“The forest is our supermarket,” says Bang Liling, the deputy chief of Long Oking village inside the Berau district of Kalimantan, the Indonesian portion of Borneo.

It tells you something that that’s a common phrase heard in this part of the world, which I visited earlier this fall.

“We get all of our medicine from the forest,” adds Lung Bu, village leader of Long Oking, a nearby village. “The roofs of our buildings, our huts on the field, they all came form the forest. So our lives depend on the forest.”

Think how often you go to the supermarket, not just for food but for other supplies like medicines and toiletries. Then imagine what happens when the supermarket is gone.

The protection of forests in Indonesia is clearly important to local people who depend on the forest for their resources and livelihoods. But it turns out that these forests are also important to everyone on the planet. Forests play a crucial role in fighting climate change, and Indonesia’s forests are disappearing faster than any others’ on Earth.

Forests are remarkably efficient at taking greenhouses gases out of the atmosphere. When forests are cleared, we not only lose the potential for them to pull more gases out of the atmosphere, but all the gases that were being held inside them are released and added to the global emissions tally. Deforestation alone accounts for 17 percent of the world’s greenhouse gas emissions.

That’s why The Nature Conservancy is working with local villagers and logging companies in Indonesia to reduce the impacts of conventional logging practices. Simple changes can yield more intact forests, cleaner water, healthier and happier local villagers, and more trees sequestering carbon and fighting climate change.

When I was in Berau recently with the Conservancy’s reduced-impact logging (RIL) manager, Bambang Wayhudi, it struck me that this approach to logging creates a win-win-win situation — one that keeps much-needed jobs for loggers, protects forest resources for local communities and reduces the emissions caused by conventional logging.

RIL is just one of multiple carbon emission reduction strategies that are part of an approach called Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Degradation (REDD). This initiative was just announced by the Government of Indonesia for the district of Berau at the UN climate change talks in Bangkok.   

Says Agus Purnomo, head of delegation of Indonesia and head of the Secretariat of the National Council on Climate Change:

“Reducing emissions from deforestation and degradation is possible, and doable. By linking our district level initiative in Berau, which is just one of the sub-national processes in our national climate change program, to the international discussions we are showing how to deliver REDD implementation.”

At the global climate change negotiations coming up in Copenhagen this December, many groups—including the Conservancy—will join with several governments to send a clear message: the protection of forests is a vital part of combating climate change.

It is Bambang’s hope and the Conservancy’s hope that the local communities continue to manage their own forests with their local knowledge for their supermarket…and ultimately for all of us.

(Image: Bambang Wayhudi. Source: Bridget Besaw.)

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  1. I’m native Berau. I really like the Nature, but I never get the access to see the small vilage next to the forest in Berau. Sometimes I dream about Adventure and do some research in Borneo just like in the National Geographic Chanel! Because I really like the science and stuff. If you have any information to help me, please contact me.
    Best Regard,

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