Partners in Conservation: Forest Guardians meet with Gunung Palung Park leadership

Forest Guardians, all together | Photo: Thomas Lazzarini

Forest Guardians, all together | Photo: Thomas Lazzarini

ASRI’s Forest Guardians are our not-so-secret weapon in combatting rainforest destruction: they are the bridge that connect local villagers to all our programs. Each of the 30 Forest Guardians are respected members of their community, nominated to the post by village leaders and then vetted and trained by ASRI in how to most persuasively approach illegal loggers – many of whom are friends and family of the FG. They monitor deforestation around their homes and spread awareness of all of the ways ASRI assists people who want to make a change, from alternative livelihoods trainings to village-wide healthcare discounts for villages that protect their forests.

In the 3 years since the Forest Guardians began, 6 more villages have gone “green” and stopped logging, and two more villages have signed agreements to work with ASRI to end deforestation – leaving only one last hold-out village bordering the park. Many more villages are on their way to “green” status: one, once notorious for logging, has gone from 24 active loggers to only 2 with the efforts of the Forest Guardians.

This success hasn’t gone unnoticed in the region. This Fall, the new head of Gunung Palung National Park met with 20 Forest Guardians to discuss their work. Here are some of ASRI’s conservation director Erica Pohnan’s highlights from the meeting:

  • ┬áThe FG from Tanjung Belimbing gave a rousing speech about how he and his fellow villagers have been empowered to find solutions and alternative work for loggers, and how this has helped them to resist the influence of their neighbors in Pampang Harapan (the last village that hasn’t signed an MOU with us).
  • The FG from Sempurna voiced his community’s need for training to help them move away from slash-and-burn agriculture, and he was invited to become actively involved in the outreach activities that the National Park office hopes to start in Sempurna next month.
  • The FGs generally asked for permission to coordinate directly with the National Park staff in their communities, and I think it meant a lot for them to directly receive permission from the head of the Park office.
  • The head of the Park office praised the Forest Guardians program as an effective way to communicate community aspirations and the reality of local conditions, and conveyed his wish to work together closely in the future.

We can’t wait to see the undoubtably great things this partnership will do for the rainforests of Gunung Palung and all the people who depend on them!

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About Kelsey Hartman | View all posts by Kelsey Hartman

Kelsey is the Communications and Marketing Associate at Health In Harmony, based in Portland, OR.