Princess Gusti Pembayun - Princess of Yogyakarta to open the Global Education Leaders Briefing annual event this January and present on DeforestACTION.

DeforestACTION will be the big news at the world’s largest educational leader meeting next week in London.

From January 8, some of the world’s most powerful education ministers, policy makers and thought leaders will meet in London for the Annual Education Leaders Briefing (ELB).  Hosted by the British Council to coincide with the BETT Show (the world’s largest education forum), this invitation only event provides a global platform for forward-looking debate with government, education systems and industry  to inspire and achieve real change in education.

Her Highness Princess Gusti Pembayun, of Yogyakarta, will be the opening keynote at this event, presenting on the importance of globally collaborative learning projects, and offering a global invitation for school systems around the world to join the DeforestACTION project.  There will also be several other very big announcements about the project next week – but more on that later.

There is strong commitment and support from the royal family of Yogyakarta, including Sri Sultan Hamengkubuwana X, to the DeforestACTION project, which will ensure large numbers of Indonesian students take the lead in the DeforestACTION project this year.

The Princess will be joined by Dr. Willie Smits and Hasudungan Pakpahan, and will use London as the starting point for a global DeforestACTION promotional tour.

I will be posting regular updates on Facebook, Twitter and this blog throughout the BETT week events, where DeforestACTION have a sponsored stand in the main pavillion.


What if we could find a way to make the forests more valuable than chopping them down for timber and palm oil?

What if there was a  way that protecting the forests became the most financially beneficial option for local people – so much so that they would no longer be open to bribes and corruption from the palm oil companies?

What if protecting the forests could provide a new energy source that could significantly contribute to solving the global energy crisis, while radically improving the standard of living of the people whose forests are being destroyed and stolen?

It seems Dr. Willie Smits may have found a solution to this problem, which could literally change the deforestation game forever. (read a detailed, independent report from Ecofys here).

One of the reasons deforestation is so prolific in Indonesia, is because palm oil companies have faced very little resistance from local people in taking their land.  Much of this is because the palm oil companies cheat, lie, deceive and even steal land from the traditional landowners. But it’s also because in the short term, the pittance they are paid for their families’ land is too tempting for some people to turn down.

So, for a few thousand dollars, and a fist full of soon to be broken promises, the lands these local people have held for centuries are signed over to palm oil companies to destroy.

In the short term, such deals can allow the local people to buy fuel for their bikes (there is a massive shortage of fuel in Kalimantan), mobile phones or credit, or other simple luxuries. In the long term, it is the end of their communities, their livelihoods, and their futures.

If we as a planet are to reduce deforestation, we need to find an alternative for the local people. A way to ensure the value of keeping the forest in tact outweighs any short term financial tricks the palm oil companies can offer.

Sugar Palm is a very exciting option that may be our best chance ever.

To be clear –  Sugar Palm is the exact opposite of the highly destructive Oil Palm. These trees do not grow in a monoculture – they require the diverse forest to thrive.  Because they require the entire forest to be sustained, this sustains all kinds of life, keeping the natural balance of the forest in tact.  In palm oil plantations, on the other hand, only the palm oil trees grow.  The natural diversity is destroyed – the animals that aren’t butchered and killed are left to starve in a barren biological  desert.

Sugar palms releases large quantities of juice (up to 50 litres per day).  This juice can be efficiently converted into bio-ethanol, palm sugar (low GI), animal feed, electricity, medicines,  bio-plastics, and at least 50 additional products created to date using scientific methods developed by Dr.Willie Smits.

According to Willie, the amount of energy produced by a sugar palm beats that of all other crops (e.g. it provides over three times more energy than sugar cane).  In fact, as far as solar power goes, the sugar palm is a highly effective photovoltaic converter.

Local people have been collecting the sugar and using it for medicine, cooking, fire barriers, fiber (rope) construction for years.   So what’s new?

