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Celebrating independence with biodiversity conservation: A love-letter across generations

  • Date:
    10 Aug 2021
  • Author:

Written by

Mochamad Indrawan,

Board of Patron Member of KEHATI Foundation




Independence Day, and even “freedom to learn” can be celebrated with something real and original. Volunteerism will yield good things for the nation, country, and ourselves. This two part article explains how Biodiversity Warrior can contribute in so many things: community science, social forestry, and climate village program.


Finding work is not easy, especially one that is in line with our education. However, not all university graduates have to work in the formal sector.


The key to success lies in our times of youth. The success of many public figures often originated from their activism on campus.  Becoming volunteers can open many doors in the future, thus it is very appropriate for young people, both university graduates and students. Opening our horizon and attaining experience in the real sector can begin today.


So many opportunities wide open. For example the Climate Village and Social Forestry Program. These community-touching programs are in need of mentors. With a push of creativity, community science can be applied to obtain community and environmental health breakthroughs.


Participating in volunteerism can even turn into real actions in responding to climate change, as well as helping to mainstream biodiversity. These tasks are not only interesting, but also very noble, and are directly and indirectly appreciated by the community.


Community science

Community science opens a great opportunity for volunteers. This includes the development of taxonomy, medicinal plants, and health. Taxonomy studies the theory and practices of classifying living organisms. The morphology, DNA, and even behavioral (“species recognition concept”) approaches are used to examine the identity of a species.


By using the taxonomy approach, we can find out that many species are related and resemble one another, and have become different types through evolution. For example, around 100 white-eye bird species across Indo Pacific and Africa. Many of them are hard to distinguish visually.


By learning deeper about taxonomy, we can determine regions with unique species, even attractive for ecotourism development. For example, almost half of Papuan bird species are endemic, meaning they only live in the island and nowhere else in the world. The same goes for 2/3 land mammals in Sulawesi.


Taxonomy also helps to determine which areas are important for conservation. In Mount Gandang Dewata, which has recently been established as a national park, we can still find many plant and animal species that will confirm it as a lost world.


Does taxonomy work only revolve in the biological researcher domain? In Google, we can still find the story of Pierre Morvan, who diligently continues to reveal the biogeography of ground beetles (Carabidae) from Asia, and has found 600 new beetle species for science. His main profession? A taxi driver in Paris.


The science on utilizing local plants and animals is known as ethnobiology. This includes various herbal drinks that can strengthen our immunity against COVID. The benefits of plants in Southeast Asia has been documented in 10 thick book volumes by the Plant Resources of South East Asia (PROSEA) Project.  Unfortunately, due to lack of dissemination, this amazing compilation never got much development. In fact, with a sound communication strategy, this knowledge can be brought into the community science domain.


To attract people’s attention about taxonomy, as well as to provide practical examples, KEHATI Foundation is currently gathering national and international researchers to write a taxonomy manual, which can contribute to community science. If everything goes smoothly, this taxonomy manual for everyone is expected to be published in 2022.


Climate Village Program

This government program promotes and facilitates communities to conduct climate change mitigation and adaptation within their own villages.


The Climate Village Program (ProKlim) is a national program managed by the Ministry of Environment and Forestry. ProKlim aims to improve the engagement of relevant parties, including the local community, to increase adaptation capacity against climate change and reduce greenhouse gas emission, subsequently giving the recognition and appreciation for these adaptation and mitigation efforts, improving the welfare of the local community. The implementation of ProKlim is regulated by the Regulation of the Minister of Environment No 84 2016 on the Climate Village Program.


So many activities can be done to build climate resiliency, including biogas, micro-hydro, sustainable farming, yard plants, and even non-timber forest products.


Don’t you think there is a huge business opportunity in each of these climate change mitigation and adaptation choices? All of these activities can have an entrepreneurial opportunity. For example, we can help the community in developing honeybee captivity and even help marketing honey products.


Even just biogas have a huge potential. One inspirational example is from Kupang. Since 2009, a group of agricultural bachelors named Geng Motor Imut (GMI) has the initiative to develop the use of pig droppings, which if ignored will emit bad smell and disrupt the environment. With a simple technology, they made a biodigester (a device that changes organic waste into biogas energy). It turns out that the gas stove product initiated by GMI is very helpful for households. Biogas is made with affordable price, thus many community members are willing to use it. The key to success lies in the community’s trust in these activists, who come from the local community. Local technology by local actors for the local market is proven to work.


