Rosdiana: Regreen the Earth for Orangutan Habitat and Local Economy

Ibu Rosdiana, 50, a member of the restoration team in Tanjung Hanau Village in Seruyan, Central Kalimantan.

The residents of Tanjung Hanau Village, Seruyan, Central Kalimantan, will have forest areas from the community-led restoration activities. Residents will plant saplings in an area with a total area of 10 hectares, which is part of the regency-scale restoration project. The regional project aims to restore habitat for wildlife and help improve the local economy.

The village is positioned in a unique location, that is on the border of oil palm plantations owned by large companies, production forests, and buffer lands. Not far from there is a conservation area in Tanjung Puting National Park.

The villagers who previously practiced shifting cultivation now mostly work as laborers in oil palm companies. Some become independent oil palm farmers or turn to intercropping plantations to grow fruit trees.

“But the land is getting smaller due to the oil palm expansion,” said Rosdiana, 50, a member of the restoration team who works as a teacher.

Some residents go to the river to look for fish. But their fishing activities are disrupted by the floods, that have become increasingly frequent in Tanjung Hanau Village.

Besides the floods, the locals also have to be aware of the risks of forest and peat fires. Tanjung Hanau Village is largely peat swamp forests, which leads to the heightened risk of fire. The devastating wildfires destroyed the forest in 2016.

Now, the local communities are attempting to reforest the wildfire-scorched land. This restoration project is a mitigation effort to overcome natural disasters, such as floods and forest and land fires, which often occur in Kalimantan.

For the first phase of the project in early November, the community will regreen a four-hectare area near creeks, planting various kinds of tree seeds, such as gaharu, jackfruit, durian, and cempedak. In the next restoration stage, residents will plant an area of six hectares by adding a variety of tree seeds, such as candlenut, bitter bean, and dogfruit. Most of the trees planted are fruit trees that can be eaten or sold by local communities.

The residents also learned how to propagate plants from cuttings, especially the high-yielding plants like guava trees, which aims to accelerate fruit growth. With this new knowledge and skills, the locals are expected to continue restoring the forests and increasing the tree cover.

Ibu Rosdiana

The fruit trees can improve the village economy and increase their source of income for residents. “Later, residents can harvest and sell the fruits from these trees,” said Rosdiana.

In addition to having an economic function, the forest rehabilitation program, which is assisted by Kaleka, also aims to restore the ecological function of the forest, especially related to the habitat of wild animals, such as orangutans.

Tanjung Hanau Village is located next to an orangutan rehabilitation center, so it is not surprising that many orangutans pass through the trees in the village. Recently, orangutans enter the oil palm plantations owned by residents in search of food more frequently than usual.

The floods that hit the village have led to crop failure, damaging a lot of banana trees there. In fact, it is usually the residents who supply the foods to the orangutan rehabilitation center, selling the bananas as foods for these primates.

“Now the local residents have fewer bananas for sale, meaning orangutans have fewer foods,” said Rosdiana.

This man-made forest is expected to bring benefits to the primates that travel over long distances across the forests. When the saplings have grown into strong and fruitful trees, the planted forest can become the wildlife corridors that link forests in the middle of the oil palm plantations in Seruyan as well as providing foods for the orangutans.

“The residents will harvest the remaining fruits and sell them to help the local economy,” said Rosdiana.

She later highlighted how the communities will share the land and trees with orangutans and the importance of living in harmony with nature.

“It’s impossible to select which fruits that orangutan can pick and eat,” she said. “We’re living in their habitat. We need the environment, not the other way around.”