By Petrus Kanisius, Environmental Education Communication & Media Officer
Last month I represented GPOCP as an attendee at a media training seminar organized by the Indonesia-based organization, Earthqualizer. I, along with a group of other journalists, were part of a two-day retreat where we learned about scientific writing, and traveled to remote forests to learn about their conservation initiatives.
On the first day of training, we discussed the very important role of journalists to speak out for nature, voicing environmental information. Then, on the second day, I, along with fellow journalists from the region and around the country, travelled to the Customary Forest of Bebalan Rayak Village, in the Sungai Melayu Rayak District, Ketapang Regency. I met local and national journalists and met directly with the Customary Forest Management Board for Belaban Rayak Village.
I also met Pak Nikolaus Sukur, the Chairman of the Belaban Rayak Management Board. He explained that the land on which we were staying, which is now an official Customary Forest, was previously plagued with fires in 1997. Pak Sukur also said that he, along with the other members of the Management Board, are trying to not only rehabilitate this critical piece of land, but also develop tourism potential, which can support the local community. One idea they are currently working on is developing an area to take photos. The hope is that in the future, this can become a source of income for the Sungai Melayu community.
Similar to GPOCP’s Customary Forests initiative, Earthqualizer helped this community to gain legal rights to the land a few years ago. Here, there are at least 47 types of animals consisting of 38 species of birds, 4 types of mammals, 3 types of reptiles and 2 types of amphibians. In 2018, the Indonesian Ministry of Environment and Forestry granted forest management rights to the Belaban Rayak community, where they now manage 3,383 hectares of critical land. That same year, reforestation efforts began in the area.
Now, almost every weekend Belaban Rayak has visitors that come to observe its beauty. People are drawn from the surrounding communities in the Ketapang and Kayong Utara Regencies. Hopefully, this area can become one of the tourist destinations in the Sungai Melayu District.
While here, seminar participants also were invited to help plant trees. Hopefully, the seedlings we planted will grow, and I can know that I’ve played a small part in rehabilitating this area.
Community members and visitors bask in the beauty of the forest. However, this area is very vulnerable to forest and land fires when the dry season arrives. This is always a serious concern of the people living around the forest. The community works together to protect the forest so that it can be sustainable for years to come. I’m grateful to have had the opportunity to visit Belaban Rayak, and learn from seminar facilitators and the people of the community.