Tuesday, 25 November 2008

The power of a bedtime chat in conservation

The power of a bedtime chat in conservation

Asep Saifullah, Contributor, Lampung The Jakarta Post 25th November

Aggressive campaigns might soon be something of the past. In Lampung, officials teach women to encourage their husbands to conserve forests.
Head of forest area management at the Forestry and Plantation Office in Central Lampung, Yusuf, said the involvement of women was important in the office's forest conservation program.

"Women often express their ideas to the men, who unfortunately are still felling trees in the forest.

"If we told the men directly that we must conserve the forest, it would be less effective. Instead, we explain the situation to their wives, who then talk to the men. We've found this strategy to be more effective," Yusuf said.
He also found women were good at organizing and managing.

With more spare time than men, who are mostly working out there in the fields, the women can be trained to manage the produce grown in village plantations, he said.

Yusuf regularly goes on the three-hour ride along the bumpy, pot-holed road to Sendang Baru village. Sometimes, he spends the night in villages to speaks with residents and track their progress in forest conservation.

During the trip, the official, who is spearheading a program to reduce conflict between the government and communities in forested areas located on the borders with villages, would also persuade the community to conserve the forests they live in.

The Central Lampung forest makes up only a tenth of the total area in the regency.

"That number is still far from what is required by the 1999 Forestry Law, which stipulates that 30 percent of the whole area be covered in vegetation. Therefore, after we succeed in preserving the existing forests, we will expand them," Yusuf said.

Watala, an environmental conservation organization, and the forestry office help village communities grow non-timber forest products without destroying the land they live in.

Villagers are encouraged to organize themselves into farmer groups and are trained in a range of skills -- from crop cultivation and animal husbandry to managerial and basic accounting skills.

A former head of the regency forestry office, Isyanto, said the cooperation between the regional agency and Watala was important.

"We still lack experience, knowledge, and managerial and proposal writing skills. Therefore, Watala's role is very important to facilitate the programs for this forest area," Isyanto said.

He said he believed efforts to foster cooperation among stakeholders on forestry issues had proven successful.

"If we did not collaborate with Watala, the trees in Sendang Baru forest would likely be gone by now," he said.

In Sendang Baru, Watala and the forestry office are assisting two women and four male farmer groups.

By taking advantage of existing agricultural businesses in the area, they train the farmers to make the best use out of the traditional crops and livestock they grow.

The program also introduced the participants to new sources of income.
Villager Masri said he was formerly involved in illegal logging practices until he joined the office's agricultural program.

Since joining the program with other villagers, he said they had caught illegal loggers several times, taking the loggers to the forestry police.
"Forest is the source of our livelihood, the place where we earns our living. Those conducting illegal logging will be caught," Masri said.

Sri Banon, the head of the women's farmers group Wanita Tani Lestari Organization, said the training from the Forestry and Plantation District Office had increased families' income.

"We were trained how to make banana crackers, coconut sugar and coffee powder. Now all of my family's needs can be fulfilled," she said.
"With our present income, there is no need to fell trees and face the risk of being jailed."

While the women in the farmers group manage the cultivation of semiprocessed products, another group is involved in fisheries and goat rearing as well as banana cultivation.

All the groups are trained in financial management, Yusuf said.
"If they need money urgently, such as for their children's books or school fees, then they can borrow from the collective fund."

It has been relatively easy to find markets for the farmers' products.
The bananas from Sendang Baru village, for instance, are now being sent to Muara Angke and Bintaro in Jakarta. Since the development programs began, production has increased to around three tons per week.

Muhammad Kubar, the second assistant for the economy and development at the Central Lampung regency administration, said the existence of new income sources had led to a decrease in deforestation in the project areas.
He said forest destruction was always caused by economic factors, either because poor communities cleared the forests to survive or because people who were more powerful wanted to make quick money.

"Those destroying the forest to survive are usually people who live in or around the forest. The only way to cope with this problem is to improve people's welfare," Muhammad said.

He also said the involvement of women in the forest conservation program was essential.

The image of a rural woman playing servant to her husband is outdated, he said, saying that most wives had plenty of power over their husbands and knew how to use it.

"In fact, women often forbid their husbands to fell trees in the forests during their bedroom talk."