Muhram: A Grassroots Movement to Save Forests in Tanjung Rangas Village

Muhram crosses the floodwaters in the restoration area. Tanjung Rangas Village was struck by the great floods, which hampered the restoration efforts.

Muhram, a community leader in his village, has been urging his neighbours who mostly are fishermen to learn to conserve forests and plant trees on the riverbanks in Tanjung Rangas Village, Seruyan Hilir, Seruyan Regency, Central Kalimantan.

Muhram, 60, is attempting to mobilize local residents to participate in the reforestation program on the riverbank. This restoration activity aims to green vacant lands with a total area of six hectares. The local people will plant several types of trees, which are native Kalimantan species, such as pulai (Alstonia spatulata), balangeran (Shorea bal Pangeran) and guava (Syzygium sp.).

“We were collecting the seeds ourselves, around the trees in our area,” said Muhram, the head of the restoration team in his village.

In addition, the villagers also routinely monitor the growth of seedlings and have installed fences to protect the restoration area from cattle. The active participation from the community illustrates the increased awareness of forest conservation for their environment.

Muhram is checking the restoration site which will be planted with several types of trees.

Previously, the villagers who spend most of their time catching fish from the nearby river didn’t grasp the importance of forests. They used to cut down young trees to sell timber or use it for building material, resulting in there is a lot of vacant spots in the village, including in the empty land along the river banks.

Due to the lack of water absorption and its large areas of peatland, Tanjung Rangas Village often faces natural disasters like forest fires and floods. The most notable forest fires occurred in 1997 and 2015. These fires burn the forests, leaving the soil drier and more susceptible to fire. Meanwhile, when the rainy season arrives, villagers must get ready for flooding.

In 2019, Tanjung Rangas Village became one of the villages assisted by Yayasan Inobu, which seeks to encourage sustainable development in rural areas through training programs.

“We had carried out a forest restoration program once with the Seruyan Forestry and Plantation Agency, but the trees we had planted and grown were destroyed during the fire disaster in 2015,” explained Muhram, who works as a fisherman and cattle breeder. “The location for our current restoration project is along the riverbanks and is also closer to residential areas. Hopefully, we can take care of the trees and protect the forest more easily in the future.

The nursery of tree seedlings in Tanjung Rangas Village.

The trees can provide fruits and control the water cycle in the area. For example, a guava tree whose fruit can be consumed by villagers or sold to increase the rural income. Moreover, the pulai trees can be processed into traditional medicine.

This village restoration project is part of the Regional Medium Term Development Plan (RPJMD) for the restoration goal of a 400,000-hectare land, with specifications of 90,000 hectares on riverbanks.

This ecosystem restoration activity in Seruyan Regency also aims to become “migration corridors” linking the isolated forest areas which will enable orangutans to disperse and travel through the forest, moving from Tanjung Puting National Park to the beautiful forest area in the north.

Muhram, as one of the prominent figure in his village, actively promote the restoration project, calling on his neighbors to join the movement. He now realizes how important this forest restoration is and expresses interest in participating in forest management training sessions in the future.

“We hope that there will be more forestry training from foundations or related agencies so that residents understand the importance of planting trees and are willing to take part in preserving the forests together,” said Muhram.