Gunung Palung National Park (GPNP) is a 108,000-hectare rainforest in Indonesian Borneo. It has one of the richest biodiversity levels globally, is home to 3,000 critically endangered orangutans, and serves as a watershed for 120,000 people.
Logging in the region has caused massive deforestation, destroying vast amounts of critical flora and fauna. Over 150,000 orangutans were lost from its impact.
In 2007, Health in Harmony and their Indonesian partner Alam Sehat Lestari (ASRI) began investing in community-designed solutions to protect and restore GPNP. During Radical Listening sessions, the local communities designed solutions to reduce illegal logging and protect the forest, including access to high-quality, affordable healthcare focusing on maternal and infant services, training in alternative livelihoods and regenerative farming techniques, and conservation education.
This program has led to a 90% drop in households logging illegally in the national park, stabilizing primary forest loss and biodiversity. It is women-led, 100% of the staff are Indonesian, and the solutions to preserving this ecosystem have been designed exclusively by the communities.
The main goal of this project is to continue reversing rainforest degradation and improving the well-being of the rainforest communities. In the coming year, support will reforest 50 hectares of rainforest, estimated to protect 2,165,300 tons of carbon from entering the atmosphere and mitigate the devastating effects of the climate crisis.
It will also provide access to healthcare for 120,000 people through ASRI’s medical center and monthly mobile clinics. To make care affordable, patients can pay for healthcare with noncash payments, such as seedlings used in reforestation. In addition, there is a tiered payment system where villages that have reduced or eliminated logging receive discounts of up to 70%.
The project has conducted more than 100,000 patient visits since 2007. Today, infant and childhood mortality rates have improved, seeing a 67% reduction, while malaria and tuberculosis are disappearing in the region.
Additionally, funding will provide conservation education for 300 children and teens, empowering primary and secondary school children to take pride in their rainforest and gain awareness of its threats. Over time, this program has expanded to over 40 schools teaching over 2,000 students with a curriculum covering biodiversity, coral reef and mangrove habitats, threats to the rainforest, organic and inorganic trash, and nutrition.
The students also go on a field trip to visit ASRI’s Organic Garden, camping trips into the rainforest, and learn how to make recycled paper and organic compost. Through participation in the program, they become planetary leaders in their community.
Furthermore, the project will mentor 200 people in alternative livelihoods. The project offers training in regenerative organic farming so that growers no longer practice slash and burn agriculture and can yield more on the land they farm.
Training includes making organic fertilizers and herbicides, composting, rotation of crops, and other lessons in regenerative methods. Based on the analysis conducted for the Family Kitchen Garden program, more than 50% of participants who received training could use their backyards as food gardens utilizing the knowledge gained.
The Chainsaw Buyback program helps loggers and their wives trade in their chainsaws in exchange for a no-interest loan and help to start a small business. There is also an agroforestry program and a program for women to make biodegradable poly bags used in reforestation sites.
This project will directly benefit the rainforest and its biodiversity, including endangered orangutans and the 120,000 people who steward its land. It will build on this success by prioritizing planetary health and female empowerment.
Investing in intersectional, community-designed programs supports a transition away from degradative livelihoods and improves community health. These investments create a positive feedback loop improving both forest integrity and community health, wellbeing, and economic stability.