To celebrate International Women's Day 2022, South Pole's team was delighted to hear from Sopiana Angel, a member of the forest patrol team of the Kayong Utara Project, a conservation and restoration initiative in West Kalimantan. Angel's story sheds light on the role that women play in conservation efforts to protect the rainforest in Indonesia, as well as her personal journey in navigating the world of forest protection.
The lush rainforest of West Kalimantan, on the island of Borneo, makes up part of the last intact forests in the country. Borneo's rainforest, along with neighbouring Sumatra, are the only places on earth where tigers, rhinos, orangutans, and elephants live together. Endangered plants stew in the undergrowth, emitting rotting scents to ward off predators, while over 1,000 species of ants call West Kalimantan home. The astonishing biodiversity is only being added to, with an average of
3 new species discovered on the island each month since 1995.
However, this remarkable habitat is heavily under threat from land-use change and interference by humans.
Three months ago, Sopiana Angel decided to take action. She joined the forest patrol team at the Kayong Utara Project, a conservation and restoration project in West Kalimantan. Out on forest patrol, the team is responsible for protecting not just the rainforest but the wildlife that depends on it too. Navigating thick undergrowth, the team must be prepared to prevent forest fires and stop illegal clearing for palm oil plantations. Because it is physically hard work, in Indonesia forest conservation is typically done by men. But Angel with the support of the local team at the Kayong Utara project is helping to change that perception.
Image: Sopiana Angel supporting a conservation activity at Mabali Estate, as a part of the forest patrol team.
Ever since highschool, Angel has loved nature, so she was delighted to join the forest patrol.
“Many men are somewhat reluctant to hear a woman's perspective," says Angel, “but in our patrol activities there are no differences between men and women, all are equal, and all play an important role."
“I still remember my very first day stepping into the forest. The air felt cool, clean, and fresh, the opposite of thick, sticky city air! Surrounded by such natural beauty stirred up a lot of emotions: along with the rest of the patrol team, I feel a huge responsibility to monitor, maintain, preserve the existing forest for all of us who rely on it," she added.
With her detailed knowledge of the area, Angel has become an invaluable conservationist, responsible not only for activities in the field but also for ensuring that their work monitoring deforestation hotspots and measuring biodiversity is properly documented.
“When the forest is not protected, it can be cleared. More people need to realise that protecting forests is a necessity. The trees provide communities with protection from natural disasters like flooding and landslides. Nature can take care of us!" said Angel.
She already has her sights set on the future, exploring how the forest patrol team can work more closely with the communities around the area, particularly to raise awareness around the importance of protecting nature for their livelihoods and well-being. And for now, she's proud to be a female forest patroller. She hopes more women will join her.
Image: Angel and the forest patrol team preparing for a conservation activity at Mabali Estate.
It's not just in forest patrol that women are helping lead forest protection measures. Facts on the ground from other projects in peatland areas in Indonesia show that if forest and land fires have been burning for some time, men are often busy extinguishing fires located far from settlements or have migrated for work, so those left in the village are women, the elderly, and children. Therefore they inevitably are becoming more actively involved in putting out fires.
Angel is setting a great example for the team and the communities of how women can play a strong role in forest management. Withsome parting words, she reminds us:
“Don't sit around dreaming: if we don't take care of the forest, it won't be around for long!".
The Kayong Utara Conservation & Restoration project will be registered under the
VCS, one of the world's leading carbon standards. As an award-winning carbon project developing, South Pole is proud to be promoting gender equality and local wildlife conservation through the implementation of our nature-based solutions projects. We ensure our project impacts are recognised through transparent and independent certifications standards, such as the Climate, Community & Biodiversity (CCB) standard.
South Pole's project partner for PT. Pasifik Agro Sentosa (PT. PAS) is an agribusiness company in Indonesia, who is also committed to helping protect remaining forests in West Kalimantan within and beyond their concession area.
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