The advantage of this Climate Village approach lies in its sufficient facilitation. As a government’s flagship program, local districts have been given various relevant information through the Environmental Office. These information can be absorbed and developed into entrepreneurial practices.




Part one explained various opportunities to contribute in the Climate Village Program, starting from water, energy, to food. BW even represents people with different educational backgrounds. This second part will provide examples for Social Forestry. Partitions in knowledge do not have to function as separators, instead they can form tunnels for interdisciplinary knowledge.  This is a small overview of how volunteers can be relevant for themselves and the wider community.


Social Forestry (Perhutsos)  

Perhutsos was originally mandated through the Regulation of the Minister of Environment and Forestry No 83 2016 on Social Forestry.


However, until today not even a quarter of the targeted 12.7 ha have been achieved. In its implementation, Perhutsos suffers from a serious challenge: lack of mentors. Often for one Forest Management Unit (KPH) area, only one mentor is available for tens and even more than 100 villages.


The opportunity is wide open. For example, volunteers can support one or more stages developed from Perhutsos’ mission: 1. Managing areas (based on the type of social forestry license valid for these areas); 2. Managing business (for example pecans as non-timber forest products); 3. Managing organizations (for example supporting the business of Village-Owned Enterprises or BUMDes).


One productive effort proven to be beneficial through Perhutsos’ support is giving an added value to pecan fruits. Without the tool to break the shells, pecan fruits (they have hard shells) will only be priced around 5,000 – 7,000 rupiah.  With the breaking tool (provided by Perhutsos), the pecan fruits without their shells can be priced 5 – 7 times higher.


In practice, volunteers can help license recipients, such as Perhutsos farmer groups to build productive efforts. When these efforts are underway, they can also help with business development through BUMDes.


In Perhutsos mechanism (similarly to ProKlim), there are so many opportunities to obtain and share knowledge. In supporting Perhutsos, volunteers can carry out so many activities that support sustainable forestry and multi-forestry businesses. Examples including various activities supported by a myriad of disciplines, as follow:

  • Stocktaking plants and animals along with their ecosystem (Biology);
  • Developing interpretation for ecotourism (Biology);
  • Mapping potential and border management, including customary rights (Geography);
  • Documenting local history and wisdom (Anthropology);
  • Documenting and advocating for customary rights (Law);
  • Public health and zoonosis prevention (Public Health);
  • Designing landscape for tourism villages (Landscape);
  • Designing infrastructure to observe wildlife (Architecture);
  • Marketing ecotourism and non-timber forest products (Economy).

For legitimacy, you can ask to have a District Head Decree for Village Bachelor Group in the local district. But, since by having this decree you may receive fees, this can cause dependency. The entrepreneurial spirit may grow better if volunteers obtain legitimacy in the form of a Decree from the Social Forestry and Environmental Partnership Agency (BPSKL) as the Community Self-Funded Forestry Instructor.


Seizing the Opportunity

Volunteerism can start as early as possible, for example by becoming a mentor in the Climate Village or Social Forestry Program. Volunteers will gain knowledge, synthesize them with science, and then apply them. Of course this is very beneficial for both the people being mentored and the mentor.


There is a saying that Rome is not built in one day. At the beginning volunteers may not receive fees. But the value of entrepreneurial capacity, not to mention bringing direct benefits to the people, cannot be compared with money. This is a real investment for your future.


No shortcut needed. I remember in the past, I never had any doubts in becoming a volunteer or an independent researcher. Going in and out of forests and small villages to seek knowledge, experience, and not to mention meeting people/networking.


Several decades later, this knowledge had become interdisciplinary, and very useful, including for planning and climate change response action. One time, I, who has a biology background, was trusted by an international cooperation agency to handle the legal and decentralization issue regarding sustainable forestry development. My experience on the field has replaced a relatively limited formal education.


Freedom to learn is not just empty words. And we have enjoyed our independence thanks to the endless sacrifice of past heroes, both decorated and unknown ones.


Let us celebrate Indonesia’s Independence by freeing the campus and becoming sustainable volunteers.