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Protecting the Last Forest of Lamandau

Kinipan villagers standing around and sitting on trees that have been cut down from their forest area. To this day, the village still struggles against the oil palm plantation expansion by a local company that has been clearing forest areas in Lamandau district, Central Kalimantan since 2015. Source: Dionisius Reynaldo Triwibowo

February 01, 2019

By Dionisius Reynaldo Triwibowo

The article was first published by Kompas on January 24, 2019.

Lamandau,  CENTRAL KALIMANTAN –  Amid an expansion threat from an oil palm plantation, the youth of Dayak Tomun tribe in Kubung village, Lamandau district of Central Kalimantan, has been in a planting frenzy in a bid to protect their forest areas. 

Albert Himawan, one of the youth of the village, was seen busy sorting out durian as others were unloading the green, yellow, and red spikey fruit from the baskets. 

“Those were [harvested] from menyandau (red: waiting for fallen durian) in the forest all night, “ said Albert in his house on Wednesday (16/1/2019). 

Durian is one of the main produce in the forest areas of Kubung Village. Albert can collect between 40 to 45 durians and sell them at a range between Rp7,000 (US$0.50) to Rp10,000 (US$0.71). 

“If you’re dilligent enough, you can earn about Rp13 million (US$930) in less than a month. That’s [the result] of waiting all night in the forest. If you want to be rich here, then you need to go to the forest more often,” he said after earning Rp450,000 (US$32.19) that day. 

In addition to durian, Kubung villagers also rely on jengkol (Archidendron pauciflorum) as their source of income. 

Jonathan Pondar (13), helps his parents to harvest jengkol in the forest, approximately five kilometers from his house in Kubung village. He waits for Toni (35), who had already climbed a jengkol tree, or locally known as jaring, to throw the fruits from above. 

“The branches need to be cut. If you take one fruit at a time, it will take a while because there are thousands of trees, we would not finish the harvest, even ‘till next year,” said Pondar adding that it would take two to three years to harvest from the same tree. 

After harvesting, they continue by peeling the skin of jengkol which can take up to five hours in order to produce 45 kilograms of green jengkol. 

R.K Maladi, Jonathan’s father, said there are 1200 trees ready for harvest in his land, located in the Kubung forest. However, he has not been able to harvest all of them, adding that there can only harvest in January, February, and December. 

Based on participatory mapping by local villagers supported by civil organizations, the total forest area managed by the local community of Kubung village reaches up to 23,000 hectares. 

“The amount of harvest we can produce actually depends on how dilligent we are. But we also get picky because during harvest seasons, we don’t just harvest jengkol, but other fruits as well, like durian, lanzones and others,” said Maladi adding that the price for jengkol can reach up to Rp15,000 (US$1.07) per kilogram. 

He can ear up to Rp4,500,000 (US$322.39) for 300 kilograms of jengkol. 

For Himawan and Pondar, the simplest way to protect the forest and prevent it from being turned into plantations is by continuously planting.

“We don’t just throw awayfruits we ate or collect. We will plant them back. That’s what my father taught me,” said Pondar. 


Rejects land clearing

While the indigenous Dayak Tomun tribe of Kubung Village continue to preserve customery forest through traditional means and ways, its peers in Kinipan Village, a hundred kilometers away, are facing an imminent threat from an oil palm company targeting to expand its plantation by clearing out about 1200 hectares of their forest area. 

This prompted Nisa, a high school student of Batang Kawa State High School in Kinipan village with dozens other villagers to stage a peaceful protest to reject the land clearing and oil palm plantation expansion in their village.

“I never went to the forest but I know that my father paid my school from selling durian, jengkol and honey,” said Nisa adding that her father had lost his income following the expansion. 

Their protest included replanting the cleared areas with durian, jengkol, herbs and spices. 

Since 2015, PT Sawit Mandiri Lestari (SML) based in Pangkalan Bun, West Kotawaringin, had cleared at least 1,242 hectares of forest areas located in Lamandau and Batang Kawa subdistricts. 

The company was granted the forest release permit, known as IPKH, for 19,091 hectares, comprising of 9,435 hectares of core zone and 9,656 hectares of plasma, by the Ministry of Environment and Forestry on March 19, 2015. 

Based on the land measurement by the National Land Agency on April 13, 2017, the company has been granted control over about 17,046 hectares of land. 

In October 2018, Haeruddin Tahir, Operation Executive  of PT SML, in a meeting with local villagers and administration in Nanga Bulik village, Lamandau district, denied the allegations that they had encroached forest land in Kinipan village. 

Tahir went on to explain that the core area of operation which had already been cleared was in Karang Taba village, located at the borders of Kinipan village. 

This has lead a boundary conflict between the people of Kinipan village, that rejects oil palm plantation entering and clearing up their customary land, with the people of Karang Taba village, that approves and have sold their land to the company.

Willem Hengki, chief of Kinipan village said that the boundary dispute is still being resolved between Kinipan and Karang Taba village. “I also want to take up [the status about the border] issue with leaders at the district level,” said Hengki. 

Reporting for this story was supported by a grant from Internews’ Earth Journalism Network and the South East Asian Press Alliance.



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