IKEA, Fulbright, FORMAS, Yayasan Sabah, University of Malaysia Sabah, Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences, Northern Arizona University, INIKEA, University of Indonesia Papua, Village of Yenbekaki, Salad Dressing, Sabah Forest Department
In the equatorial tropical forests of Borneo, orangutans, gibbons, flying squirrels, snakes and lizards, soar between the world’s tallest tropical tree canopies up to 100 m in height. In West Papua, the world’s only conservation province, are more marine fish, coral, and sponge species than in the rest of the world put together. Here, village life verges on the edge of modern urban megapolis. The intercorrelation of cultural and biological diversity, here at a planetary peak, takes a last gasp awaiting the outcome of conservation decisions.
From forest and coastal villages to large populations displaced from the forest by government, to modern cities, the variation in culture here is immense. Primarily, we are working with an urban restoration group in Sandakan, a 20,000 hectare governmental group in Luasong, and 80 small villages in Raja Ampat. The urban theme is finding ways to connect urban youth to nature, the government project is to learn best ways to restore large landscapes with diverse native tree species, and with the small villages, we are working on economic ideas that promote conservation.
We have built a school exchange program between a small village in Yenbekaki, Indonesia, and Flagstaff, USA to promote cross-cultural exchange of ideas and a celebration of global diversity.
In Luasong, our partner group has planted 4 million trees across 20,000 hectares in an area that was cleared of trees and then burnt. Such degraded forests were typical in the 1980s when huge diameter trees were found and felled. Following forest degradation, many of these types of forests were then converted to oil palm or exotic tree plantations. By restoring this forest, it is now protected as a forest reserve. By planting a wide variety of tree species and genotypes, we are studying how different trees support different faunal and floral communities, how fast they sequester carbon, and how they are responding to novel conditions presented by prolonged droughts.
In Sandakan, we are working with an urban NGO and a network of schools to create small tree gardens across the city and the broader region. While only a few trees have been planted to date, there is great opportunity to plant millions of trees in urban areas of Borneo. This Sandakan project is a demonstration of the great opportunity to harness the participatory energy of the millions of people living in urban areas.
In Raja Ampat, we are working on teaching villagers in biodiversity monitoring. This monitoring, including marine and terrestrial approaches, is developed to create greater conservation and protection status of these global biodiversity hotspots. To pay for the monitoring, we are working with tourism businesses to purchase goods that are produced in villages, from artisanal products, to souvenirs, to fresh food for live-a-board boats.