The Fruit from the Forest, Part of Our Cultural Heritage in Our Land
When people think of the Heart of Borneo they often think of dense tropical forests traversed by majestic rivers and tumultuous streams with dramatic waterfalls. This is all true in isolated areas or the rough landscape provides a natural safeguard from encroachment. However, there are also different landscapes of considerable beauty nested away in the interior of Borneo. One such landscape is the Krayan Highlands where mountains give way to wide valleys and a rich patchwork of rice fields, bamboo stands, fruit trees groves and other gardens. The Dayak Lundayeh communities of the Highlands have practiced rice agriculture and cultivated a wide range of plants and trees for centuries. This agricultural system, integrally located at the edge of forests, and supported by animal husbandry (water buffalo), has managed to sustain the communities of the highlands and make them food secure over time.
There is much more than ‘food security’ to the traditional agricultural landscape of the Krayan Highlands. The combination of local conditions, history and traditional knowledge, experiments and entrepreneurship of the local people have produced stunning results in terms of the number of varieties of food plants, food sources from the forest, and high density of local fruit trees. The latter especially is an amazingly rich natural asset of the Indigenous communities in Krayan that needs to be conserved, managed, and protected from the aggressive encroachment of new technology and modern agricultural practices.
To celebrate this natural heritage, the people of Krayan Selatan together with the local sub-district government and FORMADAT organized the first “Tropical Forest Fruit Festival” in Long Layu, 4-5 March 2015. As far as we know, this is a very ‘first’ in Borneo and in Indonesia, and maybe also in Southeast Asia. It was held in early march on the occasion of the onset of a mast fruiting season in the forest which happens on average on a 5-year cycle. The event enjoyed the support and the participation of the Governor of Kalimantan Utara, the District Heads of Nunukan and Malinau, and the Head of the HoB Working Group (Pokja National). The festival was attended by almost 1,000 people from Krayan Selatan, Krayan and also neighboring Malaysia (Sarawak). At the center stage of the Festival was the amazing variety and taste of the many kinds of tropical fruit. The aim was to increase the awareness among local people about this unique natural capital, but also discuss ways in which the variety of fruit could be documented, preserved and used sustainably to create additional economic value for local communities.
Local biodiversity and agro-biodiversity are very important to preserve ecological balance, prevent the disappearance of local species and enhance the resilience against climate change and other natural disasters. Local varieties (especially food plants) are very adaptive to local conditions (soil, temperature, nutrients, etc) and hence they possess a comparative advantage. They show characteristics (color, flavor, size, texture) that are unique and do not exist in other places. They are also the result of the experiments and traditional knowledge of local and indigenous communities, and this knowledge needs to be documented and protected. The Tropical Forest Fruit Festival hopefully triggered more interest and more support for what is a rich natural heritage in the Highlands of the Heart of Borneo.