WILL MY LAST FOREST DISAPPEAR?
click here for the indonesian version
My name is Ali. I was born 12 years ago in Indah Berseri village, a beautiful village at the edge of forest in Kali Buntu district of Muara Telo regent of South Sumatra province.
My father was a farmer who used to work in the forest to find some food to eat. Forest is the centre of our live. There we played while guarding the cows. There we also used to look for wild fruits or catch fish in the clear river. It was not just us. Everyday the people of the village went to the forest. Our parents had opened up the forest into pieces of arable land or to find a rattan. Sometimes they went hunting too. The forest was so dense; it was full of trees, animals and magnificent birds. Mr. Nizam, the medical man in our village often went there to collect herbs from the forest for medicine, in case someone needed it to cure some illness.
Sadly, all the happiness and the beautiful life are gone. Four years ago town people came to our village. We, the children, did not really know what happened. But we heard that the town men said that they would like to open an oil-palm plantation in our village. Until then, I did not know what kind of tree an oil-palm is. Our teacher explained it to us the next morning. The oil-palm tree is not like the palm trees we used to see, such as the coconut tree. The fruits of the oil-palm tree are small and very valuable especially when sold to foreign country. “The oil-palm tree is very useful”, said Mr. Bachri our teacher “for making vegetable oil, cosmetics, soap etc”.
Something strange then happened. They cut down the trees and burnt the forest. Almost every day we heard deafening sounds from the big machines, which took the trees out of the forest. They flattened the land too. My friends and I could only see this from far. We were really sad because now we did not have a place for playing and guarding the cows. And we could not find fish anymore, the river now being dirty. We even cannot use the water for bathing! Our parents began to look surly. Today, my father came home without anything, even no fish. What should we eat today? Our vegetable garden in the backyard is lost because of the heap of soil the company dropped there.
Actually, our parents did not really agree with the project, although some of them thought that this could be a chance for the young people to get a job. We cannot blame them for that, since they do not have any money for school. When they were young they did not go to school but helped their parents in the field. The problem is now we do not have land anymore to plant some rice, vegetables or merely getting any fruits from the forest. Our land was taken from us without respect!
Several nights after this had happened the old men had a meeting at ‘balai desa’- the place where village people discuss their problems – until late. We, children, did not know what they talked about, but dad then came home angrily. I heard my father telling my mom that the company does not want to pay any compensation for our lands they have taken, because the land was not ours but belongs to government.
What will happen? Circumstances became unsure. A group of people of our village sometimes talked secretly, and they were armed. Meanwhile, the road was filled with vehicles guarded by the army. The peacefulness of our village is gone after the people from the town came and stayed in our village. A lot of eating places with loud music now can be found in the village. The workers said that this was needed for their rest. I am confused: if it is a resting place, how come there are so much young ladies there? Ms. Pipit, our sweet teacher with a dimple in her cheek, said carefully that we were not allowed go there.
I was so sad. My childhood place was taken from me. The forest is gone. There is only a little spot of trees at the end of the village. Where should we guard our cows now? My friends, they are gone too. Lot of them stop going to school because they must help their parents working in the forest for the company.
Right now, the only hope that I have is that they do not open the forest that is left. There is the only a place where I can release my longing for my beautiful forest. My green forest. But it is only a hope, I think. I heard already that the company likes to open the rest of the forest. What do they want exactly? Will this bad dream continue? Can you help me?
- How can we help Ali and the people saving their last forest?
- What do you think is the best step for a company if they like to open a project in a village?
- What do you think the people of the village should do about this problem?
- Why is this not a problem of Ali and his friends alone, but a problem of us all?
- A part of your footprint is also in some cleared forest in the world. Discuss or study which products you use are produced in tropical forests or in cleared forests (like from palm oil).
- What can we all do to save the forests?
Case suggested by
Husnan (Bogor),Try Yulisman (Dinas Perkebunan), Adio Syafri ( Palembang). Tunggul Butarbutar (All from Indonesia)
You will continue by filling in a working plan »
Logging of tropical forests often has big scale economical aspects. The local problems can be connected with things happening in the other side of the world.
Much forest is being cut to turn the land into palm oil plantations.
Background information about this:
Production of palm oil is the biggest cause of deforestation in south east Asia
Oil palm plantations are found especially in Indonesia and Malaysia. Dutch companies play a big role in this according to a report published: ‘Vet fout’ (‘wrong fat’) published in the Netherlands.
The Dutch Friends of the Earth asks Dutch companies not to buy palm oil unless certain criteria are met.
Every minute 7 hectares of forest is cut, a big part for becoming oil plantations. In 2002 there were 6,7 million hectares oil plantations half of which in what used to be forest.
The Netherlands are big importers of palm oil (for foods, detergents, cosmetics and animal fodder), and responsible for the cutting down of rain forest. Friends of the Earth Netherlands is now leading actions to make companies more critical in their policy. They should make environmental responsible action a condition for buying the oil.
- No cutting of more forest,
- No burning down of more forest,
- Diminishing the use of pesticides and chemical fertilizers,
- Respecting the right of the local population,
- Better working conditions for the employees
Malaysia and Indonesia have a very great biodiversity in their rain forests: 10% of all the flowering plants 17% of all the bird species, 12% of all the wild mammals, etc. The Indonesian NGO SawitWatch says: “The local population has often a sustainable way of managing the forest – until the oil-palm industry takes over”… and the earnings go to the multinationals, usually not to the local people.”
The Dutch and British (and others) action demands laws to make companies take their responsibility.