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Member of the Sabaru Community Nursery, Rosna Ampung, practicing nursery techniques during the Peat Swamp Forest Plant Nursery Management Technique training (Pic from Restu Aminulah & Borneo Nature Foundation)

Borneo's women helping to replenish rainforests

A women’s community group is helping to rejuvenate previously deforested areas of Borneo peatlands, with training provided as part of a collaboration between the University of Exeter and Borneo Nature Foundation (BNF).

The project, funded by the Darwin Initiative, is teaching communities about seedling care and management to restore the peatland forest ecosystem for the benefit of future generations.

BNF assists community groups to grow seedlings on their land, training them to be expert nursery managers, giving them resources to maintain the seedlings and then buying them back when they are ready to plant. This way the community gain additional income and are involved in all stages of the reforestation process.

A new nursery set up in Sabaru village is run primarily by housewives, who will help to produce thousands of seedlings each year as part of the ‘One Million Trees’ project, which aims to plant a million trees in stages over five years in the burned peat swamp forest area of Sebangau National Park.

Frank van Veen, Professor of Ecology & Conservation at the University of Exeter, said: “The training programme and community nurseries are a fantastic way to help restore rainforests in Borneo whilst also helping people financially.

"The forest is home to many rare and endangered animal and plant species which would be lost if the rainforests disappeared. It is also a major carbon store and so improves the outlook for the future of the planet if maintained and restored.

“Peat swamp forests don’t regenerate naturally once destroyed by fire, so it’s fantastic to see new community nurseries managed by local people being set up, with the aim of restoring these precious ecosystems.

"This area is their home and it is important that they feel ownership of how it is managed. By learning these vital skills, they are enabled to pass knowledge and care for the forest onto their children, hopefully keeping the rainforest healthy for generations.”

The Kahayan Watershed and Protected Forest Management Agency recently hosted a training session on the management of peat swamp forest plant nursery techniques.

BNF Nursery Officer Koesmyadi said: “In the permanent Kahayan seedling nursery, local plant seedlings are well maintained. BNF is working together with the Kahayan Watershed and Protected Forest Management Agency to increase the number of seedlings to be planted. The Kahayan permanent nursery will help produce 12,500 local plant seedlings to meet reforestation needs.

“Newly established community nurseries, such as the one with predominantly women as members, are helping to accelerate and scale-up the number of seedlings grown for the One Million Trees programme. It is also hoped that this particular nursery can help improve the economic prospects of local women, most of whom only work at home.”


Rosna Ampung's Story

Rosna Ampung is a former comprehensive schoolteacher and widowed mother of four taking part in the training.

Since her husband died in 2011, she has relied on her husband's pension money and worked very hard to support her children. After becoming a member of the community nurseries project in Sabaru, Rosna’s family has been helped by the additional income from the project.

Rosna is also passing on knowledge to her children.

Rosna said: "We are very happy and interested in participating in this training, to increase our knowledge on how to select and maintain local tree seedlings that will be planted in forests. I am also taking part in protecting and preserving the forest that is the legacy of my ancestors, so that my children and grandchildren can feel the benefits in the future.

"Being a member of the community nursery has also improved my financial situation enough to support my family.”

Date: 10 June 2021

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