Natural Capital meets Social Capital for more sustainable livelihoods in the HoB

Posted on 08 February 2013    
Public debate held in West Kalimantan
© WWF-Indonesia / West Kalimantan team
By Cristina Eghenter

It might not be so evident that charcoal or a kind of ‘black’ production could lead to a greener rural economy pathway, but the experience of the NGO Dian Tama and communities in West Kalimantan tell a different story, one in which green vegetation can turn black for greener results!

For years practitioners and local farmers have worked together with experts from Japan on how to produce good quality charcoal from burning the wood of locally planted and enriched plots, and sell it on the market as briquettes for use in energy efficient cooking stoves, organic agriculture and sustainable animal husbandry.

The ‘carbon minus capture& storage’ is a simple, efficient and environmentally sound technology with wide agricultural application. It is low cost and can be easily applied in developing countries contexts. It is a technology that capitalizes on the natural circulation of carbon on earth and the production of inorganic carbon through the carbonization of biomass that does not increase CO2.

A decade-long collaboration and the technology transfer from Japanese experts to local practitioners have laid the foundation for more sustainable farming (rice, vegetables).  The char compost is produced and scattered in the fields and plots to increase soil productivity, it is mixed into the animal feed to increase resistance to common diseases, and also spread as a thin layer on the floor of animal sheds thus reducing smell and contributing to a cleaner environment.

This is just one example of environmentally appropriate technology with great potential for application in rural situations and communities in the Heart of Borneo. Other, similar experiences of how to build sustainability and harness the rich natural resources in the Heart of Borneo to improve local livelihoods were shared and discussed at a meeting in Pontianak (West Kalimantan) in December 2012. This was part of the 2-year long series of public debates and seminars on Green Economy and sustainability in HoB.

Over sixty communities’ representatives from the area, and a few participants from the Krayan Highlands in East Kalimantan, at the border between Malaysia and Indonesia, members of local NGOs and WWF, experts and academics from Tanjungpura University (UNTAN), met for three days to discuss Green Economies, rural livelihoods and development needs of the communities in the Heart of Borneo with a special focus on the border area as a dynamic, emerging frontline for sustainable development in the Heart of Borneo.
The discussions showed how important it is to root a green economy concept into local reality, traditional practices and appropriate technology. Participants might have been quick at voicing suspicion and even criticism at high and theoretical concepts like ‘Green Economy,’ but they enthusiastically contributed and shared their own interpretations and explorations of green economies that can really help improve sustainability and transform their livelihoods.

Community-based ecotourism enterprises, organic rice agriculture, wild honey production, handicraft making, these are promising economic, community enterprises that are built on two main elements: respect of local cultural and social values, and traditional practices; and good business sense with sound valuation of the natural capital and within the limits of the sustainable use of natural resources. Green economy and local livelihoods are coming closer together for sustainable development in the Heart of Borneo.

Public debate held in West Kalimantan
© WWF-Indonesia / West Kalimantan team Enlarge

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