The first ever 'factory in a box village hub'

The first ever Village Hub - 'factory in a box' model by Dr. Willie Smits

In this photo, you can see two factories known as “Village Hubs”.   The larger one in the background is the original, the much smaller one in the front is a revolutionary new semi-portable factory.  Both factories include technology to  allow local people to convert their sugar palm into energy, giving them credits that can be used for electricity, clean drinking water, internet access, education service, animal feed, biofuel and more.  It is literally a currency exchange centre, allowing sugar to be converted into products and services on the spot.

Last week, Willie completed the first ever ‘factory in a box’ version of the Village Hub.  The concept is this factory can be transported to anywhere in the world in two large shipping containers.  It is then unpacked and assembled and within a few weeks, the entire village can enjoy a substantially elevated standard of living – but ONLY for as long as they have rich, bio diverse forests to sustain the sugar palms.

This is fantastic news for orangutans, gibbons, sun-bears and all the other animals that live in the forest. If this takes off quickly, and the demand from the local people drives the establishment of more of these hubs, it is one of the best chances we have to save the forests and the species that live in them.   I witnessed Willie present this to over 300 local people in Sintang earlier this year, and if their response was anything to go by, demand will be more than overwhelming.

As always, this is about education and free choice.  If this works as well on scale as the first production model (this is beyond prototype), and the local people choose this above the alternative (no comparison),  this is going to make a significant, positive difference to the planet forever.


The EcoWarriors Buildling Relationships with Local Communities

For the last twenty days, the DeforestACTION EcoWarriors have been on a life changing journey through West Kalimantan, Indonesia, seeing first hand the destruction caused by Deforestation.  What they have seen, and what they will be reporting to the world, is far more shocking than any of them expected.

The EcoWarriors are young adults (aged 19-35 years) who were selected from hundreds of applicants to represent the children responsible for establishing the DeforestACTION project.  They are truly an amazing, accomplished and inspirational group, including professional GIS technicians, veterinary technicians, journalists, teachers and more.  You can learn more about the Eco Warriors here.

In the last twenty days, the EcoWarrios have uncovered a largely unreported story of what can only be described as genocide, where local people are being killed, cheated, poisoned,  held without trial and brutalized under the lead of foreign owned palm oil companies.  The environmental devastation being deliberately imposed on the lands they own makes the BP oil spill look like a wine stain.  The way animals are being treated is something from a horror movie.  And the intricately constructed public relations campaign that shrouds the truth is of a scale that defies belief.

In one 30 minute boat ride, the EcoWarriors saw nearly forty illegal gold mines, each of which pumps over a litre per day of mercury directly into the river ecosystem.   The few fish that are left are contaminated with heavy metal and not safe to eat, and their breeding cycles are so disrupted new generations will be fewer. The water is so polluted it is beyond dangerous for bathing, let alone  drinking, cooking or irrigation.  Life expectancies from those dependent on the river system (hundreds of thousands) is dropping by the day.  Miscarriage rates are skyrocketing.  The IQ rate of local people is being severely impeded.  And that’s just the tip of the iceberg.

Rewind to March this year.  A beautiful water hole that took nearly an hour of forest trekking to get to was surrounded by thick virgin rainforest as far as the eye could see.   Now, only a few months later, this creek is too polluted to touch, and there is no forest visible for kilometres to the horizon.  All that is left is devastated land, with rows of recently planted palm oil saplings – a biological desert that can sustain no animals, and provides less than .01 jobs per hectare for the local people. Huge profits are made offshore.  The locals in Indonesia are left destitute.

This story is commonplace in Borneo.  Somewhere in Kalimantan, this story is playing out again right now.  It is happening so fast (300 football fields per hour).  The amount of CO2 being pumped into the atmosphere from the clearing of the peat swamps is comparable to that of  a volcano.  Turn off your light bulbs when you can, but understand this amount of release, from these peat swamp regions alone, in only a  few months, emits more CO2 than Australia does in a year. It’s getting worse by the day.

CO2 emissions in Indonesia, a country with relatively minimal coal burning industry. The problem is getting worse every day. From the Carbon Dioxide Information Analysis Centre

The problem is truly global in nature, but the really scary stories come from the local people themselves.

