Deforestation from invading groups is the single biggest threat to the forests of Durian Rambun

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Before the start of the project, the people in the village, especially women, often felt afraid of invading groups from other parts of Sumatra in search of land. Today, strategic and manente patrolling of the forest area has reduced deforestation to about 0.5% per year and the villagers feel safe to work in the forest. The patrols that take place monthly to cover the entire project area for one year include reporting of deforestation but also reporting of important trees and bicho species as well as poaching. The patrols are equipped with GPS transmitters to be able to report with high accuracy.

Deforestation from invading groups is the single biggest threat to the forests of Durian Rambun

In the adjoining district of Kotorami, in principle, all rainforest has been deforested as a result of deforestation by invading groups. Durian Rambun is also located as a barrier to other rainforest areas, which makes the area strategically important to preserve.

After about 30 minutes of motorcycle riding on narrow forest roads and an hour of hiking along steep and dense rainforest, we get to witness deforestation when we stand at the border between the two districts. The difference between the two areas when we are in the middle of the border is striking and highlights the importance of the project in a clear way.

Recently cleared forest for coffee plantation on the border between Durian Rambun and the neighboring district of Kotorami

Through agreements with the government, the patrols in Durian Rambun have the authority to implement penalties or sanctions when intruders are prosecuted. One such example took place around the border with Kotorami, where people from western Sumatra are said to have deforested 12 hectares for coffee planting.

After talks, it was decided that the group could stay for a period of 8 years, after which they have to pay taxes and help with the protection of the rainforest in accordance with the mandate that Durian Rambun received from the government.

According to the villagers, the success factors for the project have been that the money that has come in from the project has been distributed in a democratic way that has benefited the whole village. The income has been further distributed to different groups.

The groups are divided into areas of responsibility or demographers and include a women’s group, a forestry group, a youth group, a patrol group and a group responsible for enforcing forest laws. During a discussion with representatives from all groups, all groups talk about how important the project has been to strengthen cooperation in the village and move towards a sustainable way of using the land for long-term income.

New and innovative methods of cultivating the land have been a priority area for FFI, which through training and demo areas has conveyed how the economic exchange, ecosystem services and resource efficiency of the land can be maximized. Mr Mrisac, who has previously been the leader of the forestry group, says that in recent years there has been a change in how land is viewed in the village.

Previously, it was about how much land you owned. Land had different purposes depending on what was cultivated. Today, the cultivation of different crops and trees that benefit each other is combined, for example by providing shade or water, which reduces the need to deforest more land for agriculture.