Planting trees is only the first step toward restoring damaged peat forests. To ensure the success of the tree that we have planted, we have to care for the tree and keep monitoring its growth over time. Every two months after planting the tree, Youth Act Kalimantan engaged youth to monitor the trees through Eco Tour. We designed this event to enrich the participant’s knowledge about peatland by exploring the ecosystem with a team of researchers in RePeat, a research center and peatland conservation site that belongs to KHDTK Tumbang Nusa.
It was a cloudy morning when our team – together with the 20 Kalimantan Youth from 12 districts in Kalimantan – traveled from Palangka Raya city. A 45-minute bus ride brought us to the area with 5,000 hectares of burned peatlands. Heavy rain greeted us at the front gate of RePeat and caused us to wait for 20 minutes before we could continue our journey to the planting site. We carefully walked through the muddy peat with hands full of tree seedlings, led by Purwanto Budi Santosa, a senior researcher, and manager of RePeat. Throughout our tour, Purwanto frequently stopped to explain the peat soil, water, and endemic species in the peatland ecosystem. He also discussed the peatland restoration work in the area, such as canal blocking.
After an hour’s walk, we finally arrived at our planting site. However, it was quite heartbreaking to see how almost 50% of the trees that we planted three months ago had died. Dry weather in the period from April to June, combined with the massive weeds that grew around the trees, might have been crucial factors that caused the low survival rate of the trees. Hence, we cleaned the area before we replaced the dead trees with a native peatland tree species, the Balangeran tree (Shorea balangeran). This species has been recommended for reforestation of heavily degraded areas due to its high survival rate (more than 90%).
All the participants, including Iyal -a 19-year-old student from Palangka Raya city- were very enthusiastic to learn about the peatland and take part in the restoration effort by planting the tree. “This is my second time at RePeat Tumbang Nusa,” he said. “The first time, I came here just to plant hundreds of trees. And this time, I have the opportunity to gain an in-depth understanding of peat swamp forests. I had a great experience exploring the peatland ecosystem and taking part in peatland restoration work. And I also realized planting trees is not enough, many of our trees died and we have to replant them again. ”
We believe that young people have a vital role in ecosystem restoration. By empowering them and giving them a bigger space to speak and act, we believe it can leverage their meaningful participation in the restoration effort.