Dr. Willie Smits translates for this man who explains how he has lost his land, his family, his livelihood and his hope at the hands of palm oil companies, who use the most sinister, evil and calculating tricks to cheat the local people.

This man (identity withheld at his request) was one of hundreds the EcoWarriors spoke with.  He talked of how his lands had been stolen by a palm oil company. He explained how the company had used deception, deceipt and nefarious trickery to destroy his people.  Others spoke of how officials from their tribes were invited to Jakarta for special meetings promising prosperity and to ‘explain how they could make money from planting new crops on their lands’.

On such stays, , the companies seduce the leaders with drugs, alcohol and prostitutes, film them, and use this footage to blackmail the tribal leaders to sign away their lands.   Similar stories were repeated by other local people in tribes across Kalimantan.  Others reported how the palm oil companies provided two documents for people to sign, one for those in favour of palm oil, the other for those against.  The local people uninimously signed against, but learned the documents had been switched, and they had been tricked into signing their lands away.  They have no recourse, no right of reply, and no appeal process. Within days, the forest they had lived on for centuries were gone, and they were forced to move on, destitute and hopeless.

The palm oil companies evangelise their ‘Job Creation’ schemes. They use carefully constructed, politically comfortable, and publicly palatable catch phrases to deceive the world about what is really going on.  This will all be exposed.

The man in the picture above explaned how his family had been forced off their own lands.  That the jobs they were promised were based on lies and smoke screens, and those who conceded to work for the palm oil companies are now treated as slaves. The company took double the land they had said they would,  stole the timber, which was send downstream as part of a constant, and blatant parade of criminal exploitation – a sort of proudly defiant challenge to the rest of the world begging the questions: “How can this be allowed ?”.  These stories were repeated by locals from far and wide, throughout the massive district of Sintang.  The more remote the villages, the more horrific the stories.

The endless parade of illegal timber can be seen day and night in the river systems of Borneo. Trees with a diameter less than 50cm (minimum legal size) comprise the majority of logs in this floating monstrocity. All the larger trees are gone.

When the local people in his tribe eventually fought back and tried to reclaim their land, over 30 children were thrown in jail for nearly fifty days without trial.  They have since fled and live in poverty across Indonesia.

This interview, and many others were filmed by the journalists, documentary makers and EcoWarriors  following this story.  As I write this, there is a tense standoff occurring with the villagers of Lansat Baru, Lansat Lama and Belenyut Sibau and the palm oil companies.  Buldozers and giant excavators are destroying their forests right now without any permission, agreements or authority.  There are a number of film crews on the ground recording this, hoping awareness may help save what is left. See below an email from Emily Hunter (EcoWarrior), describing what is happening at this moment.

Dr. Willie Smits , an Indonesian national, and one of the most highly regarded and celebrated environmental ecologists on the planet, is working in partnership with the EcoWarriors to bring these stories to the world.  He has dedicated his life to saving the forests of the planet and is considered the world’s foremost expert in Orangutans and other Indonesian Wildlife.  He is also a critical part of the DeforestACTION educational team, working with students around the globe to provide the latest scientific, political, cultural, historical and conservation information available.  (Understanding 54 languages and having a near-photographic memory makes it easier for him to stay across all the research available).

Independent journalists have accompanied the team, along with film makers, print journalists, and documentary makers, to ensure completely transparent, first hand accounts of this project and what it bears witness to.

Willie Smits rescues Jojo - a baby orangutan who was kept in a small wooden box for the last year, and fed coffee, cigarettes and junk food. Within a few days of being rescued her face has come alive, she is happy, active and surrounded by loving carers.

In the coming months, the EcoWarriors will be working to bring these and other messages to the world with compelling footage and undeniable evidence.

They will be working with local people to create sustainable alternatives to Palm Oil, to regrow rainforest, to rescue wildlife, and to work with students in schools around the world, so they can have authentic, empowering and meaningful learning experiences.  They are the first of many EcoWarriors who will carry out the on-the-ground components of the DeforestACTION strategy.

