FNPF’s holistic approach means that community development projects are an integral part of FNPF’s wildlife & habitat conservation methodology. Our community development projects aim to:
- Show that FNPF cares about the local communities in addition to caring for wildlife and habitat. (Local communities often resent NGOs because they perceive they care more for wildlife than people.)
- Demonstrate how conservation can bring benefit to the local people
- Educate and teach practical methods to achieve conservation in harmony with community wellbeing.
Our primary focus for the community development projects in Kalimantan has been in the village of Tanjung Harapan (også kjent som Sekonyer landsbyen), on the opposite side of the Sekonyer to Tanjung Puting National Park. The village is located near to FNPF’s reforestation sites at Pesalat and Beguruh within the National Park, and it is where most of our employees are from.
The Sekonyer Village is located on the border of the National Park of Tanjung Puting. Foreløpig, village population includes approximately 540 people from different areas: Malay, Bugis, Madura and Java.
Conflict often rises between villagers and park authority when it comes to forest protection as the village has been gradually losing the forest and with it its main economic resources. After centuries of nomadic farming, hunting, fishing, and wood collection, today only 20% of the forest once belonged to Sekonyer village is left.
Environment degradation in Sekonyer Village and in the National Park of Tanjung Puting has reached apprehensive levels. Sekonyer River was once used as the main resource of clean water by the inhabitants of this area. But more recently, the pollution from the illegal mining upstream has contaminated the river water and its ecosystem with mercury.
Mellomtiden, there are still wide expanses of open swamp area, critically left to oil-palm plantation companies and mining.
With the guidance of FNPF, a group of farmers who have joined the group “Sekonyer Lestari” have committed to protecting the remaining forest and implementing reforestation projects in the surrounding area. Although the group has more than 20 members, limited access to transportation and lack of knowledge to manage nature resources are still substantial challenges that the community faces.
Five girls from Tanjung Harapan village that received FNPF’s scholarships have become the first girls from the village to finish high school between 2000 - 2005. Before the program was started, parents often only sent boys to receive education after primary school. This scholarship has made a positive impact and parents in the village are now more willing to send girls to receive further education.
FNPF’s conservation education program promotes conservation awareness in the young generation. The program was started in 2000 as we visited some high schools at Pangkalan Bun, the capital city of Kota Waringin Barat regency in which Tanjung Puting National Park is located. Initially run as an extra curricular activity for one high school, the program included lectures and opportunities for students to attend field trips in the park twice a year in order to receive practical, hands-on knowledge about conservation of wildlife and habitat. I 2007, the high school adopted our conservation program as part of their standard curriculum, and currently all students now receive conservation education.
For many years, the people at Tanjung Harapan did not believe they could keep cows successfully. Many had tried previously, but the cows kept dying. In 2003, we donated five cows to five different farmers and proviId training in livestock management. A cow can provide a family with a regular supply of milk, plus manure for the land (which ties in with our mixed & organic farming program). In 2008, a calf was born at the village for the first time in their history. This has encouraged more villagers to keep their own cows, and it has also resulted in the local government and the park authority donating another 15 cows to the village.
Agro-forestry and mixed, organic farming
Agro-forestry shifts farmers from the traditional slash-and-burn farming to a mixed approach. Slash-and-burn causes complete clearance of vegetation, which exposes the thin layer of soil to severe erosion and overtime makes the land useless for agriculture. I tillegg, fires from slash-and-burn farming can cause the underlying peat to ignite, releasing huge volumes of stored carbon into the atmosphere and uncontrollable fires to spread into the national park. Agro-forestry and mixed farming (especially if organic) provides farmers with higher and more sustainable incomes. Plus, it is more harmonious with native wildlife and habitat. Agro-forestry allows a variety of trees to deliver incomes over different periods of time, whilst underneath a variety of vegetables (preferably organic) can be grown.
There has been a constant growth in tourism activity in Tanjung Puting National Park since the 1980s, but unfortunately, very little benefit has filtered down to the villagers of Tanjung Harapan. I 2006, FNPF began a program to teach ecotourism to a group of people. The ecotourism prgram we designed for the village involves a camping and trekking tour in the national park. We donated tents and camp cooking utensils and built a camping platform at Pesalat, close to FNPF’s reforestation area. In addition, FNPF secured exclusive rights from the national park authority for the village to run camping tours in the park. This means that the villagers do not have to compete with established tour operators. The park authority has close control on the activity because they only interface with one single party, and the tour operators have another product to sell to tourists.
The villagers now interact directly with the tourists who describe the beauty of the nature that they seek to see in the park and tell the villagers why they like to visit. This has resulted in the villagers’ recognition of the need to protect the wildlife and habitat; not only to generate income from tourism, but also because of their pride they have for their environment.
Art and Culture preservation
FNPF has also revitalized some of the Malay traditional arts such as the “Gambus” traditional music, “Tirik” traditional dance, “Pencak Silat” traditional martial art, and “Batimung” traditional sauna / spa. We run courses at the village that allow the young generation to learn from the older generation to prevent the arts from being forgotten forever. We also promote this as a tourist attraction, and in 2006 we organized the first arts festival at Tanjung Harapan village which included performances of many aspects of the Malay tradition including cooking, crafting, dancing, sport and spiritual items.