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Canoe Through Borneo's Swamps: A Journey to Our Latest Planting Site

In this blog, we accompany the ASRI team on a sometimes 5-hour canoe journey through crocodile-infested peat swamps to restore the degraded Perupuk peat forest to its former lush glory.

Written by (and with thanks to) Aris Munandar, Alam Sehat Lestari (ASRI) Communications Marketing Coordinator, Borneo


It seems that helping treat wild animals that are injured and in pain is an appropriate analogy to describe the reforestation team's struggle to return the degraded Perupuk peat forest to green again. Because there are struggles, challenges and risks at the same time.

The Perupuk peat forest is in the Gunung Palung National Park area. Administratively, it is located in Sedahan Jaya Village, Sukadana District, North Kayong Regency. In collaboration with the Gunung Palung National Park Office and communities around the forest, ASRI is working to return this area to green again and can bring benefits as intended.

The series of reforestation activities in Perupuk began with the cleaning of the planting location, which was carried out in August – September 2023. The location that was cleaned was 6 hectares and was carried out together with several residents of Sedahan Jaya Village who came from 3 sub-villages, namely Tanjung Banjar, Sawah, and Begasing, take part in reforestation activities.

After clearing the land, stakes are installed, a kind of small stick made from bamboo sticks or bamboo strips which function as a marker for planting points. The reforestation series continues with weeding around the planting hole with a diameter of 30 cm. Next is making the planting hole.

When all the planting holes are ready, the next step is transporting the tree seeds to be planted from the nursery to the planting location. The tree seedlings transported to the planting location are those that suit the characteristics of the Perupuk area, which is acidic and often flooded. These seeds include Ubah, Bintangor, Medang, Leban, Pulai, Nyatoh, and others. Until finally planting can be carried out in December 2023. One hectare consists of 24 plots, and each plot is filled with 125 seedlings. So, the total number of seeds planted at the Perupuk reforestation site, which has an area of 6 hectares, is 18,000 seeds.

Next, a 5-meter-wide fire divider was made around the entire planting area. Then a pond was also made from tarpaulin to hold water in anticipation of fire.

The whole process seemed to run smoothly. However, Jaka Sunardi, who took part in this series of reforestation activities from the start, talked about the various challenges he and his friends faced. There is no land route from the last village to the planting location. There is only a river as a transportation route and a canoe as a vehicle. The character of a shallow river whose bottom is filled with natural materials and decaying remains such as tree branches, twigs, giant swamp pandan (Pandanus helicopus), and so on becomes a challenge in accessing reforestation sites.

“When the river water level is high, it will really help us and our journey will be free from obstacles. "But if the water recedes, the journey will be hampered because the bottom of the canoe will be caught by natural rubbish from rasau, twigs, tree trunks and other things at the bottom of the river," said Jaka.

If the river is shallow and the canoe gets stuck, Jaka and his colleagues are forced to get out of the canoe and have to push the canoe first. Of course, this will be even more difficult when the canoe is carrying seeds, stakes, logistics, equipment and other equipment because it will make the canoe heavy. If there are obstacles, the travel time from the last village to the reforestation location can be up to 4-5 hours. In fact, if there are no obstacles, it only takes 2.5 hours. But he admitted, thanks to teamwork, all of this could be overcome, and the reforestation process could run on time.

The reforestation location also has no tree cover. So if it is hot, the sun will directly hit the workers. This will expose workers to direct sunlight and tire quickly.

Then also, if it rains, the workers are also afraid of being struck by lightning. Not to mention wild animals such as snakes, crocodiles, and others which can threaten you at any time.

The reason Jaka and other friends who are part of this team are willing to face challenges and risks in an effort to re-green the Perupuk area is in the hopes he expressed. “I hope the trees we plant can grow well. Because I saw that this animal really depends on the forest. "If there is no forest, it will be difficult for them to eat," he said.

He was sad to see wild animals, such as long-tailed macaques attacking the camp and taking the reforestation team's food supplies because they had difficulty finding food. After reforestation, our hope is that the degraded Perupuk can become a forest again and provide lots of food for all the animals there.

Jaka also expressed his pride because he was involved in many good efforts to restore this degraded peat forest. For him, what he and the other reforestation teams did sharpened his concern for forest preservation.

“Frankly, I am proud to be able to help preserve forests. After taking part in reforestation with ASRI, I realized the importance of forests, starting from plants, oxygen, fruit, animals and so on. "So concern for forest sustainability is increasing," Jaka said.


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