If you haven’t done so already, be sure to join our regular DeforestACTION webinars, or notify your local school they are happening.  They are specifically designed for students from school age to post secondary, and are accompanied by virtual online classrooms, teacher guides, lesson ideas and DeforestACTION education materials. These are solutions focussed, designed to engage and inspire hope.  They are regularly updated and revised.

The demand for Willie Smits from local people in Borneo is endless. Across Kalimantan the villagers are begging for more information from Willie Smits on sustainable alternatives, and to learn about the magic of Sugar Palm as a real solution.

Stay tuned for some of the most unbelievable footage you are ever likely to see.  Visit www.deforestaction.org to keep up with the EcoWarriors.

Here is a statement released last night from EcoWarrior Emily Hunter (journalist, author, television documentary host):

On Sunday, a group of approximately 40 Dayak people began the first day of a weeklong protest to reclaim their land 80 kilometres outside of Sintang in West Kalimantan, Borneo.  The action represents a last stand to defend their ancestral land against palm oil company encroachment.

The villagers from Lansat Baru, Lansat Lama and Belenyut Sibau gathered at a 30-hectare spot claimed by a palm oil company in July. The once-forested land is now barren with only scattered palm oil saplings. The villagers believe the company to be Wahana Plantation and Products, as a company truck confiscated by the villagers and used for a blockade, bore the letters “PT.WPP.”

“Nobody has agreed to this and the palm oil company just steals and rapes our land,” said Mr. Yohanes Aliam, one of the village leaders. “This here is our land and they’ve cut everything down.”

He said the company has tried since 2008 to occupy the land by inciting conflict among villagers and bribing officials. The land fringes on a 1,000 hectare forest believed to be home to 40 orangutans.

According to several other villagers, bribery and the use of forged land certificates are common tactics used in the takeover of their ancestral lands. These lands are passed down from the previous generation and do not come with any official documentation. The lands are ruled under the adat or traditional law, which protects the rights of the Dayaks, they said.

With the latest infringement on their land by the company and talks with its representative breaking down – company officials abruptly left discussions before the Dayaks demands were presented – the villagers decided to take stronger action.

After writing a letter of appeal to the Sintang Bupati, the villagers escalated their protest by confiscating the company’s heavy equipment. On Sunday, after a traditional ceremony, the villagers uprooting several palm oil saplings as a symbolic reclamation and erected a road blockade to the palm oil planation to send strong signals of their defiance.

“If this land is ever stepped on by any occupier, we will fight and defend it to the death,” said the spiritual leader during the ceremony as he summoned 20 Dayak gods.

For now, the villagers wait and watch, wary but ready to defend their land against unwanted outsiders.


The "People of the Forest"

School students love to study orangutans. And, it’s really important they are given the opportunity to do this, and to gain an understanding of these incredible animals.

Today I thought I’d share some interesting facts about orangutans, many of which were first shared with my by students involved in the DeforestACTION program.

Recent studies have shown that orangutans are perhaps the closest living relatives to humans on the planet.

The term orangutan translates in English to ‘the People of the Forest’. This isn’t just some token term used for convenience. Orangutans are a lot more like us than most people think. For example, did you know:

  • Like humans, orangutans create and use tools designed to complete complex jobs – they even create umbrellas from leaves when it’s raining
  • They have all the same senses as humans including excellent colour vision, touch, taste, hearing and smell
  • They have thousands of facial expressions, including readable micro-expressions with the same number of facial muscles that create them as humans
  • They exhibit all the same emotions including love, anger, joy, sadness, elation, depression
  • They form lasting friendships and diverse relationships
  • They can learn to count, , learn colors and solve multi-layered (complex) problems
  • Orangutans have the same number of hairs as humans. Their hair is much thicker, and grows much longer all over than ours, but placement and number of folicles is much the same
  • They have the same bloody types – scientists believe we will soon be able to share organs with orangutans -note the use of the word share – not “take”
  •  Orangutans have 32 teeth, the same number as humans
  • They are Susceptible to human diseases and ailments, and respond to many human medications
  • Orangutans have a very similar cultural development process to humans, passing certain innovations, learnings and behaviors down through generations, just as we do
  • Female orangutans engage in social grooming more often than males – no comment
  • They have the same gestation period as humans, and infants are nursed by their mothers for up to six years, and can stay with them into their teens
  • Baby orangutans cry when they’re hungry or when they need their mothers just like baby humans
  • Orangutans have the same average lifespan as humans who do not have access to modern medical intervention
  • They go through a period of ‘sexual maturity’ very similar to puberty in humans, and females become fertile at roughly the same age as humans

Baby orangutans stay with their mothers for up to six years. There is so much to learn.

