Teens study issues related to health and our environment. They also go outdoors to learn, and last November went on an overnight field trip with International Animal Rescue (IAR).

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Kebun Keluarga (Kitchen Gardens) is one of ASRI's conservation programs, focusing on alternative livelihood development. This program works with women who live around Gunung Palung National Park, teaching them how to cultivate the small plots of land they manage next to their homes.

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Interview with Adam Phillipson, the Great Apes Program Officer at the Arcus Foundation, who visited our partner ASRI in May.

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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.

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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.

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Part 3 of 3 - Our Progress. Read Part 1 here and Part 2 here.

The first two parts of this series outlined the conservation challenges in Borneo and our efforts to combat deforestation by engaging communities. The question now is whether our solutions work. But when dealing with issues that combine economics, health care, social justice, and conservation biology, how do you measure progress? Planetary health is an emerging discipline and we are using methods that have not been tried before. So there aren’t many clear benchmarks for comparison.

We can start by asking what success would look like. For Health In Harmony’s Indonesian partner, Alam Sehat Lestari (ASRI), complete success would mean 1) zero deforestation in Gunung Palung National Park, 2) a return of the park to 100% natural vegetation cover, and 3) net forest growth throughout the region. And we would have achieved those goals by creating healthy communities that are invested in the long-term integrity of the natural landscape. So how do we stack up against those goals?

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Part 1 of 3 - The Problem

To many people, Borneo is a remote and wild place, an unspoiled tropical island teeming with dense forests, wildlife, and traditional cultures. Throughout the early twentieth century, this view was partly true; the island was over 75% forested and was home to hundreds of thousands of orangutans and other wildlife, in addition to diverse communities of people speaking dozens of different languages. Read More

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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.

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Guest blog by Maggie Gumbinner

I’m often asked why I choose to spend my free time working for Health In Harmony from the many good organizations and causes out there. But, it all became very clear to me one day on the Journey to Borneo last year during a hike through Gunung Palung National Park.

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Guest blog by David Woodbury

This is a story where I try to trace what left me squatting in a dark bathroom full of large spiders, in a house without electricity, on the edge of the rainforest, after an evening meal in a Dayak household (an ethnic group who are the native people of Borneo). **Note: I will star every time I consumed something questionable. Read More

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As Indonesia’s forests vanish from logging and fires, the future of our planet continues to hang in the balance. Reforestation can go a long way to solve this problem.
Reforestation, however, is not just a matter of planting trees. When you learn about the challenges in research and monitoring, and what can be done to save the forests of Indonesia, you’ll see why we need your help now.
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I remember the first time I ever saw a patient pay for medical care with tree seedlings at the ASRI Clinic. Pak Hamsu, a patient from the village of Laman Satong where our main reforestation site is located, had amassed medical bills totaling over $375 at the ASRI Clinic after he had a severe stroke in April 2013. When he finally died, his family did not have enough money to repay the debt. So his nephew Jhony repaid the debt the only way he knew how: raising tree seedlings, grown from the seeds collected in the nearby forest that his village has protected for generations.

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Throughout this week, we featured the stories of four Forest Guardians who are committed to the program and protecting the rain forest. You can find their individual stories on our Facebook: Wawan, Amir, Samsu, and Ridwan. Be sure to like us on Facebook and follow us on Instagram to see campaigns like these in the future. #FacesOfTheForest

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SRJ_5326

Burning in the forest | Photo: Annie Jones

This year’s extremely dry September has caused smog-belching fires throughout Indonesia, and has left a blanket of smoke covering Sukadana’s lush forest.

Fires are an annual problem during the dry season in Indonesia due to the slash-and-burn land clearing practices of farmers and palm oil plantations. This year, the burning has been more extreme due to an El Niño weather system that produces tinder-dry conditions.

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Fire3A brush fire threatened the Laman Satong reforestation site over Idul Fitri holiday week. This is the second fire in the same reforestation site that experienced a devastating fire 2 years ago that took out hundreds of trees and most of ASRI reforestation team’s hard work. The fire is assumed to be started by a cigarette - a likely cause of the first fire too. However, this is a story of everything going right and displays the hard work put in place to mitigate a second disaster.

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