Tohhari: How A Restoration Initiative Supports A Seaside Village

Tohhari, a farmer who is also the village head of Sabuai, planted a tree on the restoration land.

In a community-led restoration initiative, a coastal village in Central Kalimantan has been ramping up its effort to plant trees on 50 hectares of land. The approach gives ownership to the community, contributes to the local economy, and serves to restore degraded land. 

The land where Sabuai Village is located is categorized as degraded areas according to the map of critical land issued by the Ministry of Environment and Forestry (KLHK). We support this village in implementing community-based restoration, considering the commitment of the community and village government to protecting and maintaining the forest. 

The restoration in Sabuai village is a carefully planned and organized activity. The planning and establishment of the restoration team began in early 2020. The regreening efforts have been given a broad welcome by the community, many of whom were involved in the discussion of plant species selection, participated in searching for the seedlings of native plants, and went to the field to plant the trees on vacant land by themselves.

As of now, 38 hectares of land have been restored. And 12 hectares of land are left to be planted with sugar palms and native hardwood trees called kanenasihan

However, some spots of the restoration site are flooded during this rainy season. The community is waiting for the land to get dry first. 

“Once the situation gets better, we’re going to plant the rest and complete this project soon,” said Tohhari, the head of the restoration team.

The reforestation program, supported by Kaleka and Unilever, brings various direct benefits to the community, including an additional income stream, especially as many local farmers struggle to adapt to more frequent climate disasters that affect their harvests. Apart from oil palm, farmers also cultivate coconuts, horticultural crops, and woody plants.

In the long-term, he hopes that the locals can enjoy the benefits of planting the trees by selling high-value crops, like durian and longan. 

Tohhari, who is also a village head, felt a sense of responsibility to support his community in Sabuai village in every way possible.

The 50-hectare restoration program is the first time his village has carried out the tree-planting effort. A restoration team was formed to organize the activities and make sure of the lasting impacts of these activities, including monitoring the growth of the trees and getting rid of weeds in the restoration area.

Moreover, the team has ensured that the trees are planted only on public land, not on privately owned land. This aims to minimize the risk of conflicts. 

“When the trees have matured, everyone can harvest the fruits. Our restoration team will design community harvest patterns later,” Tohhari said.  

Tohhari and the restoration team in Sabuai village

Soon, they’re going to take on a new project of mangrove restoration as an attempt to restore their coastal areas. At a time when climate change is increasingly threatening shoreline communities, such restoration efforts are expected to strengthen the resilience to climate change and reduce the risks of natural disasters, such as forest fires and floods.

“We just faced a coastal flood in late 2021,” Tohhari said, adding that high tides and strong winds led the seawater to reach the housing areas located around 700 meters away from the coastline. “This was the first time in decades.” 

One effective way to realize climate solutions is by entrusting the activities to local communities. This community-led restoration initiative allows the locals to understand the benefits of planting trees, carry out the activities, and reap the benefits of their hard work.