What do you think it will take before we as a species are capable of recognizing their unique and important similarities, and ‘assign’ them similar basic rights? I’d love to hear your thoughts?

Aside from the fact orangutans are majestic, wonderful and truly inspiring beings, they are also crucial to the success of the rainforest eco-system. Orangutans are a ‘keystone species” – which means they have a disproportionately large effect on other life they share the forest with.

They are the largest tree dwelling animal on earth, spreading seeds, biodiversity, fertilizer and macrobiotics essential for the development of rich rainforest. If we take them out of the equation, the eco-system will be seriously harmed.

In the last century, 92% of the orangutans have been killed by humans.

They are butchered to make way for palm oil plantations. Mothers are shot (often in the eyes) so the babies can be stolen and sold for illegal wildlife trades (babies are small enough to transport and can’t fight back). They are left homeless through deforestation, and they are tortured and abused in rotten cages, circuses, and even shaved and used for pornography and prostitution.

If you want to make a difference, visit www.deforestaction.org.  Empower your students to learn about, and take action to help the orangutan and keep them in the forests where they belong.

That the Orangutan is an animal of the human form, inside as well as outside: That he has the human intelligence, as much as can be expected in an animal living without civility or arts: That he has a disposition of mind, mild, docile, and humane: That he has the sentiments and affections peculiar to our species, such as the sense of modesty, of honour, and of justice; and likewise an attachment of love and friendship to one individual, so strong in some instances, that the one friend will not survive the other.
Lord Monboddo, 1774

The Action Begins Now!!

The time has come!  This week, DeforestACTION is sending 15 young people from across the planet to Borneo to act as your eyes, ears and hands on the ground, and to bring a new level of visibility to what is happening in these rapidly disappearing forests.

This Friday, 15  ‘Eco Warriors’ will be welcomed into the villages of local Dayaks in West Kalimantan, as they commence sharing stories with young people around the world via DeforestACTION.org.  Each of these Eco Warriors will be carrying the messages of the Dayak people to school students globally.  They will use blogs, video diaries and live webinars. 

During the first twenty days, they will be working hard to bring you the most up to date view of what’s really going on in Borneo – and will be taking positive, meaningful action to save the planet.

Their job will see them working alongside the local people to begin planting nurseries,  rescuing orangutans displaced or captured during deforestation, and supporting actions to stop deforestation as quickly as possible.  They will be building new infrsastructure with the local people and finalizing aspects of the DeforestACTION plan.  There will be many surprises and challenges in store for them – you can follow it all on www.DeforestACTION.org.

With the full support of the local people, following broad consultation and discussions, they will be welcomed into the communities and will hit the ground running.  A number of independent film crews will be capturing their journey, as will award winning documentary company Virgo Productions.

DeforestACTION formally welcomed by local authorities and people in Sintang, West Kalimantan.

Teachers – be sure to use the teaching resources available through DeforestACTION. 

Want to help?  Start a fundraiser, or make a donation here. Every dollar counts.

Earthwatchers Software Interface

Get Ready for EarthWatchers created by Geodan for DeforestACTION

In an earlier post, I explained the idea of how young people around the world could collaborate to save the rainforests, inititally in Indonesia, using satellite monitoring.

On July 27th, the genius team at Geodan, lead by Dr.Eduardo Dias, will join Dr. Willie Smits, Dr. Cathy Henkel and young people from around the world for the launch of the technology that will make this dream a reality. If you want to join the live webcast of the launch, register here!  It will be fantastic for teachers, students and anyone who cares about the future of the planet.

The following explanation and outline of this ground breaking software is a re-post from Dr.Eduardo Dias’ personal blog.


