Community involvement is key to Health In Harmony’s work. ASRI’s own Dr. Hotlin Ompusunggu proposed an innovative program of local accountability and forest guardianship – and won an acclaimed Whitley Award for the idea! In 2011, ASRI put the Forest Guardians program into practice, adding 30 respected villagers (and counting) to its staff. The villagers, called Forest Guardians, monitor logging in their communities to help ASRI maintain its incentive system, which gives communities higher discounts at the clinic if logging in their village has ceased. They also conduct outreach in their communities, working with loggers to seeking alternative livelihoods from farming to fishing to agroforestry.
The initiative was an immediate success. Since they themselves are locals, each Guardian can speak the local dialect – the diversity of local tongues is almost as stunning as the diversity of local birds – and has known most of their fellow villagers since birth. The Forest Guardians have been an invaluable addition to ASRI’s team and act as a liaison between ASRI and the villages they partner with.
*Photo credit: Annie Jones