9 June 2014
SERUYAN, Indonesia (Thomson Reuters Foundation) - The villagers of Ulak Batu in Indonesia’s Central Kalimantan province may not be fully aware of how decisions made by business executives and governments far away affect their lives. But that is what has steered their shift from fisherfolk to plantation workers to budding forest guardians in recent years.
According to Syarian, head of the village in Seruyan district, nearly 70 percent of local people decided to drop fishing seven years ago to work on an oil palm plantation. “They had to change profession because there weren’t many fish in the (Seruyan) river anymore. It is becoming polluted ever since they opened up the lands for oil palm plantation,” the-25-year-old said.
But cutting wild grass on the oil palm plantation run by PT Best didn’t suit them, and paid very little. “Before they could earn as much as Rp 100,000 ($8) per day as fishermen but since working on the plantation…they only got paid Rp 59,000 (around $5),” said Syarian.
Things have started to change again, however, since a privately funded forest conservation initiative was set up in the Seruyan watershed in 2009, he added.
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