DeforestAction EarthWatchers: Empowering world citizens in tropical forest monitoring via the integration of Earth Observation, social media, human computation and collaborative intelligence.

DeforestACTION is a global project that brings together young people across the planet with the goal of stopping deforestation in Borneo and protecting the habitat of wild Orangutans. Join us at www.deforestaction.org

Among other objectives, students will be able to monitor rain forests via specially designed (web)tools and satellite imagery to provide near real-time intelligence required to halt illegal deforestation. The project will start as a pilot in the province of Sintang, West Kalimantan (Borneo Indonesia), where agreements are established with the local community chiefs and the governor who support this project and offered their executive power to take ground action in stopping illegal activities.

Threaten high-value pristine forest in Borneo was split into millions of unique small cells, and each cell can be allocated to unique participants (youngsters all over the world called EarthWatchers) who monitor it as new satellite imagery becomes available. When they suspect changes/cuts in the forest they will report it in the web system and, operating in a crowd-sourcing approach using social media Facebook , all participants can confirm/dis-confirm. The most suspected areas will be visited by a special team on the ground to prove the suspected activities, report back to the EarthWatchers and involve the local executive power to stop the illegal activities.

This project is unique as it is the first to involve human computation and collective intelligence in the analysis of SAR imagery: while optical data can easily be understood by untrained users (our target group), especially true for “true color” and “natural color composites, the same ease-of-understanding is not usually a characteristic applied to SAR data, where specific expert knowledge and sophisticated processing techniques are needed to derive useful information. Nevertheless, we propose to use the untrained (and unconditioned) spirit of the children (that is free from academic assumptions) to explore the SAR data and we expect that they will uncover patterns and fine issues that might never be uncovered in automated efforts. At the same time, the children will learn about the background technology and potential of SAR earth observation, multiplying the understanding, market and target base of SAR users for the coming 5 to 10 years.

The webgis is also meant as a powerful classroom support tool, as it will make available and accessible many other GIS layers (infrastructure, DEM, oil Palm plantations, biodiversity indexes, socio-economic factors) so that the students not only watch the land, but actually understand the inter-relationships that are playing a role in deforestation. Negotiations are ongoing with education ministries (e.g. Australia, Indonesia, the Netherlands) to make this tool and materials part of the standard curricula.

DeforestACTION has received some really great questions from people who want to see this become the most positive, empowering project ever.

This is a complex project with many innovative aspects.  This post is about questions relating specifically to DeforestACTION – Partnerships with local people.

DeforestACTION is a partnership between young people across the planet, and the local people in Indonesia who are watching their forests disappear before their eyes. In coming weeks we will be announcing some very exciting new partnerships which will make the project even stronger.

In the meantime, here are some recent questions posed by some of you, with answers from Dr.Willie Smits.


When you say ‘buy back land’, does this mean local people can still own it and prosper from it?


DeforestACTION is a partnership with local people and is carefully designed with their best interests at the core.

The plans for the Eco-village for example are quite spectacular, but significant funds have to be raised. Once that dream-village for the local people is announced it will
raise expectations. I find that you should always promise little but always deliver more.

The Kobus Foundation, one of our project partners led by Father Jacques Maessen, has a long-standing tradition of supporting local rights. We arranged for the local Dayaks to become legal owners with land certificates in order to protect their traditional forests. Kobus House has been instrumental in setting up a museum, educational activities and fellowships. The son of the Dayak leader now works with us and received his forestry degree through this program. The centre also supports local culture with thousands of Dayak women earning real income from weaving and maintaining the old stories and know-how and having an outlet for their work. The Bupati is a local Dayak and has the interests of the local community at heart.



Do you have the required concessions / permissions to film / work on this land?


Of course we  do, and the process of gaining legitimacy is ongoing as the project expands.

The status of the land in question at this point (Sintang Lestari) is HTR (Hutan Tanaman Rakyat) meaning that the Bupati’s permit (Bupati is the local leader) is conditional on complete collaboration with the local people. They decide where the filming aspect of the project will be set, and they are engaged in the project’s decision-making. There have already been several meetings with village communities and these are ongoing.

