A refreshing elephant shower!
A refreshing elephant shower!

It is always so exciting when, after months of planning, budgeting, visits (and riding the occasional elephant and wrangling a python or two) a new project gets real. I am thrilled to share that our multi-pronged program in northern Sumatra is roaring into life.

Wrangling a Python

The problems were daunting and many. Endangered species under assault from farmers and palm oil plantations. Farmers under assault from palm oil plantations and lack of land titles. The rainforests under assault from …you guessed it – palm oil plantations! Reclaiming Sumatra is our effort to address all of these problems hand in hand (or claw) with the farmers.

As many of you know, I have had a long love affair with Sumatra, the flora, the fauna and the folks. We have done some really great programs there, many lasting almost twenty years now (like our original water supply system in Redelong Coop). But with climate change, disappearing wildlife and encroaching palm oil plantations things have gotten pretty desperate. A lot of people and organizations are doing good work in Sumatra, and we are adding our skills and resources to the effort.

As illegal and semi-legal palm oil plantations devour pristine forests in north Sumatra, endangered tigers, orangutans, rhinos and wild elephants are driven out of their safe havens and often enter farming lands or the sights of hunters. Our program of equipping and training strengthens the ability of rangers (often elephant-mounted Mahouts) to chase away these species and keep the lands free of illegal hunters and developers.

Mahouts

At the same time, we are working with local organizations to provide education and support for farmers to gain title to the lands they have often worked for generations. Often these farmers wake up to find earth clearing equipment taking down their coffee and fruit trees, claiming that they are now renting or purchasing the “untitled” land from the government. By helping these farmers get title, and to help them plant alternative tree and fruit crops on the land, the farmers can increase income and gain tools to combat illegal land grabs. At the same time, the farmers are receiving education in endangered species management to minimize potential conflicts and help them become stewards of the species.

Peace, love and coffee! KKGO has many women in leadership roles at the coop, including Iba Dewi, agronomist, pictured here in a coffee tree nursery.

Finally, to offset the damage by plantations, we have created an indigenous hardwood nursery (with the tree species selected by the farmers) that will provide free seedlings to farmers to reforest their lands, which will also help sequester carbon and provide important bird habitat.

Thanks for supporting us to make Reclaiming Sumatra and all of our direct, people-centered development projects successful. Gotta go plant some trees!

-Dean