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.
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."
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.
Along with the rest of the world, we were saddened to read the coverage several weeks ago about the precipitous decline of the world’s orangutan population over the last 16 years. Fascination with these incredible cousins of ours is what first drew me to Borneo 20 years ago, and I left with a concern for them and our whole planet that has fueled the work of Health In Harmony ever since.
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.
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?
Part 2 of 3 - Our Solution. Read Part 1 here.
Health In Harmony’s mission and that of their Indonesian partner, Alam Sehat Lestari (ASRI), is a difficult one—stopping forest loss in western Borneo, a region with one of the world’s highest deforestation rates (check out Part I for an introduction to the problem). As planetary health professionals, we seek solutions that address the underlying social conditions that lead to forest loss. But those social factors are complicated, involving issues like government policy, population growth, poverty, indigenous rights, gender equality, and education. Tackling such a complex problem requires comprehensive and flexible solutions and more than a bit of creativity.
Focusing on the area around Gunung Palung National Park, ASRI uses a 5-pronged approach that combats deforestation on multiple fronts.
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
I’ve just returned from my first visit to Indonesia, where our programs have been co-designed and executed by our Indonesian program partner, Alam Sehat Lestari (ASRI).
I met former loggers trained to be sustainable farmers and small business owners. I walked through rain forests regenerated and protected for the health of thousands of species and the planet. I explored the beautiful, recently constructed hospital, and met the men, women, and children who can access life-saving health care there every day thanks to the generosity of our donors.
Guest blog by Maggie Gumbinner
Last month, a group of nine Health In Harmony supporters traveled to Sukadana in West Kalimantan, where our partner ASRI operates, as part of the 2016 Friendship Tour. On the trip, they met members of the ASRI staff, saw the rain forest that they helped reforest, talked to the patients whose lives were saved at the clinic, and watched the hospital grow before their eyes. Below, Health In Harmony Board Vice President and trip participant Maggie Gumbinner shares her reflection from the trip.
Why rain forests are important is a question with a complex answer. Rain forests are Earth’s oldest and most complex ecosystem. Fifty percent of the world’s plants and animals are found in rain forests, and scientists estimate that there may be millions of plants, insects, and microorganisms still undiscovered.
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
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.
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.
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
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.
It’s been over a year since a wildfire devastated our 23 ha reforestation site in the village of Laman Satong. Since then, two durian seasons and a particularly terrible dry season have passed (For awhile, if you looked up the weather in Sukadana on an iPhone, the status was “Smoke”).
See below for a piece from Reforestation Volunteer Adam Miller.
I always say that ASRI’s two reforestation sites are like two children: Laman Satong, our older reforestation site that had the fire last year, is like the difficult child that needs constant love and attention in order to thrive. In contrast, Sedahan, our younger reforestation site, is the precocious child that constantly delivers amazing surprises, unasked.
Every time I go there, I am amazed at how tall the trees have grown in less than two years. The site's peatland soil is far more fertile than the degraded, dry soil at Laman Satong. Many of the planted trees are already over two meters tall. One species in particular, petai (stink bean) has been consistently shooting up like a rocket wherever we plant it.
Guest blog by Cam Webb
I write with sad news. [...] Last Saturday, there was a huge, hot fire at Laman Satong. Within four hours it spread to almost all areas of our plantings. It seems that mortality of all plants save the tallest trees will be near 100%. One small mercy was that it failed to spread to some of the very first areas we planted in 2009. About a half hectare survived, and still looks green and well. But most of the seedlings planted in the 20 ha are dead.
I heard the news on Sunday and was at the site by noon Monday, with most of the conservation staff of ASRI. We did our best to comfort the field crew, who are dazed and deeply disappointed. We shared thoughts and feelings for a bit, then split into 4 groups and walked around the site. Surprisingly, it rained heavily in the afternoon, just what we were hoping for: a few of the plants teetering on the edge of death might now live. We came back on Tuesday and gently tried to ascertain what had happened on Saturday. Finally we started to ask what people felt we should do next.
Today, August 19th, is the first annual World Orangutan Day, dedicated to raising awareness about the crisis facing orangutans and celebrating efforts to protect them and their habitat. Health In Harmony is proud to participate and do our part! For more information about the movement, please visit the World Orangutan Day website.