Some time ago we commenced an Environmental Impact Assessment Study, led by Dr.
Eduardo Dias. This was deemed necessary to future proof certain aspects of the project, and to ensure we have the necessary satellite imagery, land data and other information to proceed with the project.


Orangutan rescues are urgently needed and will be very exciting to watch.  Will the ‘action agents’ have the necessary qualifications and permissions to engage in orangutan rescues safely, or will the local people be involved?


The ‘Action Agents’ (now referred to as ‘team leaders’) will work with the local authorities and local people to provide assistance during orangutan rescues. All activities will be guided by these principles and will be conducted in a transparent and legal way. Some of the team leaders have training and expertise in veterinary science and animal care, and all will receive appropriate briefing in respecting local traditions, cultures, expertise and laws.

There are many orangutans that need to be rescued in the Sintang area alone, but there are many other animals and wildlife that are suffering greatly.  One of the key aims of this project is to draw attention to the beautiful and incredible diversity of plant and animal life in Borneo, so rescues and attention will span much more broadly than


Have you consulted with local people in Borneo around aspects of this project?


Yes.  The DeforestACTION team continues to consult broadly – this is a fundamental aspect of this vision. Recently, over a dozen local villages were represented in a meeting in Sintang about this project.  After the news got out, there is now a constant stream of people from villages from Mengerat as far away as Putussibau and surroundings, up to Martinus and Tempunak that all want to be involved.

As this project is funded by donations, we are conscious of the need to manage expectations of the local people to ensure we can deliver on all areas of the project we release.  As we generate more funds, we can promise more positive and empowering benefits for the local people.


How are will you ensure local people understand what is happening with the project ongoing?


The project has not yet grown to a level that can include all the local people who want to
be involved.  The demand from locals simply outweighs the funding capability we currently have. That is why fundraising is a priority at this point. Once sufficient funding is secured, all the communities in the region will be offered the opportunity to
participate. But we need the security of funds first.


What processes are you using to consult broadly with local people?


DeforestACTION is about inclusion.  That means, ensuring consultation and collaboration with young people, elderly, men and women.

A key partner, The Kobus Foundation, has been working for many years to help the younger generation attain land, and with the women, getting them income and a more respected place in their communities as earners of income.

One of the challenges of this project is ensuring we are consulting with the right people in the right places.  This requires a thorough process of investigation and cross-checking.

When we have secured the funding, we first will make an inventory of local claims and interest. This will include a process of local consultation and engagement and will go beyond the few groups that claim to be the sole representatives of the local groups. Often such groups try to cut deals before the start of the project and in such a way actually hamper the objective process.

Following the process of local consultation, using appropriate methods considered acceptable and fair by all relevant groups, we will move forward.

We strive to include the youth and women as far as culturally is acceptable. We have a Pencinta Orangutan Sintang club of thousands of school children.  Students from around the world connected through our networks are lining up to form learning partnership (like pen pals of old) with the local Dayak people, and to work with them remotely in ways that are relevant to them.  We also have more than 6000 Dayak women in a cooperative from so many different villages, etc. who are working with us to create models of engagement that are relevant to them.


What benefits are being offered to the communities (as of now, and in the
future, if funding comes through)?


The plan includes building eco-villages, complete with environmentally friendly features  such as using rammed earth walls, roofs made of specially cut Bangkirai timber that we get from the dead stumps in the soil and that can last a hundred years,
sanitation, clean energy and good hygiene, good secure access to rivers and transportation for people and goods.

In the short term, this project will provide selected seedlings and saplings of many useful tree species of their choice along with training on how to implement better forms of agroforestry that are sustainable and culturally relevant.

Processing units for sugar palm juice (Village Hubs) that will bring them services such as electricity, drinking water, local fuel for cooking, motorbikes and boats, food security, processing of their agricultural products, telecommunication, educational services, telephone, health access.

Most importantly in the short term, is we are providing an opt-in model for local people to preserve the forests that sustain them, and to make them better off in the long term, through a co-constructed vision for the future.

