Alam Sehat Lestari (ASRI) has been working with indigenous communities in Indonesian Borneo to reverse illegal logging and deforestation for more than 15 years.
The NGO has designed solutions to the problem, in collaboration with local people, bringing benefits such as alternative sources of income and a clinic providing high-quality affordable healthcare. Examples of its work include a scheme allowing people to trade in their chainsaw in return for investment in a new, more sustainable, business.
ASRI first used this approach surrounding the Gunung Palung National Park – where after 10 years they have seen a reduction in illegal logging of 90% and a reduction in infant mortality of 67%. ASRI has also contributed to the replanting of 284 hectares of land.
Supporting indigenous people ensures they can act as stewards of their rainforests and protect this important source of biodiversity which offers a defence against climate change.
ASRI works in collaboration with its affiliate organisation, US-based Health in Harmony which provides strategy, fundraising and marketing support allowing ASRI to focus on programmatic delivery. Health In Harmony has successfully replicated this model in Madagascar and Brazil.
Boosting healthcare – and swapping chainsaws for chickens
ASRI’s work is founded on a ‘radical listening’ approach – consistent dialogue on what communities want and need, which leads to effective co-created solutions that are led by local people and prioritise community expertise.
In their site near Gunung Palung National Park, ASRI has been providing healthcare which families can pay for with goods such as seedlings and manure. These are used to reforest degraded land in the community. As a result, communities have seen a significant fall in diseases including tuberculosis and malaria.
The innovative chainsaw buy-back entrepreneurship programme offers no-interest investment funds to help people transition to less destructive livelihoods. New businesses are supported with financial, marketing and business plan training – popular activities include beekeeping, raising chickens and opening juice stalls.
Other support includes financial management training and a ‘Goats for Widows’ initiative. People often participate in more than one ASRI programme and the schemes work together: one example is the goats providing manure for the organic farming activities.
Inspiring future generations
These alternative livelihood opportunities offer a just transition, from logging to sustainable livelihoods, that give families more financial stability and protect the rainforest. ASRI works with national park officials to approach loggers and other forest communities. ASRI also supports the local government to include conservation and health education on the school curriculum.
ASRI, in collaboration with Health In Harmony, replicated the model with villages in areas surrounding Bukit Baka Bukit Raya National Park in 2018. More recently, ASRI and Health In Harmony are exploring the opportunity to replicate the model in Tanah Papua (West Papua).
27 October 2022
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