ASRI facilitates a variety of programs that engage community members in alternative livelihoods that are sustainable and safe. When ASRI was founded, one of the first things the community asked for was training in organic farming as an alternative to the traditional practice of slash and burn. Adhering to the methodology of radical listening, ASRI began holding trainings in sustainable farming – a much more effective and environmentally responsible form of farming. The organic farming program also led to the founding of Goats for Widows, a program which empowers women and provides the most vulnerable families with an additional source of income, while providing much-needed manure for local farmers. At the same time, their kitchen gardens program empowers housewives to better feed their families and earn extra income by growing organic produce. The Chainsaw Buyback Entrepreneurship program, targets logging couples who want to start their own businesses. ASRI buys their chainsaws, develops business plans for both husband and wife, and provide no-interest funds to get their business ideas off the ground.
The ASRI team also manages a Reforestation program, which focuses on restoring plots of land in Gunung Palung National Park, which have been degraded by illegal logging. To date, they have re-planted nearly 40 acres of rain forest and many of the seedlings that are planted in the reforestation sites are from patients who pay for health care services with seedlings at the ASRI hospital.
The Forest Guardian program designates a locally-selected leader from each village who monitors illegal logging activity on the ground, educates community members one-on-one about alternative livelihoods, and serves as a point of contact between ASRI and the villages around the Park. The data collected by the Forest Guardians helps inform ASRI’s “green-credit system” which gives community members discounts on health care, if the village has verifiably ceased illegal logging activities.
In addition to these programs, ASRI also manages an after-school education program called ASRI Kids, which aims to educate the next generation about the importance of protecting the rain forest and gives them the opportunity to see orangutans and their habitat in person for the first time. The program has since expanded to an ASRI Teens program, where students who have graduated from ASRI Kids and now help teach the curriculum to the young newcomers. The ASRI Kids conservation education curriculum is also now being taught to students at more than 12 schools in the Kayong Utara Regency.
*Photo credit: Chris Beauchamp