There will be many other benefits to local communities as the project unfolds.  As previously stated, it is essential we effectively manage their expectations so as to ensure we can deliver on these promises.  For that reason, announcement of the full scope of the project will be held over until funding is secured so we can ensure there is no disappointment.


What is the role of traditional swidden agriculture in the project area? Will communities still be able to plant rice in the project area, or is the intention that income from sugar palm will be able to provide for their needs?


DeforestACTION will focus on working with the local people in a way that is consultative, relevant and effective for them.  This is a core component of the project.

The unfortunate truth is, there is no longer any “traditional” swidden agriculture in Indonesia!!

Kenyah Dayak for example have the old system still well described, which was truly “traditional” and sustainable. They recognize the need for an 8 year cycle that they name in all their stages from Jekau Meta to Jekau Betiq, after which the same spot of land can be used again. But this is only for a period of 80-100 years, then the whole community moves to a new location and the old site is given centuries to recover its original fertility. Because of the “domeinverklaring” of the 1960-ties, that right to just move is now gone. That is why the traditional forms of agriculture are no longer sustainable.

In the past, the Dayaks would go by boat on the water and look for tell tale signs
such as the presence of the Ipul (poison dart) tree (Antiaris toxicara, Moraceae) as an indicator of good soil for growing rice. Then on land, they would look for triangular grass and stick their Mandau (Dayak sword) in the soil and see how the clay particles would stick to the blade. Then they would calculate how many axes for how many days would be needed and how much rice would be needed to bring as seeds, and from this information, calculate how much return they would get for all their work. It once was like that! Unfortunately these methods are no longer viable due to excessive deforestation and because chainsaws have changed the equation.

They now cut very quickly and burn where ever. The traditional ways have been eroded. Their lands have been invaded by unscrupulous people that come for the quick money. Also changes in weather patters, especially the El Ninos, have contributed to the breaking down of their systems and the old ironwood calendars do not work anymore.

Many young Dayaks don’t even have an idea what they mean anymore. Now you find these valuable little wooden boards in antique shops in the big cities now.

So the short answer is: Yes they can plant as much rice as they want in between
the trees. It is their land.  Probably in between the reforestation efforts they will prefer the better suited corn or pineapples or other crops. They will evaluate themselves where to plant what.

Many already know about the sugar palm. There are significant endeavors underway to
create a global market for sugar palm with good income, which will benefit the local people. There is no longer going to be a “cultuurstelsel” as practiced in the colonial period. Rubber planting in the area shows how the people themselves can choose.


What is the time frame around community consultation, and how will that work with
the time frame for filming?


As soon as possible and that is when enough funding is secured. This is why support and help with fundraising is so critical, and why this project has gone global so quickly through the young people who started it. They understand the need to expedite the process.


What happens if communities decide that they don’t want sugar palm, but instead want continue their traditional agriculture, or plant a different crop? How will this impact the overall project?


Thisconsultation has already occurred. There are many thousands of people who want
the sugar palms, so we are working with those people who have opted in.  We also will look at forest honey, rattan, medicinal plants, forest fruits, etc. The Project is about  stopping deforestation and bringing transparency to the local people and the world and
show that we still can bring positive improvements!


How successful have you been in assisting people to move to plant sugar palm, instead of relying on traditional farming methods?


Some of these communities already started adopting the sugar palms several years ago. Dr. Willie Smits has lectured there, and they already asked the Bupati for money to send a delegation to North Sulawesi to learn more. Dr. Smits team sent teachers and instructors, and they have set up a nursery and they leant better tapping methods. Some communities are already planting the sugar palms (and using no dangerous chemicals) and now we have many requests for further development of the sugar palms, but we need to secure the finance. Communities like Tertung next to Sintang already live from sugar palms. Groups like Tempunak offer their forest if we switch with sugar palms to their village. Villages like Martinus and others see the sugar palm as their last hope to keep logging companies out who seek to influence and corrupt triabal leaders.

Many people have already indicated they want an alternative to palm oil, and as this
project becomes more successful, we will be able to help them achieve this goal.